Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-7635

Commentary | Open Access

‘A Peaceful Path to’ Healthy Bodies: The Biopolitics of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City

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Abstract:  Recent renewed discussions of the garden city as a “developmental model for the present and foreseeable future” (Stern, Fishman, & Tilove, 2013) have prompted us to reflect upon its endurance as an agent of spatial and urban reform. Looking to extend the established garden city literature, we argue the history of Ebenezer Howard’s community model should be reexamined as a cultural history of body and environmental politics. In this commentary, we explicate how Howard’s garden city model served as a spatial vehicle for installing the biopolitical agendas of Victorian reformers keen to “civilize” working class bodies in the service of British industrial and imperial power. This entails a brief examination of the biopolitical dimensions of garden city history, keying on the prescribed restructuring of urban life and the concomitant “regeneration” of working class bodies within and through garden city designs. Our aim is to challenge scholars, planners, and policymakers of the garden city present, to consider the ways the garden city was historically planned to reproduce the cultural, spatial, and biopolitical relations of Western capitalism.

Keywords:  biopolitics; countryside; Ebenezer Howard; embodiment; garden city; nature; working class



© Samuel Martin Clevenger, David Lawrence Andrews. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.