The Left Remakes the World: Amna Akbar on Canceling Rent, Defunding Police & Where We Go from Here

Amna Akbar: I want to take a moment to unpack “cancel rent” and “defund the police,” which are two really important demands that organizers and social movements are making across the country. Police and private property are central, defining institutions of life in the United States. We know the centrality of police to local budgets now, and the immense power that they have and their sprawling scale, because it has been on spectacular display for the last two months, since Minneapolis police killed George Floyd.

But it might be worth taking a moment to talk about private property, which is also everywhere and structures our everyday lives, but is arguably a bit more subterranean in how it does. Private property is the basis of our legal regime. It’s a settler regime, a capitalist regime, a racial regime. It creates these relationships where some people own property and most people don’t. And if you don’t own property, you have to pay for it. This is pretty weird, if you think about it. We are human. We have physical bodies. We need space to exist, to sleep, to eat, to take care of one another. But we live in a society where you need to pay for space to live. The private property regime then creates a direct contradiction with meeting people’s needs.

And so, both police and private property are rooted in the histories of enslavement and conquest. They are not systems rooted in collective care and social provision. And it’s not as if we have the police over here and private property over there. These are fundamentally interconnected institutions that prop one another up. They are central to the stories, the structures and the relationships that sustain things as they are. And so it might be helpful to think for a moment about the connection between these institutions, because part of what I argued in the piece is kind of this radical imagination coming out of today’s social movements that’s telling interwoven stories about the world that we live in and the world that we must build. More here.

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