Neil Brenner

Neil Brenner is professor of urban theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).  His writing and teaching focus on the theoretical, conceptual and methodological dimensions of urban questions.  His work builds upon, and seeks to extend, the fields of critical urban and regional studies, comparative geopolitical economy and critical sociospatial theory.  Major research foci include processes of urban and regional restructuring and uneven spatial development; planetary urbanization; cities and hinterlands in geohistorical and world-ecological perspective; the problem of spatial visualization in urban studies; and processes of state spatial restructuring, with particular reference to the remaking of urban governance configurations under neoliberalizing capitalism.

In 2014, Brenner was selected as a Thompson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher (  Based on Web of Science data, his publications were ranked among the top 1% most cited globally in the general social sciences between 2002 and 2012. 

Brenner’s most recent books are New Urban Spaces: Urban Theory and the Scale Question (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019); Critique of Urbanization: Selected Essays (Basel: Bauwelt Fundamente Series, Birkhäuser Verlag, 2016); Teoría urbana crítica y políticas de escala (in Spanish; edited and translated by Alvaro Sevilla-Buitrago; Barcelona: Icaria, colección Espacios Críticos, 2016); Stato, spazio, urbanizzazione (in Italian; edited and translated by Teresa Pullano; Milan: Guerini, 2016); The explosion of the urban / La explosion de lo urbano (Spanish and English; Santiago de Chile: ARQ ediciones, 2016); and the edited volume Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (Jovis, 2014). 

Forthcoming books include Is the World Urban? Towards a Critique of Geospatial Ideology (with Nikos Katsikis; Barcelona: Actar, 2019).  Other collections of his writings are forthcoming in Chinese under the title 城市,地域,星球:批判城市理论 / City, Territory, Planet: Studies in Critical Urban Theory (Beijing: Commercial Press, 2018); and in Portuguese under the title Espaços de Urbanização:  Estudios sobre Teoria Crítica Urbana (Observatório das Metrópoles series, Letra Capital Editora: Rio de Janeiro, 2018).

Brenner’s previous books include New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood (Oxford University Press, 2004) and the co-edited volumes Cities for People, not for Profit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City (with Peter Marcuse and Margit Mayer; Routledge 2011); Henri Lefebvre, State, Space, World (with Stuart Elden; co-translated with Gerald Moore and Stuart Elden, University of Minnesota Press, 2009); The Global Cities Reader (with Roger Keil; Routledge, 2006); Spaces of Neoliberalism: Urban Restructuring in North America and Western Europe (with Nik Theodore; Blackwell, 2003); and State/Space: A Reader (with Bob Jessop, Martin Jones and Gordon MacLeod; Blackwell, 2002).  Brenner’s books, scholarly articles and essays have been translated into other languages, including Chinese, Croatian, Finnish, French, Hungarian, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.  With Christian Schmid of the ETH-Zurich, Brenner is also engaged in a long-term collaborative project on planetary urbanization.

In 2015-2016, along with his collaborators in the Urban Theory Lab, Brenner co-produced Operational LandscapesTowards an Alternative Cartography of World Urbanization, an exhibition which explores the extension of an urban fabric into some of the world’s most apparently “remote” regions, including the Amazon, the Arctic, the Gobi desert, the Himalayas, the Pacific Ocean, the Sahara desert and Siberia, as well as the earth’s atmosphere.  The work was exhibited at the Melbourne School of Design, the Yale School of Architecture, the School of Architecture/Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and (in a collaboration with Milica Topalovic and Christian Schmid, ETH Zurich/Future Cities Lab Singapore) the Shenzhen Biennale, Radical Urbanism

Brenner has held visiting professorships in several universities, including the Lim Chong Yah Visiting Professorship (Department of Geography, National University of Singapore), the Wibaut Chair of Urban Studies (Amsterdam Institute for Metropolitan and Development Studies, University of Amsterdam and the Bard Prison Initiative Distinguished Visiting Professorship (Bard College).  Brenner is a former Chief Editor of the Studies in Urban and Social Change (SUSC) book series (Blackwell-Wiley), former Interventions and Book Reviews Editor of Antipode and a former editorial board member of International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Studies and Urban Affairs Review.    

Prior to his appointment to the GSD, Brenner was Professor of Sociology and Metropolitan Studies at New York University, where he also served as Director of NYU’s Metropolitan Studies Program.  Brenner has co-supervised Ph.D. research in Sociology, Geography, History, Political Science, American Studies, Law & Society, Urban Planning and Architecture, among other fields.

Selected publications:

Neil Brenner, New Urban Spaces: Urban Theory and the Scale Question (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019).

Neil Brenner, “Debating planetary urbanization: towards an engaged pluralism,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36, 3 (2018): 570-590.

Neil Brenner, Critique of Urbanization: Selected Essays (Berlin/Basel: Bauwelt Fundamente, Birkhäuser Verlag, 2016).

Neil Brenner, “The hinterland, urbanized?,” AD / Architectural Design, July/August (2016): 118-127.

Neil Brenner, La Explosión de lo Urbano (Santiago de Chile: ARQ editiones, 2016).

Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid,  Combat, caricature and critique in the study of planetary urbanization (Cambridge and Zurich: Urban Theory Lab + Contemporary City Institute, 2015).

Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, Towards a new epistemology of the urban? CITY, 19, 2-3, 2015, 151-182.

Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, The ‘urban age’ in question International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38, 3, 2014, 731-755.

Neil Brenner, editor, Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (Berlin: Jovis, 2013).

Neil Brenner, Theses on UrbanizationPublic Culture, 25, 1, 2013, 86-114.

Neil Brenner, Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore, The Afterlives of Neoliberalism.  Civic City Cahier 4 (London: Bedford Press, 2013).

Neil Brenner, Margit Mayer and Peter Marcuse eds, Cities for People, not for Profiit: Critical Urban Theory and the Right to the City (New York: Routledge, 2011).

Neil Brenner, What is critical urban theory? in CITY,  13, 2–3,  2009, 198-207.

Neil Brenner, New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Neil Brenner lecturing at the Mundaneum Conference on Architecture, San Jose, Costa Rica, July 2017