This article presents a critical assessment of the pioneering production of Marxist intellectuals who, in the 1970s, attempted to understand the paradoxes of São Paulo's urban growth. More generally, these intellectuals also tried to sketch a critical theory about urbanization at the periphery of capitalism. Gathered around two institutions - Cebrap (Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning) and FAU-USP (School of Architecture at the University of Sao Paulo) - they were compelled by the political urgency of that historical era, and informed by the increasing influence of Manuel Castells' structuralist framework. As a result, they understood the city as a space of collective consumption, and also of social struggle around the reproduction of the working classes. However, the empirical exploration of the city allowed some of them to finally see the urban realm not only as the locus but also as the form of capitalist expansion.
Urban question; French structuralism; critical theory; São Paulo