Urbanization has been essential to capitalism as well as its crises historically. In the age we think of as neoliberal, investing in urban transformation has become a more efficient means to amass (fictitious) capital than investing in production (think mortgage backed securities). Tied to speculative financial flows, such investment has also increasingly integrated people into the debt economy.
Understanding what commoning can look like in our cities requires understanding how urban processes are tied to capitalist accumulation. Neil Smiths's Gentrification and the Revanchist City offers a crucial analysis of capitalist urbanization processes.In our first session, we read the introduction, “Is Gentrification a Dirty Word”, which proved to be quite generative for discussion. We considered how gentrification took shape as a global logic and how it is distinct from its antecedent in the 19th century, “haussmannisation”. We also began to consider how gentrification as a movement of spatial deconcentration/concentration or divestment/investment has differently impacted post-state-socialist landscapes.
The reading for the discussion is avaible here: From "consumer sovereignty" to the rent gap
Defining gentrification as "the process...by which poor and working-class neighborhoods in the inner city are refurbished via an influx of private capital and middle-class homebuyers and renters-neighborhoods that had previously experienced disinvestment and a middle class exodus", Smith argues that we need to understand how the possibility of profitable (re)investment in the inner city is premised on a devalorization process that precedes it. Smith stresses that "this cycle of devalorization is by no means universal, nor does it take place in precisely the same manner in every neighborhood" or region. Thinking with Smith about the "rent gap", that disparity between the potential ground rent level and the actual ground rent capitalized under the present land use" allows us insight into how processes of devalorization (or what Ruthie Gilmore calls organized abandonment) have shaped our neighborhoods and their attraction to investors.
Even if you have not read the text, you are very welcome to join! Some of us will be prepared to discuss the text, having read it recently.
Other useful readings:
1. David Harvey Rebel Cities Chapter 2 The urban Roots of Capitalist crises
2. Urban Struggles and Theorizing from Eastern Europe: a collective interview with Ana Vilenica, Ioana Florea, Veda Popovici and Zsuzsi Pósfai
3. Marton Czirfusz et al: Gentrification and Rescaling Urban Governance in Budapest-Józsefváros
4.Zsuzsanna Posfai et al: Financialization and inequalities: the uneven development of the Hungarian housing market on the Eastern periphery of Europe