A historical sociology of housing and rentierism: the Spanish case of 'Residential Capitalism'

This event will be in Zoom

The housing market sits at a crucial tension within contemporary capitalism, because of the contradictory roles played by housing in the broad processes of capitalist accumulation. Housing is a crucial part of the social reproduction of the workforce, and it is also a financial asset with a value-storing role from which rent is extracted. As a result, disputes over housing policy provide an important insight into the intertwined evolutions of state policies and capitalist practices of accumulation. Moreover, what is increasingly called 'rentierism' has become a key concept in recent analyses of techno-feudalism, emphasising the (re)turn to forms of profit and capital accumulation based on intellectual monopolies and (feudal?) forms of rent-extraction. Thus, the workshop hopes to tackle some of the key questions about the political economy of the contemporary world order, and its relation to how we understand past modes of production.

To do so, the workshop discusses, from a historical sociological perspective, the social disputes that permeate real estate markets and their governance through the notion of residential capitalism presented by Javier Moreno Zacares's upcoming book Residential Capitalism: rent extraction and capitalist production in modern Spain 1834-2023 (Routledge). Our speakers include two members of Uppsala University's Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Brett Christophers and Callum Ward, and Christine Schwöbel-Patel, from Warwick Law School. 

Javier Moreno Zacarés is an Assistant Professor in International Political Economy in the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University, UK.

Book summary

Over the last decade, Spain has become an emblem of the contradictory relationship between capitalism and housing. During the house-price boom of the 2000s, Spain built homes on an unprecedented scale, with output levels that overshadowed those of every major European economy. Nevertheless, when the fortunes of real estate markets turned, a wave of repossessions ensued, and a massive number of households were thrown out into the street as a sizeable portion of the housing stock lied vacant. In turn, the implosion of Spanish residential capitalism triggered an intense wave of unrest that has come to shape a decade of political turmoil. This book uses the Spanish case to bring to light, and theorise, the workings of residential capitalism. The author traces the evolution of residential provision from the nineteenth century to the present, situating the transformation of the housing market in a context of ongoing social change and conflict. The book shows how the present needs to be understood by looking at the historical process through which residential provision became subsumed under the logic of capitalist accumulation, but also at a long genealogy of struggles around urbanisation and housing, the outcomes of which remain crystallised in Spain’s urban institutions. The author reveals how both residential capitalist development and urban social conflict have constituted one another, casting light on the historical relationship between housing crises, urban unrest, and the evolution of real estate markets. The book develops a historicist framework to understand residential capitalism, an important contribution for an age in which real estate markets have come to determine the rhythms of global capital. Addressing key issues and debates in the field, including the financialisation of housing, the politics of scale and urban entrepreneurialism, the political economy of the Eurozone, and the history of capitalist development, this book will be of great interest to students and scholars of political economy, as well as those engaged in crossover fields such as housing studies, urban geography, or financial geography.

Speaker bios

Brett Christophers is the author of  Our Lives in Their Portfolios: Why Asset Managers Own the World  (2023, Verso) and the forthcoming The Price is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won't Save the Planet (2024, Verso).

Christine Schwöbel-Patel is the author of Marketing Global Justice: The Political Economy of International Criminal Law (Cambridge University Press 2021), and most recently, of 'Real (E)State - valuing a nation under imperial rentier capitalism' in Isabel Feichtner and Geoff Gordon (eds), Constitutions of Value Law, Governance, and Political Ecology (Routledge 2023).

Callum Ward is the co-author of  'The Shitty Rent Business: What's the Point of Land Rent Theory?’' in Urban Studies, 'Assetization and the New Asset Geographies' in Dialogues in Human Geography (2022), and co-editor of a recent special issue on 'Critical Approaches to Rentiership' in Environment and Planning A (2023).

Registration will close two hours before the event begins.

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