Refiguring and Centering Housing in Political Economy
The issue of “housing” has not been granted an important role in post-war political economy. Housing as policy was relegated to social policy analysis and to a growing field of housing studies that have both shown little interest in the issues that political economists are usually interested in. Housing as market was likewise relegated to mainstream economists. The latter’s obsession with “free markets” and the lack of analysis of state involvement beyond the statement that it hampers the functioning of markets, has also broken ties with an integrated analysis of housing as a crucial part of political economy. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the increasing centrality of housing to the political economy of advanced capitalist societies. Yet we still lack a coherent and relatively comprehensive conceptualization of the “place” of housing in the contemporary capitalist political economy.
This paper sets out to try to offer that – partly to help bring together existing but typically self-standing arguments about different elements of the political economy of housing, and partly to help frame and connect up ongoing research in this area. It argues that housing is implicated in the contemporary political economy in numerous critical, connected, and very often contradictory ways. It makes this argument – and offers its conceptualization – by going back to what it is arguably the central category of political economy, capital, and identifying the multiple (and ever more material) roles of housing when “capital” is considered from the perspective of each of its four primary, mutually-constitutive guises: as social relation, as process of circulation, as accumulated value, and as ideology.