The illogic of land value: Housing and the global crisis of social reproduction

Steven Rolf, Aston University

Wednesday 13 November 2019, 3.30-4.30pm, MB227


Insecure tenure, evictions and foreclosures are disrupting daily life en masse across the world. This review essay mobilises the revival of interest in social reproduction theory (SRT) in order to interrogate the literature on the form and function of urban land and housing under capitalism in order to better understand the logic of its crisis. Specifically, I argue that the rise of a ‘real-estate state’ as a new form of governance better captures how the crisis of social reproduction has arisen.

The rise of real-estate states represents the political expression of an economic logic, according which a tipping point in the shift of investment capital into the ‘secondary circuit’ of (unproductive) real-estate capital has increasingly both empowered rentiers, developers, and landowners and the coalition of interests around increasing land values on the one hand, and come to undermine the primary circuit based upon manufacturing and services on the other. The effect is the emergence of a structural interdependency between states and those capitalists intent on inflating asset-bubble in housing to the further detriment of the profitability of capital in general, which relies upon access to cheap workforces. The rise of this new and distinct fraction of capital poses the question of access to housing and the ability to make a life in the city as one of the key challenges confronting working class families, while posing severe threats to the productive sectors of the capitalist economy.