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There goes the neighbourhood: Gentrification and marginality in modern life.

Redfern, Paul (1992) There goes the neighbourhood: Gentrification and marginality in modern life. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Gentrification is the term applied to the process whereby middle-class people move into working class areas in the inner city, either residential areas, or old warehouses or sweatshops. This thesis seeks on the one hand to explain gentrification as the consequence of the development of domestic technologies, and on the other to understand it as a metaphor rooted in the characteristic experience of marginality in modern life. Debate over the causes of gentrification have polarized around two themes: that gentrification is the consequence of the rise of a new middle class heralding the onset of a post-industrial or post-modern society; or that gentrification is just another example of the contradictions underpinning capitalist development (in this case, the contradiction between the value of a building and the value of the land on which it sits - the rent gap hypothesis). This thesis argues that the falling cost of domestic technologies such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners has made it possible to bring the value of housing services which can be supplied by a Victorian house into line with the value of the housing services provided by the most modern house. Gentrification is then explained as a consequence of the middle classes taking advantage of the opportunity offered by these developments. In contrast to the explanations currently dominating the gentrification debate, this thesis therefore argues that gentrifiers gentrify because they can, and not because they have to. Consequently, the explanation of gentrification has nothing to do with questions of class, nor indeed of gender. Gentrification is a transient, not a cyclical phenomenon, and would have occurred whether the process was carried out entirely by women or entirely by men. The currently dominant explanations of gentrification argue that gentrifiers gentrify because they have to as they are subject to forces beyond their control: the rise of post- industrial society; or the reappearance of accumulation crises in capitalist urban development. These explanations are then left with the problem, not of explaining the existence of gentrification in those inner-city areas where it does occur, but in explaining its absence from all those other inner-city areas in which it does not occur, since they are couched in such general terms that they could apply to every member of the middle classes or to every inner city area, not just those associated with gentrification. These explanations of gentrification therefore over-estimate its quantitative significance, also. The fact that this over-estimation occurs is however of great interest. Using arguments derived from Robert Park and Raymond Williams, this thesis suggests that the reason for this is that gentrification touches on many characteristic insecurities of modern life. Gentrification therefore has resonances far wider than its quantitative significance would suggest. 'Gentrification' is a metaphorical expression, derived from 'gentry', the rural landowning classes. Gentrification can best be understood, therefore, in terms of attempts to realize an Arcadian (and class) vision of the 'country': a stable retreat in the very heart of the everchanging and often threatening 'city'. Insofar as gentrification represents a particular strategy for dealing with a universally experienced condition, the study of gentrification illuminates the way we live now.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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