Centring Housing in Political Economy

  • Manuel Aalbers Department of Geography, KU Leuven/University of Leuven
  • Brett Christophers Department of Social and Economic Geography, Uppsala University
Keywords: housing, political economy, capital, circulation, ideology, social relations, capital switching


The issue of “housing” has generally not been granted an important role in post-war political economy. Housing-as-policy has been the preserve of social policy analysis and of a growing field of housing studies; housing-as-market has been confined to mainstream economics. This paper insists that political-economic analysis can no longer remain relatively indifferent to the housing question since housing is implicated in the contemporary capitalist political economy in numerous critical, connected, and very often contradictory ways. The paper conceptualizes this implication by identifying the multiple roles of housing when “capital” – the essential “stuff” of political economy – is considered from the perspective of each of its three primary, mutually-constitutive guises: as process of circulation, as social relation, and as ideology. Mobilizing these three optics to provide a critical overall picture of housing-in-political-economy (more than a political economy of housing), we draw on and weave together the many vital contributions of housing research to our evolving understanding of capitalism.


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