Shoreditch and the creative destruction of the inner city

By Benedict Seymour:

“Gentrification in London, a city now rated among the most expensive in the world, embodies the drive of a cannibalistic capitalism looking for ways to cut its costs in a period of declining profit rates and deepening national current account deficits: The search for new, cheaper use values (primarily space, but also intangible assets – authenticity, creativity, community) occurs via the alienating logic of exchange value and its necessary supplement, primitive accumulation (or, simply, theft). Out of the middle classes’ need for more room, more time, more congenial cities, emerges simulation, homogenisation, privatisation and the looting of residual commons. An inherently vampiric process which parasitises upon and kills its host, gentrification is a physical symptom of neoliberal economics just as much as generic malls and big box out of town developments are. Where these extrapolate out from modernist industrial economies of scale, gentrification (at first) provides a luxury complement to /compensation for the devastation. Lively, characterful inner city oases, what a relief. The problem is that, as an equally privatised form of development, gentrification is of course only the inner city version of the same process and leads from exclusive art parties to Starbucks and all the rest. The same economic laws force once ‘idiosyncratic’ zones of experimentation and ‘independent shops’ into increasing conformity as the process matures and prices rise.”


“In world cities like London and the slums of the third world alike, labour, waged and unwaged, is ever more responsible for its own reproduction. The ‘creative entrepreneurialism’ identified by Creative London as the key to revived inner cities is the upscale reflection of a survivalist condition in which insecurity drives the underpaid into overwork. Participation in the valorisation of life/labour – whether helping run your block of flats or talking to a concerned artist about your memories of displacement – is not so much solicited as compulsory. Consequently, in a regeneration regime it becomes easier to get your experience of urban blight plotted on a psychogeographic map of your area than to obtain hospital treatment, housing or a day off work.”

Read full article at Variant

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