Neil Smith discusses gentrification and urban redevelopment as a part of a larger process of uneven development, which is rooted in the capitalist mode of production. Several key points are discussed.
1. The structure of capitalism has two tendencies: equalization and differentiation. Equalization could be seen as an on-going process of homogenization and commodification of “everything.” A result is the creation of wage labor (this is a narrow definition, but we will consider it as an example here). Differentiation, on the other hand, creates urban differences (rents, geographical differences, etcetc.). An example these two tendencies can be seen in the relationship between the suburb and the city. First, suburbanization is a process of equalization that brings the suburb closer to a city setting; second, it is a differentiation process because suburbanization also created the differences in ground rents between the former and the city (also the differences between wages).
2. Capital also invests in built environment. It creates two cycles: valorization cycle and devalorization cycle. In the Post WWII era, capital moves to the suburbs where ground rent was low. This was a period when redevelopment in the city was not economically an option. However, the city center was still functional; therefore, it meant that the city was in a cycle of devalorization (whereas the suburbs were experiencing a cycle of valorization). Devalorization leads to “physical decline, which in turn lowers the market price of the land on which the dilapidated building stand,” and “when and only when, this rent gap between actual and potential ground rent becomes sufficiently larger, redevelopment and rehabilitation into new land uses becomes a profitable prospect, and capital begins to flow back into the inner city market” (Smith, p.149). Devalorization and valorization follows one other. When investments in the city experienced a barrier, investment left and moved to the suburbs. This movement led to a devalorization cycle in the city; the development of rent gap, however, in the city could then once again led to new development opportunities in the city. This periodic movements of capital defines the uneven developments between the city and the suburbs.
3. The return of capital from the suburbs to the city is not a separate process of suburbanization. “Albeit a reversal in geographic terms, the gentrification and redevelopment of the inner city represents a linear continuation of the forces and relations that led to suburbanization. Like suburbanization, the redevelopment and rehabilitation of the central and inner cities functions as a substantial source of profit” (Smith, p.149). The movement of capital thus created a locational seesaw that moved from successive development, undevelopment and redevelopment (see Smith et al’s measurement of this pattern by using tax delinquency). The valorization of city space (once again) does not mean urbanization in the country has stopped; it is still an on-going process then.
It can be claimed that: On the one hand, the “locational seesaw” could be seen in the previous documentary films as well as the ones for this week. If the films – South Bronx and People’s Firehouse – are referring to a period of devalorization in NYC, the films – My Brooklyn, Gutted Renovation, and Rezoning Harlem – are referring to a period of (re)valorization in NYC. The first (devalorization) led to disinvestment, planned shrinkage, benign neglect; The second (valorization) led to rezoning, gentrification, and displacement. These are tow distinguishable periods of capital movements, but these are also two phases of gentrification. If the first phase is to disinvest and set up an environment for gentrification, the second phase is to set up conditions where tenants, working people and small businesses cannot stay in. What we can suggest here is that the relationship between racism and gentrification are not one and the same across different periods. They are moving in phases in accordance to capital movement. On the other hand, the “gentries” or the “gentrifiers” are also a result of the movement of capital (as D. Rose argues). Gentrifiers do not share the same class position. Indeed, they may be single-parent working mothers. D. Rose argues that the “gentrifiers” are results of changes in the “labour processes, the production of different fractions of labour and changes in their reproduction [hence, child services, housing units, etcetc.]” (p.206). In other words, the production of “marginal gentrifiers” (D. Rose, p.196) and gentrification are both results of the movement capital.
With this given context, please answer the following questions and discuss with your classmates:
1. How do you define “marginal gentrifiers” in your own terms?
2. The NYT articles outline an on-going housing crisis in NYC. Will the “marginal gentrifiers” and the low-income tenants be affected in the same way or differently? Could they be both affected? How? You may yse news articles or your own personal experiences to illustrate your points.
Wtite 150 words to answer the questions.
Example: I would define a marginal gentrifiers as a mix of people that are the protagonist when it comes to the process of gentrification, to me anyone with a significant pay difference then those who originally inhabit the community are textbook gentrifiers. Nowadays gentrification comes in different variations based on the city neighborhoods and the overall demographic of the area. I think when it comes down to the housing crisis anyone that lives on these properties are at risk of being poisoned I agree that the movement of capital is a big factor in terms of gentrification but in most cases the demographic of the gentries are all in the same grouping. i think the “(Re)valorization of these areas is viewed as a good thing for rebuild and growth, but it overlooks the underlying damage that is done to the neighborhoods history and the people that reside there.