Engels on Gentrification

In reality the bourgeoisie has only one method of solving the housing question after its fashion-that is to say, of solving it in such a way that the solution continually reproduces the question anew. This method is called “Haussmann.”

By the term “Haussmann” I do not mean merely the specifically Bonapartist manner of the Parisian Haussmann – breaking long, straight and broad streets through the closely-built workers’ quarters and erecting big luxurious buildings on both sides of them, the intention thereby, apart from the strategic aim of making barricade fighting more difficult, being also to develop a specifically Bonapartist building trades’ proletariat dependent on the government and to turn the city into a pure luxury city. By “Haussmann” I mean the practice which has now become general of making breaches in the working class quarters of our big towns, and particularly in those which are centrally situated, quite apart from whether this is done from considerations of public health and for beautifying the town, or owing to the demand for big centrally situated business premises, or owing to traffic requirements, such as the laying down of railways, streets, etc.

No matter how different the reasons may be, the result is everywhere the same: the scandalous alleys and lanes disappear to the accompaniment of lavish self-praise from the bourgeoisie on account of this tremendous success, but they appear again immediately somewhere else and often in the immediate neighborhood.

This is a striking example of how the bourgeoisie solves the housing question in practice. The breeding places of disease, the infamous holes and cellars in which the capitalist mode of production confines our workers night after night, are not abolished; they are merely shifted elsewhere!

–Engels, “The Housing Question” (1872)

More: Gentrification and The London Riot Clean-up

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2 Responses to Engels on Gentrification

  1. Tony says:

    Do whatever it takes to find and see the PBS documentary ‘Flag Wars’ on gentrification in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really great & emotional look at people dealing directly with gentrification.

    http://www.pbs.org/pov/flagwars/

    I wish it were streaming somewhere online–I’ve been wanting to watch it again for years!

  2. Gavin says:

    Thanks for the rec, I’ll look for it… we had it at the video store where I used to work, but I never got a chance to watch it.

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