What Makes Gentrification 'Gentrification'?
This paper looks at demand issues in gentrification. It takes as its basic proposition that everyone involved in the demand side belongs to the same economic class and therefore possesses the same set of motivations; that ‘otherness’ in gentrification is something that needs to be problematised rather than assumed. It argues that the presumption of otherness arises because accounts of demand for gentrification begin at the end, from achieved housing situation, and argue back, rather than at the beginning, with means. The motivations of gentrifiers, suburbanites and displacees are the same, a concern for defining and preserving identity in the modern world: what differ between them are the means at the disposal of each group. Concern with identity means taking seriously the importance of fashion in gentrification: gentrifiers and suburbanites are members of different status groups, using housing as status symbols to define and claim membership of those groups. Displacees are just as concerned with the maintenance of their identity, but do not have access to the same amount of resources as gentrifiers. Because the solution to the gentrifiers’ identity crisis takes place at the expense of the displacee, gentrification takes on a synecdochal quality: the concerns expressed in struggles over gen- trification exemplify the general concern with identity in conditions of modernity, which should be understood as the subjective experience of everyday life within a capitalist mode of pro- duction. The context within which these struggles over status take place is nonetheless class-con- stituted and class-laden. Gentrification and the struggles it engenders should be interpreted as a form of hegemonic practice. Ultimately, it is this that makes gentrification ‘gentrification’.