Neither Shoreditch nor Manhattan: Post-politics, 'soft austerity urbanism' and real abstraction in Glasgow North

Gray, N. (2018) Neither Shoreditch nor Manhattan: Post-politics, 'soft austerity urbanism' and real abstraction in Glasgow North. Area, 50(1), pp. 15-23. (doi:10.1111/area.12299)

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Abstract

Speirs Locks is being re-constructed as a new cultural quarter in Glasgow North, with urban boosters envisioning the unlikely, rundown and de-populated light industrial estate as a key site in the city's ongoing cultural regeneration strategy. Yet this creative place-making initiative, I argue, masks a post-political conjuncture based on urban speculation, displacement and the foreclosure of dissent. Post-politics at Speirs Locks is characterised by what I term ‘soft austerity urbanism’: seemingly progressive, instrumental small-scale urban catalyst initiatives that in reality complement rather than counter punitive hard austerity urbanism. Relating such processes of soft austerity urbanism to a wider context of state-led gentrification, this study contributes to post-political debates in several ways. Firstly, it questions demands for participation as a proper politics when it has become practically compulsory in contemporary biopolitical capitalism. Secondly, it demonstrates how an extreme economy of austerity urbanism remains the hard underside of post-political, soft austerity urbanism approaches. Thirdly, it illustrates how these approaches relate to wider processes of ‘real abstraction’ – which is no mere flattery of the mind, but instead is rooted in actually existing processes of commodity exchange. Such abstraction, epitomised in the financialisation and privatisation of land and housing, buttresses the same ongoing property dynamics that were so integral to the global financial crisis and ensuing austerity policies in the first place. If we aim to generate a proper politics that creates a genuine rupture with the destructive play of capital in the built environment, the secret of real abstraction must be critically addressed.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gray, Mr Neil
Authors: Gray, N.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Area
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:0004-0894
ISSN (Online):1475-4762
Published Online:22 September 2016
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
First Published:First published in Area 50(1):15-23
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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