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The order and simplicity of gentrification: a political challenge

  • Rowland Atkinson
  • Gary Bridge
Publiceringsår: 2005
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 261-269
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Gentrification in a global context: the new urban colonialism
Dokumenttyp: Del av eller Kapitel i bok
Förlag: Routledge


As the concept of gentrification celebrates an even forty years, some of the most basic questions about the process itself remain contentious. What is gentrification? What are its root causes? There is surely no lack of answers, though these are largely stamped by disciplined convention. The purpose of this chapter is to revisit these basic questions and formulate answers that facilitate “having gentrification clearly in view” so it can “be scrutinized effectively” (Beauregard 1986, 54).

I will argue for a broader definition of gentrification than is commonly found in the literature. Our overly narrow definitions render the concept genuinely chaotic by conflating contingent and necessary relations. This effectively interferes with probing underlying causes and slants our view towards particularities. I will also argue for a more inclusive perspective on the geography and history of gentrification.

I will argue that the root causes of gentrification are: commodification of space, polarized power relations, and a dominance of vision over sight associated with what Wendell Berry calls ‘the vagrant sovereign’ (1977, p. 53). We are so busy pursuing superficial particular truths we loose touch with and fail to maintain these deeper more universal truths about gentrification. I will argue that we need to break with the present norm insisting upon emphasizing and focusing on the chaos and complexity of gentrification. We wrongly assume that seeking to identify order and simplicity in gentrification is tantamount to reductionism and simple-mindedness, and that critical thinking requires us to stick to the lodestars of chaos and complexity. This predominant attitude in gentrification research is not unrelated to more general trends in social science, “a remarkable turnaround in radical political sensibilities” (Sayer 2001, 687).


  • Human Geography
  • human geography gentrification inequality conflict space commodification colonialism


  • ISBN: 0-415-32951-5
  • ISBN: 0-415-32950-7

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