Hipster economics and the problems with gentrification

My latest for Al Jazeera English is on gentrification:

Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.

Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.

That new location is often an impoverished suburb, which lacks the glamour to make it the object of future renewal efforts. There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them. This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked.

In cities, gentrifiers have the political clout – and accompanying racial privilege – to reallocate resources and repair infrastructure. The neighbourhood is “cleaned up” through the removal of its residents. Gentrifiers can then bask in “urban life” – the storied history, the selective nostalgia, the carefully sprinkled grit – while avoiding responsibility to those they displaced.

Hipsters want rubble with guarantee of renewal. They want to move into a memory they have already made.

Read the full article, The perils of hipster economics, at Al Jazeera English

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15 Responses to Hipster economics and the problems with gentrification

  1. I found this one of the best articles read in quite a long time and came across it by accident- I’m from the UK and have seen what you talk about in many cases, notably Brick Lane in Shoreditch, and to a lesser degree in other parts of the UK (esp. London given the extensive gentrification there, see: http://m.vice.com/en_uk/read/hidden-homelessness-daisy-may-hudson)
    I definitely see these trends across the UK and this squares a circle I have been mulling over for a while with regard to urban renewal and gentrification. Would possibly be interesting to compare UK/US class system and interaction with hipster-fication. My undergrad research project is going to be on the motivations for shopping at farmer’s markets and hipsterfication could be a crucial part, so thanks for this article.

  2. Jack Mehoff says:

    You are a fucking hack and you suck.

  3. Ryan says:

    I disagree with your claim that native incompetence is a “myth.” I witnessed “native incompetence” (if you wish to call it that) while living in the Bronx from 2010-2012.

    My apartment was directly across the street from a vacant lot that students would turn into “party central.” There was underage drinking, +100 decibel speakers, events often on weeknights, and sometimes as many as 400-500 guests in attendance.

    Despite being in the middle of a highly populated residential neighborhood, predominantly families with lots of young children, I know I’m the only one responsible for eventually shutting this down. The only time the cops ever showed was when I called them. After a year and a half of regularly calling to the police, one of my calls finally led to a “big bust” that resulted in a tall metal wall being constructed around the lot. There were no more parties after that.

    I can’t have been the only one pissed off that I couldn’t couldn’t fall asleep at 2am on a weeknight, why didn’t anyone else call? I find it insulting that you think “racial privilege” could be responsible for the change, instead of my hard work.

    Gentrified areas get more services presumably because rich people are more self interested, or at least are more successful in acting in their self interest and advocating for the services.

    Here’s a quote regarding resource rich countries, that also seems applicable here:
    “Unless the population pays taxes, there is inadequate motivation for them to hold their government accountable.” http://www.voxeu.org/article/tax-policies-resource-rich-economies

    And finally, yes, there are lots of us who are socially liberal, economically conservative (actually, we support economic liberalism, but I think Mr. Lee characterizes us as “conservative” because we don’t subscribe to a system of wealth redistribution). I atheist, support gun control, am pro-life and pro gay marriage!!!

  4. Ryan says:

    Your profile is a porno site?

  5. This was a brilliant article. Thanks. 🙂

  6. This is in regard to your article…’on being a thing’….you said what you are supposed to say….you did what a rational, mature person should do…and I admire you for that….it’s not your fame but your spirit which has made me follow you…

  7. Tony says:

    This is also in regard to the ‘on being a thing’ post. I think perhaps you didn’t leave a comment field there for obvious reasons, also because you want to return to your usual privacy? In which case forgive me that I feel the need to comment. I feel so sad that you come in for this kind of foul abuse. I also follow your blog because I like the spirit with which you express yourself, for sure mostly I agree with what you say, sometimes not, ca va. I wonder what kind of appalling animal farm socialism these would-be rapists would like to inflict on us. My kindest wishes to you Sarah.

  8. Nancy says:

    So apparently Sarah Kendzior can make the claim that “the left has a rape problem” without providing any evidence that it was actual “leftists” and “communists” making the threats. She then proceeds to lie about Katha Pollitt claiming that Pollitt is out to get her. Kendzior like so many SJW hates Michelle Goldberg for telling the truth about vicious hateful bully Mikki Kendall. I can’t believe anybody would hire someone as unethical as Kendzior to write for them.

  9. Nancy says:

    Kendzior’s paranoia against Pollitt and The Nation is truly a sight to behold:


  10. jual cd rpp says:

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  11. evilsoup says:

    ‘socially liberal, economically conservative’ is a way of saying that you don’t give a fuck about poor kids starving but you like to smoke weed, yeah?

    Did you do a poll of your neighbourhood or something, or are you just assuming that you’re the only one who complained to the police?

  12. firefall says:

    Dont disturb his opinions with actual ideas, man

  13. Pingback: Urban Homesteading | Cameron N. Paul

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