Re: [OPE-L] the state and the the housing market

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Sep 10 2005 - 12:49:27 EDT

At 10:17 AM -0400 9/10/05, Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM wrote:
>(was: "The social structures of the economy by Pierre Bourdieu")
>>  But one has only to examine an economic
>>  transaction closely, as Pierre Bourdieu does here for the buying and
>>  selling of houses, to see that these abstract assumptions cannot
>>  explain what happens in reality. As Bourdieu shows, the market is
>>  constructed by the state, which can decide, for example, whether to
>>  promote private housing or collective provision.
>This over-estimates and privileges the role of the state under capitalism
>in the housing market.  While there is no doubt that the state has roles
>that it plays in shaping this market,  the market is not "constructed" by
>the state.

My experience with my previous landlord suggests otherwise. Having
inherited a house, she did not want to sell it due to the taxes she
would owe. Moreover her property taxes were next to nil.  Continuing
to rent was also profitable because (as she perceived it) the laws
did not impose on her any serious costs for upkeep and repair. The
state constructed the rental market in a sense.

>One has to remember that many of the roles that the state has played
>(e.g. construction regulations and safety codes,  zoning regulations,
>state-subsidized loans,  tax breaks for the building of low-income
>housing,  and -- most obviously perhaps -- the provision of public
>housing) have increased over time, especially under late capitalism,
>and are the consequence of working-class struggles.

There is a lot of middle class struggle in the name of anti growth to
keep working class housing out of desirable areas. Especially if that
housing would be for the minority working class. Scarcity is not
simply a market result.

>   Yet, the housing
>market was "constructed"  and reconstructed long before the state
>played these roles.  Of course, it could be claimed legitimately that to
>the extent that the state was instrumental in establishing an institutional
>context in which there were contract laws and private property (and an
>armed wing which could be called upon to violently enforce those laws
>and evict workers and squatters, etc.) then the state could be seen as
>performing essential roles in the operation of the housing (and all
>other) markets.

Haven't read bourdieu's case study of the sale of single family
dwellings in France yet, but I suspect that he is going to uncover a
more than minimal role for the state.


>In solidarity, Jerry

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