Some Practical Anarchism (and, some theory)

My writing is in RED

Others’ writing is in BLACK

I have been making a move away from my interests in social-psychology, phenomenology, and post-structuralism for some time now, though it hasn’t been a very rapid shift. Reading again one of my favorite books, Colin Ward’s Anarchy in Action somewhat encouraged this but simply feeling that my social theory was becoming stale and focusing more on anarchist practice really kicked me into a different orientation. Consistently asking myself, “do what?” when it comes to my principals guided my focus more towards questions of infrastructure, lifestyle, and such than it has towards a focus on what in short I think of as “fighting tactics”. Not to say that I’ve neglected to learn more about strategic and tactical considerations when it comes to insurrections, actions, and such; but, as can been noted about many things I have written concerning social theory, the relationship of the individual to their environment and how this ties into anarchism is a predominant theme for me. So, the future of this blog will be a growing exploration of “The Housing Question,” Anarchist Planning, and Practicality (or, practical solutions for more social, lifestyle, and economic issues for anarchists). To begin, is a problem and solution exercise in two parts with three introductory pieces of information; first, for a general overview of the Housing Question is an article from Aufheben, second is the first part of finding some solutions -a video on ecological issues and “natural building,” the last is a link to The Anarchist Planner which I think is an interesting site even though it in no way encompasses all the directions I want to take this “practical” stuff.


An Overview of the (economic) Problems of Housing (at least for Britain but a lot can be generalized)

First, a cliff’s notes summary of the following:

an analysis of the reproduction of the working class and “middle class” in Britain since the Victorian era.
Housing is a major concern for the reproduction of the working class. Over the past few centuries, the nature of housing itself and the struggles around housing have partially shaped the course of struggle. The economics of housing are broken down in the relationships between land ownership, speculative home building, real estate bureaucracy, exchange value on the market, lending, wages, the needs of capitalists, and various housing schemes. Building homes is different from the production of many commodities because of the time it takes to build a home, the fluctuations of the market, the limits set on land, etc.: this leads to speculative building of small crops of houses on land that is assumed to return a profit. In Britain, this has lead to consistent shortages of housing and depraved conditions for the working class.

It is demonstrated how home ownership has become a staple of the so-called middle class above and beyond whether the worker is blue or white collar, has a higher income (though income security is important), etc. In turn, it is also shown how the political schemes to encourage home ownership instead of council housing and private rent shape the interests of the home owners: encouraging bourgeois individualism, concerns with profit (as homes become seen as an opportunity for speculative investments), and a ideal of life as the saving and investing in homes (from the ‘starter house’ to the bigger house for the married family with children, to the ‘nest-egg’ when the children leave).

The way that this affects the young and the working class is demonstrated and historically tied in with the fluctuations of the housing market, wages, and state intervention. The rent strike in Glasgow is briefly mentioned, squatting and its underlying motivations are analyzed, and the push for council housing (and its decline) is focused on. All of these factors are tied in with the question of how housing shapes participation in the class struggle and how aristocrats, capitalists, and their politicians have sought to control the class struggle through housing.

Though this was written prior to the burst of the housing bubble, it predicts some of its consequences but does not relate completely to the contemporary situation in the US. There are some insights that can be gleamed on land and housing policy, struggles concerning land and housing, how various classes/parties respond to growing discontent and action surrounding the housing question, the way wages and housing interact, how this ties into the creation of the middle-class and the propaganda of capitalism (encouraging home ownership as the prime ultimate form of housing), and how housing came to be what it is today. Taking some of these themes, some decent observations about housing in the US can be made with a bit of historical research and investigation into land prices (and who owns land) and the history of state interventions in the housing market. Most importantly imho, such an analysis can take some of the light of anarchist struggle and shine it on the housing question instead of maintaining a strict focus on work-place related questions. This seems completely relevant in a time when the US state is pinched for funds, the housing crises is completely fucking up the housing stock and increasing homelessness, and people are itching for a solution (which the ruling class knows already can’t be found in typical state intervention or market solutions). In focusing on the contemporary housing issues and how they are being slighted by the bourgeois propaganda to ‘create new jobs’ as a solution (while house prices are low, speculative building is at an extreme low, and wages aren’t doing much), we can recognize some similar patterns: the focus on encouraging home ownership (mortgage, mortgage, mortgage), the rent being too damn high, the lack of options for the working class (and our growing frustrations), the obvious fact that ‘creating new jobs’ isn’t really going to satisfy anything, and the need for direct action.

Here is the original article:
Libcom.org – published by Aufheben

Aufheben’s incredibly detailed and comprehensive history and analysis of housing and the working class in UK.

Introduction

For the vast majority of people living in a capitalist society housing is an ever-present concern. Finding somewhere to live, finding the money to pay the rent or to keep up the mortgage repayments, negotiating contractual obligations with landlords or mortgage lenders, solicitors and estate agents, are all familiar and recurrent problems. Yet housing is not merely a basic necessity, it also provides an important reference point through which we come to exist in capitalist society. Where we live, what type of housing we have, what type of tenure we hold, all condition who we are, what we are seen to be and the environment in which we are able to live our lives. As such housing is a major material determinant of our social being

However, the very ubiquity of housing in our everyday lives has often meant that the political and social importance of housing is overlooked by those interested in the social question. Yet, as one of the central elements in the reproduction of labour power, housing is above all a class issue. Not only that, with the ending of the housing bubble, that threatens the stability of the economy, and the looming shortage of housing, the issue of housing is rising on the political agenda in Britain for the first time for twenty years.

Whereas the US and much of Europe experienced a prolonged economic slow down following the dot.com crash three years ago, the UK has been able to sustain its economic growth. Indeed, having effectively skipped the last recession, Gordon Brown has been able to claim that the UK economy has experienced the longest period of uninterrupted growth since the industrial revolution! Britain now has levels of inflation and unemployment not seen since the end of the long post war boom of the 1960s.

An important factor that has allowed the UK to ride out the dot.com crash was the rather fortuitously timed expansion of public expenditure. But perhaps more important than this inadvertent Keysianism was the housing bubble. In the last five years the house prices have doubled. Borrowing against the rising value of their homes, house owners have fuelled an unprecedented consumer boom. As a result of this debt fuelled boom, personal debt has risen to over £1 trillion – that is nearly the value of the entire annual GDP of the United Kingdom.

What has become obvious is that house prices cannot continue to rise several times faster than wages. At the time of writing there is mounting evidence that the downturn in the housing market has begun. Whether the housing bubble is going to burst with a sharp fall in house prices or whether it will slowly deflate producing a long period of stagnation it is too early to say. Of course, housing bubbles are nothing new. As we shall see, ever since the deregulation of the financial system in 1970 there have been sharp rises in the price of houses followed by long periods in which prices stagnated. However, previous bubbles were short, lasting between eighteen months to three years. This housing bubble has gone on for almost five years.

Of course, it can be argued that previous bubbles were cut short by either rising unemployment or by a sharp rise in interest rates, neither of which has so far occurred to puncture the current bubble. However, there are reasons to believe that the current housing bubble marks the end of an era of housing provision that began in the 1970s.

Firstly, as the government has already recognised, it is becoming apparent that we are heading for a serious housing crisis. On the demand side, social and demographic changes are increasing the demand for housing. An aging population and increased divorce rates mean that there are a growing number of single households requiring their own accommodation. At the same time, the growing dominance of London is drawing the population South. Hence the housing stock is not only insufficient to meet demand but also much of it is in the wrong place. On the supply side, the building industry has failed to make up for the dramatic fall in the public construction of houses since the late 1960s. Over the past 30 years the building of new houses has barely kept pace with the growth in demand for housing let alone been able to provide replacements for the old housing stock. As a result Britain has aging, and increasingly decrepit, housing stock1.

The current prolonged housing bubble can be therefore seen as an early symptom of the housing crisis. As the chronic failure to build enough houses over the last few decades comes up against the increasing demand for housing, house prices are being forced up.

Secondly, there seems to be a wider economic transition that has an important bearing on the housing market. Since the 1970s we have been in a period of high inflation and, as a consequence, high nominal interest rates. Now, with the growing competition from low wage economies such as China, it seems likely that we have entered a period of low inflation and consequently low nominal interest rates. Lower interest rates mean that house buyers can afford to borrow more to buy a house. As a result lower interest rates mean higher house prices. Thus the housing bubble can be seen to have been prolonged by the adjustment to the new low interest rate regime.

If it is the case that we are in a transition to a new era in housing this is likely to have wider political and economic implications. However, it is perhaps too early to make predictions on how the working class will react to the new housing regime.

In this article we shall confine ourselves to placing the current housing situation in its historical context. In doing so it will be necessary to employ the rather controversial category of the ‘middle classes’. The notion of the ‘middle class’ is often criticised as a sociological category, which too often escapes an adequate and well-founded definition. This is undoubtedly true. However, this does not mean that the notion of a middle class is merely an illusion or merely an ideological construct made up by sociologists. The notion of the ‘middle class’ is drawn and systemised by bourgeois sociologists from the real perceptions and experiences of people living in contemporary capitalist society. For us the middle class is a category of real appearance that emerges at a more concrete level of analysis than the more essential relations of production, which give rise to the categories of capitalist and proletarian. As such, middle class, and its opposition to the category working class, is constituted by a complex of historically contingent factors, many of which lie outside the immediate process of capitalist production. As a consequence, the definition of middle class varies across time and place. As we shall argue, in Britain during the twentieth century housing tenure became an important, but far from exhaustive material factor in the constitution of a distinct middle class, which had important political and ideological effects.

However, before examining the history of housing in Britain we shall first consider some general issues regarding housing under capitalism.

Please visit the link to the original article to read it in full (link is up there ^)


Solutions

Frist Earth – a documentary that focuses on ecological issues and natural building solutions such as cob adobes/etc.

 

this site has some things I agree with, others I don’t but a good links section

“…This website is meant as a conduit to postulate new urban planning theory from contemporary anarchist perspectives and further the dialogues in such realms. The content of this site includes articles, zines and comics about the field of urban planning and generally revisioning and planning how our lives and cities will be in the coming anarchist world. The site also includes a blog. All to aid professional urban planners, architects, other environmental designers — and everyone else — to help dismantle the system of zoning and public regulations so prevalent today.

Our dreams are becoming real. Anarchy is on the way.”