From crisis to gentrination

November 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

In September 2013, the Greek coalition government (ND, conservative/PASOK, social democrat) announced that approximately six hundred administrative jobs were to be cut across eight of the country’s biggest universities: nearly half, that is, of their shared total of 1349. The announcement followed on the heels of the shut-down of the state broadcaster ERT three months earlier, which made its 2500 employees redundant overnight. Even if particularly emblematic, these are only two of the government decisions taken to meet the terms agreed with the EU/ECB/IMF ‘troika’ of lending agencies: For 2013 alone, the agreed plan was to place approximately 12000 state employees in the so-called ‘mobility scheme’, according to which they would receive 75% of their wage for a year, before being made redundant as well.

It would be tempting to brush off these developments as tips of the austerity iceberg: Greece, after all, has been read as anything from a crisis scapegoat to a villain, but has always been positioned in the eye of the fiscal storm that gripped Europe and much of the Global West from 2008-09 onward. Independent of their political viewpoint, analysts have for the largest part read this unabated crisis through existing units of power: that is, through the units of nation-states and national governments whether assigning them a weakened position (see, especially concerning the welfare state: Scott, 2013; concerning a shift in state regimes overall: Fujita, 2011) or a potentially empowered role (Bickerton, 2011; Therborn, 2009). Correspondingly, the discussion on either the EU “federalization” (Cloots, De Baere, & Sottiaux, 2012) or the empowerment of certain states at the expense of others nevertheless presupposes and reinforces the national as the scale of analysis.This editorial proposes another conceptualization both for the Eurozone crisis and potentially for the current wave of capitalist restructuring as a whole. It shows how political geographers have played a key role in grounding the abstraction of the fiscal crisis into its urban roots; and it argues that now, as the previously momentary crisis turns into a longer-lasting restructuring, we are met with an unprecedented opportunity: to build on the discipline’s knowledge of the flows and circuits of capital at the urban scale (as studied extensively in urban development and gentrification in particular) and through a shifting of this scale, to better comprehend the ongoing restructuring in supra-national capitalist development and governance. This editorial introduces gentrination as a conceptual tool that will potentially help in this direction.