Relocating Gentrification: The Working Class, Science and the State in Recent Urban Research


This article amplifies Tom Slater’s diagnosis of the causes of the gentrification of recent gentrification research. It argues that the shift from the denunciation to the celebration of gentrification, the elision of the displacement of the established residents, and the euphemistic focus on ‘social mixing’ partake of a broader pattern of invisibility of the working class in the public sphere and social inquiry. This effacing of the proletariat in the city is reinforced by the growing heteronomy of urban research, as the latter becomes more tightly tethered to the concerns of city rulers. Both tendencies, in turn, reveal and abet the shifting role of the state from provider of social support for lower‐income populations to supplier of business services and amenities for middle‐ and upper‐class urbanites — among them the cleansing of the built environment and the streets from the physical and human detritus wrought by economic deregulation and welfare retrenchment. To build better models of the changing nexus of class and space in the neoliberal city, we need to relocate gentrification in a broader and sturdier analytic framework by revising class analysis to capture the (de)formation of the postindustrial proletariat, resisting the seductions of the prefabricated problematics of policy, and giving pride of place to the state as producer of sociospatial inequality.