The Right to Rent: Active Resistance to Evolving Geographies of State Regulation


Drawing on recent qualitative research on the UK’s Immigration Act 2016, this article sets out to explain the opposition of social housing professionals to the imposition of the Right to Rent. By locating this policy intervention within the evolving geographies of state regulation, it is possible to account for the mechanisms through which housing professionals can resist the extension of duties that were previously the remit of border agents and immigration officials. Synthesizing Bourdieu’s critical sociology with Boltanski and Thevenot’s sociology of critique helps explain not only the governmental underpinnings of contemporary immigration rhetoric, but also the forms of resistance for which housing professionals display a strong justification in exercising. The universal nature of ‘classification struggles’ within and beyond state institutions extends the relevance of this research to encompass most, if not all, welfarist regimes operating within actually existing neoliberal orders. The analysis of the findings of this research has wider implications that reach beyond housing and urban studies while immigration persists as one of the most significant contemporary political issues, almost without geographical exception, right across the globe.