Gentrification and the state of uneven development on Edinburgh's periphery
Kallin, Hamish Louis
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This thesis examines two 'urban regeneration' projects ongoing in peripheral. post-industrial areas of Edinburgh (Scotland). Both areas have suffered from long term underinvestment, and are classic examples of Neil Smith's 'rent-gap'; the plans for both envision higher prices, richer residents, less (or no) council housing and hold onto the notion of integration into 'Edinburgh' proper. The way in which land must become a form of fictitious capital is in evidence as both fuel and aim: rising land values is the ideal; rising land values is the way to achieve that ideal. The aim of this thesis is twofold. on the one hand, I seek a detailed history of these two projects, to provide a portrait of urban change in areas of Edinburgh that are almost totally absent from the literature. Edinburgh is consistently perceived as a 'successful' and affluent city, and the history portrayed herein challenges this perception, illustrating how it is only maintained through the eviction of other notions of the city. In this sense the work of critical geographers is brought to bear on an urban environment not widely seen to offer insight into the visceral fault lines of profit-seeking urban redevelopment. At the same time, this thesis mounts a theoretical intervention vis-à-vis the conception of 'the state' in work on gentrification and urban regeneration. The state has assume growing importance as an actor in narratives of gentrification, so much so that the phenomenon is often perceived as state-led. In my two case-studies the habit for institutionally declaring a denial of state agency is in full force: both projects were led by elusive public/private 'partnerships', but in both cases they were in fact much more 'public' than they wanted to appear. In this sense state agency is (intentionally) hidden behind an unaccountable façade of separation. At its simplest, my research challenges the notion that 'the state' gentrifies because it know what it is doing. There is a presumed intentionality behind notions of state-led gentrification that appears to be missing: rather, this is gentrification enacted by assumptions, limitations, a lack of imagination, lack of money; in other words by the neoliberalisation of the state itself. In this sense gentrification is not occurring because it is chosen as a policy outcome, but is chosen because it is perceived as the only policy outcome. This can best be understood by challenging the notion of a state/economy dichotomy that is implicit in most research on gentrification. Both projects were ambitions, and both suffered spectacularly as a result of an ongoing financial crisis caused in no small way by the very strategies of real-estate valorisation they typify themselves. These are landscapes rendered by demolition and land values that catastrophically failed to rise, indicative of two epochs slain in quick succession: the Keynesian-industrial era, flattened to make way for the entrepreneurial city that lies in crisis. Attention to the way they were planned, the way they failed to succeed and the way no alternative plan has arisen haves us a treatise on the way planning is seemingly locked into a certain path. This thesis prompts a more critical engagement with 'the ate' of gentrification, and is ultimately guided by a political commitment to more equitable, democratically accountable urban policy where the legitimacy of state involvement needs constant renegotiation. The paradigm of neoliberal urban policy is - to use Neil Smith's phrase - 'dead but dominant', and we need to try and understand how.