This publication seeks to highlight the relationship of economic and housing policy to contemporary practices of urban development in the US. Throughout the 20th century economic theories—from Keynesian schemas for finance to the codification of “obsolescence” in the tax code—guided the complex range of housing policies that underwrote suburbanization and urban renewal. Policies often codified cultural notions of growth and decay, race and value, community and investment. As one example, progressive economists and “housers,” such as Catherine Bauer and Elizabeth Wood, rallied around “market failure.” Their argument that the market was unable to produce adequate housing within reach of the working class served as the basis for public housing legislation and broader urban renewal policies. Similar to today, housing advocates were alarmed at the inclination toward technocratic fixes and market-based solutions. Rather, they believed the “housing problem” could not be fixed by the same forces undermining social reproduction. Their experiences can serve as one inspiration for politicizing and reconceptualizing contemporary urban conditions beyond the current economic regimes advocating for the status quo.
We are seeking contributions exploring 1) usable histories, 2) theories of change, or 3) speculative futures of housing and development politics. We start from the assumption of a pressing need to build political consensus for a break from the status quo driving urban inequality. We aim to address and engage the wider publics invested in working for new outcomes through a freely accessible and collaboratively produced online publication.
We welcome texts which are polemical and rigorous (but accessible to a broader audience), and less than 2,000 words. Please send a brief expression of interest, such as a 250 word abstract, by July 15. Include your name, contact information, and affiliation. Questions should be directed to ericpeterson (at) berkeley (dot) edu
Market Failure is edited by Eric Peterson, PhD Candidate in Architecture at UC Berkeley, and is supported by the Joan E. Draper Architectural History Research Endowment Fund at UC Berkeley.