Ground-Rent, Financialization of Real-Estate and the Production of Space: The Choreography of Urban-Port Configurations around the Manchester Ship Canal and the Port of Antwerp
The mobilisation of land as a financial asset has become a defining feature of sociospatial restructuring in post-industrial European cities. Returning to the neglected literature on land rent, I argue that fundamental contradictions arise from treating land as capital which shape contemporary urban processes in important ways. I explore how these contradictions unfold by analysing the active political role of rentiers in urban restructuring as they have sought to transform urban resources into financial assets – a process I characterise as ‘assetisation’.
The first contradiction is that a financial asset must be able to circulate easily and globally (i.e, be liquid) but can never fully overcome spatial boundedness. In a study of the Port of Liverpool’s financialisation I argue that the irreducibility of space means that breaking down spatial processes into their investable characteristics is likely to foster speculative bubbles. This is a central contradiction of financialisation, but also means that understanding the formation of fictitious capital is of utmost importance to contemporary economic geography.
This centrality of speculative value to financialised capitalism is the basis of the second contradiction of the land market investigated in this thesis. The second contradiction is that the relational nature of land means regulation shapes a given plot’s profitability, making political contestation over land’s fictions a constitutive feature of land markets. By investigating flagship urban development projects in Manchester (the Trafford Centre) and Antwerp (Het Eilandje) through this lens, I show how conflicts over the nature and extent of land assetisation shaped neoliberal governance restructuring ‘from the ground up’. So developing a framework around the politics of urban rent production, I highlight that land financialisation threatens to undermine the gentrification strategies that had been the basis of European post-industrial urban policy.