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Housing Financialization, 66 pp

by Rosa Luxemburg foundation, www.rosalux.de Thursday, May. 09, 2019 at 6:07 PM




The so-called "laissez faire capitalism" of the 19th century created a huge housing need for the labor force living in cramped conditions in the cities of the most industrialized countries. At the same time, colonialism entered a new phase - imperialism - when the struggle between the colonial powers for territories, raw materials, markets, and a cheap labor force became stronger and stronger. The

state did not regulate the banks and the financial sector; hence, they became more and more speculative. This resulted in the collapse of the stock market (1929) and the banking system, generating the periodical crises of capitalism and the two world wars of the 20th century.

After the Second World War, under the pressure of the growing and organized international movement of workers, the structure of accumulation changed and was tempered through a series of social and economic policies. Housing regulation and policies started even earlier in some countries. In some cases, state capitalism came with the nationalization or, at least, regulation of many financial

institutions. Capital accumulation was supported in the non-financial sector: loans were given to productive firms for big infrastructural projects or for industries but also to households (at low interest rates) to support their capacity to consume.

Welfare states were created, and they varied tremendously from country to country. Generally, public services were developed, and markets were regulated. In the housing sector, social and public or cooperative housing were produced, and the private market was regulated.

Developmentalism also became a dominant trend in the countries where state socialism was administering the big transformations (industrialization, urbanization,

nationalization of production, etc.). National and international political forces within the Bretton Woods system prioritized the reconciliation of international free trade with domestic welfare policies.

"The Bretton Woods international system was based on an inter-state agreement regarding the need to regulate the exchange rates between currencies (a system of regulation that was disciplined by the US dollar tied to gold), to regulate the market and to control the flows of speculative international finance via central banks, but at the same time to support free trade. It promoted the investments in the form of foreign direct investment, for example the construction of factories overseas, rather than the international currency manipulation or bond market. The newly created International Monetary Fund and World Bank had a big role to play in the control of the international monetary system. Bretton Woods ended when at the beginning of the 1970s, the US president announced the 'temporary' suspension of the dollar's convertibility into gold, which led to currency destabilization, to the free floating of currencies and at the end of the day to their depreciation."

Earlier empires continued their dominance in former colonies through different forms of neocolonialism. The structural adjustment programs that the International

Monetary Fund and the World Bank administered set conditions for the loans offered to the so-called "Third World" countries (and to some of the "Second World" countries) through demands regarding privatization and


The 1970s and 1980s witnessed major waves of systemic crises of capitalism. The response that the most powerful states promoted/imposed was the neoliberalization of policies in every domain. This was a way to dismantle the welfare state and to unleash financial capital from state control or - better said - to place states at the service of (financial) capital.
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