This video was part of the University of Limerick MA in Sociology – Critical Perspectives on Youth, Community and Social Regeneration Spring 2016 seminar series. It features Dr Kirsteen Paton (University of Leeds) with the talk ‘Everyday Evictions in the 21st Century’. More videos from the seminar series can be viewed here.
In contemporary times we are seeing large scale evictions reappear across the UK, reaching a level not seen in 100 years – when inequities generated from an unregulated housing market triggered national Rent Strikes. State-provided housing and welfare provision were historically born of these and delivered statutory protection and a buffer against evictions for much of 20th century. This time around evictions are driven not only by the market but also by government policy and practice. Today, under financial capitalism, housing is cast as a global financial product and the subsequent austerity project – an intense political project that extends the economy of debt to the individual – has led to the removal of this welfare protection. Never has the divide in housing wealth and housing poverty been so stark. Where welfare reforms have increased the profitability of the housing industry, it has simultaneously forced thousands of households into rent arrears as part of wider ‘debtfarism’. This, Kirsteen conceives, as a process which creates state-led evictions.
Based on current research with UK housing activists, Kirsteen outlines practices of what she calls state-led eviction and the subsequent counter hegemonic responses to this. Kirsteen explores what effective housing resistance might look like in the face of these contemporary punitive practices of dispossession. She considers the potential role and effectiveness of Rent Strikes today in contemporary housing struggles given the current nature of the drivers of evictions, most notably in relation to welfare and ‘debtfare’. She argues the fight against housing and rent inequality needs to be part of a wider collective organisation of anti-austerity that recognises the role of both and state and the market. Accordingly, she considers emergent strategies, such as those in various European countries, which might be effectively utilised for resistance.