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Alan Walks

The word ‘ghetto’ is both a highly loaded and widely misused concept, and the ways it is used have important social and political implications. This chapter begins by examining the origins and meaning of the concept of the ghetto in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, and the differences between ghettos, enclaves and other forms of segregation. It then moves to examine how ghettos might be identified and measured, the debates that have arisen in the scholarly literature around this issue, and how the lack of an agreed-upon definition has left an opening for the political manipulation of the term. The chapter then focuses on the case study of Denmark, which is justifying a program of limiting the rights and mobility of specific communities, and even demolishing their housing, based on their labelling of their neighbourhoods as ‘ghettos’. The problems with this Danish program, and the wider stakes involved in the misunderstanding of ghettoization processes and the misapplication of the concept of ghettos across different contexts, are discussed.

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Alan Walks

Although the problems of global housing affordability, financialization and inequality have received much attention in the scholarly literature, the importance and role of the global monetary system is not well understood or studied. In this chapter, Walks argues that the global housing bubble is the confluence of three inter-related but distinct phenomena: rising inequality within nations; policy promotion of owner-occupation through various forms of mortgage securitization; and the structuring incentives and contradictions involved with the US dollar as the global reserve currency. Walks argues that the latter phenomenon is of primary importance, and that many of the policy shifts that have contributed to the global housing affordability crises (within core nations and elsewhere), as well as at least part of the trend toward rising inequality, have followed from contradictions at the heart of the global capitalist economy related to the evolution of the US dollar as world money. The current housing bubble is global not just because it is seemingly occurring almost everywhere, but because even those nations witnessing apparently opposite or differentiated patterns do so as a result of their specific relations to a global economy structured around and by the US dollar at its apex.