Existential capitalism and gentrification in pandemic times

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


After a brief lull in gentrification amid the recent massive lockdown and economic stall across the global north, this process's fifth wave again moves rapidly through many cities. We muddy up frequently undertheorized actors in current gentrification, on-the-ground consumers and producers of this restructuring, to complicate radical political economy understandings of this process. Focusing on two growing gentrifier groups in this process's fifth wave, one kind of hipster (the upper-income urban pioneer) and one kind of developer (the real-estate mogul), we identify them as psychically seared by three structural, entangling forces that embed in the capitalist everyday: piercing pandemic realities, gnawing capitalist affliction and numbing existential ailment. Our text's heart is how a group's leap into gentrification becomes a dramatic quest to bolster their withered meaning systems. As we show, gentrification for this important demographic is, in pandemic days, one glittery and well publicized way – a perverse way – to feel whole and escape the psychic dungeon of everyday life and work. This group's fantasy of re-birthing the city center as a new moral, social and physical frontier is cathartic theater; it enlivens them to recover what they struggle to re-claim: a lost euphoria of feelings and experiential relevance. Our re-centering the role of these actors in current gentrification, after decades of simplifying their goals and motivations, takes them out of the domain of sleepy, simple subjects to the recognition of complicated beings in advanced capitalist-pandemic days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)334-342
Number of pages9
JournalHuman Geography(United Kingdom)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • cities
  • existentialism
  • gentrification
  • global north
  • political economy
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Philosophy


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