How 'Hipster Economics' Romanticizes Blight and Compounds Inequality

A recent article refutes arguments used to defend gentrification, and in so doing identifies a culprit in glossing over the negative effects of displacement in areas both urban and suburban: hipster economics.
June 3, 2014, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments
L. Kragt Bakker

Sarah Kendzior begins a scathing critique of "hipster economics" by citing the example of a public art project in Philadelphia, funded by the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak, which blocks the views of train readers as they pass through impoverished neighborhoods in North Philadelphia. "Urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticised. This is hipster economics," writes Kendzior.

The article addresses directly many of the common arguments used to defend the effects of gentrification. "Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it 'cleaned up the neighbourhood'. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood - poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services - did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location."

Where poverty goes when its priced out of cities—namely, suburbs—makes it all the less likely to addressed in the future, says Kendzior. "There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them. This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked."

Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 in Al Jazeera
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email