Tom Haines-Doran reports from the Financialisation and the Built Environment: A Response to or a Cause of Crisis? session at the Historical Materialism conference in London in November 2015
This panel pulled together three papers looking at financialisation and the built environment in the case of Turkey. Somewhat disappointingly, and in common with some other talks at Historical Materialism this year, there was no clear attempt to present at least a working definition of ‘financialisation’, or how it might interact with other concepts that were frequently deployed, such as ‘neoliberalism’. Neither was the (admittedly rhetorical) overall question answered in any coherent fashion, and a liberal attitude towards PowerPoint etiquette prevailed.
That said, each speaker presented some fascinating research on the construction boom of the past few years in Turkey. As Cagri Carikci showed, at the centre of state strategy in the past few years, led by the ruling AKP party, has been the facilitation and encouragement of ‘mega-projects’, such as the building of a Third Bosphorous Bridge and Third Airport. Aylin Topal revealed how cooperative housing projects in Ankara, built in conjunction with trade unions, are being destroyed in the name of ‘urban regeneration’, by the municipal government, again in conjunction with finance and construction capital. Galip Yalman presented a broader view of how liquidity in financial markets was harnessed by the national state, in order to fuel a construction boom.
While the main beneficiaries of such gigantic projects will be financial elites and construction companies, against the natural environment, the real construction boom (fuelled in part by fictitious capital) is also an attempt to forge a construction of consent – adherence to the logic of commodified housing and other forms of social reproduction, acceptance of precarious labour markets, and an embracing of the concrete and steel dreams of modernity.