The multiplication of the margin: price, housing wealth and inequality<sup>*</sup>

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Journal Article
Distinktion, 2018, 19 (2), pp. 117 - 134
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© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Price is one of the key axioms of capitalism. This paper seeks to understand the axiomatic status of this category in material terms by focusing on the nexus between housing, price, wealth and inequality. Within theories of marginal utility, it is the periphery–the margin–of a field of exchange that defines value and the ways in which it can be priced in circulation. However, even a brief assessment of contemporary housing markets reveals that today the margin possesses an elasticity inseparable from the apparently limitless capacity of credit/debt obligations. Real estate has become the site of new kinds of wealth and inequality as housing, which remains an absolute necessity for the ‘unhoused’, simultaneously becomes a marginal object of speculation, a financial instrument in other words, for the investor with their portfolio of investment properties and other assets. The paper addresses this multiplication of the margin, while also examining the increasingly pronounced links between an asset-based economy and financial liquidity.
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