Don Mitchell

From HousingWiki

Professor Emeritus of Geography, Syracuse University; Professor, Uppsala University, Sweden.

Mitchell, Mean Streets: Homelessness, Public Space, and the Limits of Capital (2020).

"Without homelessness there will be no capitalism.*" (Preface ix).

"* This is not at all to say that overthrowing capitalism will automatically solve the problem of houselessness among some portion of the population -- it did not in any of the state socialist societies that emerged after the Russian Revolution -- but rather that homelessness plays an inescapable, foundational, and necessary role in capitalism; it is neither contingent nor epiphenomenal, but constitutive."

"Homelessness is not a status of shelterlessness, at least not foundationally, but is rather both an effect and a determinant of the circulation of capital and teh division of labor it requires. Shelterlessness (or houselessness, as many homeless activists and their advocates now call it) is an epiphenomenal form of deeper structural processes, for, as we will see, homeless people have historically, and not infrequently, been sheltered and even housed...In fact, at this epiphenomenal level, homelessness is precisely a form of sheltering in capitalism, just as much as are suburban tract homes, tiny studios and bedsits, or luxury condos in towering skyscrapers. These deeper structural processes are...the dynamics of capital circulation and accumulation that require impoverishment of a significant, and growing, number of people to function well."

Mitchell, Don. "Tent Cities: Interstitial Spaces of Survival." in Brighenti, Andrea Mubim ed. Urban Interstices: The Aesthetics and the Politics of the In-between. Ashgate Publishing, 2013. [reprinted with minor changes in Mitchell, Mean Streets: Homelessness, Public Space, and the Limits of Capital (2020). Below excerpts are same text in both 2013 and 2020 unless otherwise noted:

"[After WWII] in some instances -- in rural California, for example -- tent and shack cities in unincorporated areas gradually were transformed into more settled, if still often informally built, settlements (Stein 1974; Gregory 1988; Starr 1996).

"Jim Duncan's (1978) influential and important argument about tramps' classification and use of space."

"Contemporary tent cities, then, are not evidence of capitalism in crisis, but of contemporary capitalism in full flower (c.f. Harvey 2010). They are what they always have been: deeply troubling interstitial spaces only by dint of which capital's reserve army can survive, whether that survival has radical or revolutionary potential or is merely infantilizing - or, now with a space to be, just is."

"For many on the left, such encampments sometimes represent important interstitial spaces not only of survival, but ofautonomy and organizing (e.g. Wright 1998). The space of tent city must, for that reason, be preserved. There is much to be said in favour of this argument. The history of homelessness in the USA has shown that jungles and camps have indeed been vital to poor people's (sometimes radical) organizing - and to their dignity."

"We must recognize tent cities for what they are: evidence of the utter failure of the capitalist city to provide for its residents."

"We need to start to find ways to eliminate tent cities from the urban landscape - not to clear them out as the neoliberal urban right would have us do, and not necessarily to replace them with fenced-off campsites run by charities, hidden away in the scrub, but rather to make them superfluous rather than necessary. If the bourgeoisie still has no solution to the housing problem, then we need to find a non-bourgeois solution. And here, ironically, tent cities, though they must be eliminated if a just city is to arise, provide the model: as a taking of land, as a non-commodified and cooperative form of property and social relations, as (potentially) an organization space, tent cities, and their progenitors like the hobo jungle, have much to teach us [about what it will take to create a city that does not express the limits of capital but overcomes them. -added 2020]."