Authoring Fictitious Capital: uneven development and the politics of urban rent production in Antwerp

Authors: Callum Ward*, KU Leuven
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Urban political economy, planning, value capture, fictitious capital, land, uneven development, territorial organisation, neoliberal authoritarianism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Stones Throw 2 - Slate, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores how the fictitious nature of land as a property relation is integrally bound up with state power. It focuses on the politics of urban development in Antwerp, Belgium, where a right-wing populist movement culminated in a nationalist neoliberal party taking power in 2013, ending half a century of socialist rule. This shift in institutional mediation changed the way the state structures the fictions of land-as-property as the nationalists dismantled a technocratic city planning system in which land financialisation was closely managed in favour of informal governance networks in which real-estate interests were deeply embedded. This facilitated an elaborate scheme to channel illicit financial flows into up-zoned land, a close reading of which demonstrates the importance and nature of state-power undergirding the narratives constituting fictitious capital. More recently, the local state’s role in fictitious capital formation has been re-institutionalised in a negotiated system of developer obligations, offering a new neoliberalising mechanism of mediating land financialisation in the city. The paper concludes that an understanding of how fictitious capital and state power are entwined is imperative if we are to think through the relationship between the politics of rent appropriation, state restructuring, and the dynamics of neoliberal authoritarianism.

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