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Amageddon: The Unholy Trinity of Class-Monopoly Rent in the Emerald City

Authors: Elijah Hansen*, Eastern Washington University
Topics: Urban Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Social Theory
Keywords: Class-monopoly Rent, Rent Theory, Seattle, Amazon
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Intense gentrification is currently steam-rolling across central Seattle. At the forefront of this gentrification are the Belltown and South Lake Union districts, informally known to locals as “Amazonia.” Amazon’s rapid development in these districts has been nothing short of colossal, leading to the megacorporation now owning more space around their headquarters in Seattle than the next 40 largest companies in the city combined. Amazon’s headquarters have also brought in a flood of high-paying tech jobs, sparking an influx of real-estate investment into the area. Moreover, this district of Seattle has experienced sharp increases in rent since the beginning of Amazon’s tenure, while contradictorily yet simultaneously exhibiting notable vacancy rates, which defies conventional supply/demand logic and therefore demands critical explication. This context, I suggest, constitutes an intriguing site for investigating the ways in which Seattle’s growth regime has both cooperated and contested with Amazon. The study, more specifically, examines the role that this relationship has played in generating the socio-material conditions necessary for the extraction of class-monopoly rent. While questions of rent have experienced a slow resurgence in critical urban studies over the last decade, few studies have explicitly and empirically examined class monopoly rent, and even less focus on the role of major corporate actors in establishing these conditions. Drawing on a mix of GIS, statistical, and textual analyses, the study highlights the role of corporate giants as key economic players in the cultivation of class-monopoly rent operating at the comparatively less examined “meso-scale” strata of contemporary urban neoliberalization processes.

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