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Rent as an independent variable: exploring autonomist analysis of rent struggles

Authors: Bjarke Skærlund Risager*, University of Toronto, Nick Clare*, University of Nottingham, Shaun French, University of Nottingham
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Theory, Political Geography
Keywords: rent, capitalism, struggle, autonomism, operaismo, Marxism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


How should we understand working-class power and struggle under contemporary rentier capitalism? The heterodox Marxist tradition of operaismo, which emerged at the onset of this capitalist phase, aids a discussion of this question. Where recent geographical applications of operaismo have utilized its concept of class composition, this paper explores the analytical and political potential of Negri's notion of wage as an independent variable – its independence from the productivity of labour. This was a call for more than income, however; it was a revolutionary struggle for the social wealth of an autonomous working class. Inspired by this notion, this paper suggests that thinking of rent as an independent variable has currency today. The paper argues that rent is not determined by the quality of an asset or supply and demand as much as it is an indication of the balance of class power. Based on empirical examples from Canada and the UK, the paper discusses various political interpretations of rent as an independent variable: a struggle for lower rent, for the abolition of rent, and for the repossession of land, homes, and resources.

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