The Forms of Capital in Real Estate Development: A Bourdieusian Agenda

Authors: Zachary Hyde*,
Topics: Urban Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Developers, urban geography, economic geography
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 38
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Within urban political economy real estate developers have traditionally been seen as economic profit-maximizing entities. However, the empirical literature has complicated these assumptions by highlighting a range of other variables which impact developer decision making including cultural and religious values, performativity, satisficing, and social responsibility. This paper seeks to deepen the discussion of non-economic capital in the field of urban development through an engagement with Pierre Bourdieu’s forms of capital. While real estate researchers have begun to make use of Bourdieu’s key concepts, I maintain that they have done so in an unsystematic fashion. Drawing from a study of the field of urban development in Toronto and Vancouver, I create a framework for studying the interrelationships between economic, cultural, social, and symbolic capital. In doing so I discuss the fungibility of different forms of capital and how diverging from economic maximization can enhance non-economic capital for developers. In regard to cultural capital, I discuss the increasing role of development firms in arts and culture in North American cities and unpack debates over “artwashing.” In regard to social capital, I discuss how developers build social connections with politicians, planners, and other developers through professional associations. In regard to symbolic capital, I show how altruism and philanthropy through value capture policies can lead to opportunities for greater profit making. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of if and when developers can act in a truly disinterested or altruistic fashion.

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