A Genealogy of Public Housing Production: Practice, Knowledge and the Broadacre Housing Estate
(2015) Housing, Theory and Society, 22 p. Article in Press.
The rise of neoliberalism in the 1970s and its consequences for housing policy have long interested researchers. This study treats neoliberalism as a discursive practice that produces knowledge, including our knowledge of the past. Using a Foucauldian approach to the analysis of historical files housed in the archives of one Australian state, I examine the emergence of the “failed” broadacre public housing estate as an object of discourse. I argue that this object emerged as a localized effect of a reconfiguration in what Foucault refers to as the “discursive constellation” which placed neoliberalism at a higher level within that constellation. The effect was to change the conditions of possibility for the production of knowledge within lower discursive levels, and in the case of housing policy, it became difficult to know that broadacre development was anything other than a mistake and a failure. I argue that widespread acceptance of this view within the policy community today arises from a set of relations between knowledge and power predicated upon particular discursive rules and procedures of control. Recognition that our knowledge is conditional is the first step in a process of critique that can transform our responses to locational disadvantage, poverty and stigmatization.