1987 volume 5(2) pages 151 – 172

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Smith N, 1987, "Of yuppies and housing: gentrification, social restructuring, and the urban dream" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 5(2) 151 – 172

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Of yuppies and housing: gentrification, social restructuring, and the urban dream

N Smith

Received 13 January 1986; in revised form 22 October 1986

Abstract. The question of whether gentrification can and should be explained as the result of contemporary processes of social restructuring is considered. It has been proposed, in particular, that gentrification is caused by the rise of a 'new middle class', and this argument is evaluated in theoretical and empirical terms. There is, in fact, better evidence for the significance of women in the gentrification process, because of changing work patterns, changing patterns of reproduction, and the changing relationship between work and reproduction. In light of these arguments, issue is taken with the claim that gentrification is a 'chaotic conception' and it is suggested how, instead, the social restructuring that is currently being observed is closely related to an economic restructuring, and that both together involve a dramatic spatial restructuring of which 'gentrification' is one part. The new urban patterns now unfolding do involve the construction of 'consumption landscapes' in the city, and the emergence of an incipient 'urban dream' parallel to the suburban dream of the last decade, but this does not imply that urban geographical change is now somehow demand led.

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