Capital City

Capital City:Gentrification and the Real Estate State

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Gentrification isn't driven by latte sipping hipsters – it's engineered by the capitalist state

Our cities are changing. Global real estate is now a $217 trillion dollar industry, 36 times the value of all the gold ever mined. It makes up 60 percent of the world's assets, and the most powerful person in the world – the president of the United States – made his name as a landlord and real estate developer.

As Samuel Stein makes clear in this tightly argued book, its through seemingly innocuous profession of city planners that we can best understand the transformations underway. Planners provide a window into the practical dynamics of urban change: the way the state uses and is used by organized capital, and the power of landlords and developers at every level of government. But crucially, planners also possess some of the powers we must leverage if we ever wish to reclaim our cities from real estate capital.


  • Stein’s lucid explanation for how we got to where we’re at shines urgent light on the origins and development of what he incisively calls “the Real Estate State.” Capital City places gentrification in a structurally extensive and intensive urban geography of dispossession. All who struggle for the right to the city should read this book, and realize afresh how capitalism saving capitalism from capitalism must provoke our political imagination.

    Ruth Wilson Gilmore, author of Golden Gulag
  • Capital City casts a cold and brilliant light on the underlying political dynamics of global cities and rightly concludes that real estate and finance are in charge. This sobering book has to be part of our toolkit as we try to find the moorings for a powerful democratic pushback in local political struggles.

    Frances Fox Piven, co-author of Poor People’s Movements
  • Want to know why the rent’s so high? Samuel Stein meticulously documents and analyzes the rise of the rip-off “real estate state,” the instruments of its power, the invidious “plansplaining” arguments of its defenders, and, above all, its accelerating ethnic and class cleansing of American cities, gentrification-frenzied New York in the van. With the sleaziest of real estate developers now the rent-subsidized tenant of the White House bent on engorging his crony kin and kith by doubling down on the corrupt system of “geobribe” giveaways, backroom deals, and public theft that underwrites their ravages, this superbly succinct and incisive book couldn’t be more timely or urgent.

    Michael Sorkin, author of All Over the Map