Prole.info, The Housing Monster
Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012, 147 pp; ISBN-13: 978-1-604865-30-1.
Anarchists have been wrestling with the politics of the built environment since the middle of the twentieth century, if not earlier. John F. C. Turner wrote influential books on architecture, Colin Ward put out worthy studies of housing and urbanism, and there is a small shelf of anarchist-inspired works on squats. These are the most conspicuous examples, but there are many others.
The Housing Monster is part of this tradition. Authored by someone (or some people) identified only as 'prole.info', this short, pamphlet-like work uses something that we typically take for granted--the house--as a springboard for a critical meditation on capitalist society as a whole. 'A house is more than four walls and a roof', writes prole.info. 'From its design and production to the way it is sold, used, resold and eventually demolished, it is crisscrossed by conflict. From the construction site to the neighbourhood, impersonal economic forces and very personal conflicts grow out of each other.'(p 4)
The goal of The Housing Monster is to unpack and clarify these conflicts and show how their resolution requires a revolutionary transformation of the social context that produces them. Modelled loosely on Marx's analysis of the commodity in Capital, it begins with a discussion of the home as a physical fact, which leads to a discussion of the construction industry and construction work, which leads to a consideration of neighbourhoods and urban planning, which leads to an excursus on attempts at housing alternatives, which leads, finally, to a call to abandon reform and abolish capitalism as a whole. For prole.info, serious reflection on housing pushes us to think beyond the present society.
The Housing Monster operates at a high level of generality and abstraction. Filled with dramatic, black-and-white illustrations and...