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Developing post-war Beirut (1990-2016): The political economy of "pegged urbanization"

Abstract : Beirut, today, is a giant construction site. Over the past 25 years, the Lebanese metropolis has experienced a property-led (re)development process that has gone far beyond the controversial downtown megaproject, Solidere, initiated just after the country emerged from civil war. Its most conspicuous manifestations are the proliferation of condominium towers, the three-digit inflation of land and real estate prices, and the unprecedented growth of mortgage-based homeownership. The objective of this thesis is to unravel the mystery of this post-war property frenzy by identifying the major drivers, mechanisms and agents that underlie a financialized trajectory of urban change, a trajectory clearly embedded in globalized circuits of capital and people. To do so, it develops an institution-based and regulation-inspired investigation that reveals, by means of a concept I have termed ‘pegged urbanization,’ the interdependance of Beirut’s urban production and the amplification and reproduction of Lebanon’s rentier and finance-led form of capitalism. This shows the nature, intensity and features of the city’s development activity to be, first and foremost, socially produced phenomena shaped by the post-1990 recovery and the growth strategy intended to restore the country’s position as a financial hub in the Middle East. The thesis begins with an explanation of its plurilevel and multidisciplinary theoretical social science framework. It then introduces the work’s key conceptual contribution, the regulation-urbanization nexus of post-war Lebanon’s political economy in which the property market, through its financing of both demand and supply, is the peg. The market, more specifically, is conceptualized as an institution of regulation governed through the state by local elites in order to stimulate economic growth and secure short-term financial and monetary stability. In contrast to mainstream beliefs in the failure of the Lebanese state and the spontaneous and self-adjusting character of supply and demand, the local property market is argued to be the product of public policies, particularly those of the central bank. Analysis of the state-sponsored centrality of real estate and construction activity to Lebanese capitalism, and its links to the financial sector, has exposed the influence of polical-economic dimensions such as elite growth politics and the accelerated financialization of property on Beirut’s production of space. It is shown to be equal to that of the country’s sectarianism. Next explored are the concrete repercussions of the state-sponsored nexus on the key workings of the development process (i.e., price formation, property cycles, construction dynamics); the profile, practices and elite networks of city builders; and the financing and functioning of the system of local housing provision. Also brought to light are its implications for social structures and relations in Lebanese society and for the multidimensional nature and exercise of urban power. The research concludes with an identification of the risks, to 2018, run by the Beirut-based property sector. Against a background of the further entwinment of the property and finance spheres, a property crisis, if it occurs, could weaken the fundamentals of the local model of ‘pegged urbanization’ and, more widely, threaten the precarious stability of post-war Lebanon’s political economy.
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https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-03099844
Contributor : Bruno Marot <>
Submitted on : Monday, January 11, 2021 - 7:28:36 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 3:07:52 AM

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Bruno Marot. Developing post-war Beirut (1990-2016): The political economy of "pegged urbanization". Geography. McGill University, 2018. English. ⟨tel-03099844⟩

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