We Have Never Been Private: The Housing Project in Neoliberal Europe

Piniara, Ioanna (2021). We Have Never Been Private: The Housing Project in Neoliberal Europe. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000131a4


The thesis puts forward the management of domestic space through the transformation of the concept of the private within the socio-economic regime known as neoliberalism. It proposes a critical reassessment of housing privatisation not merely as a policy introduced in the 1980s to promote new contractual relationships, but as a post-war urban strategy to establish a change of ethos, culture and organisation of housing. Against the neoliberal idea of the institutional autonomy of the private, the thesis argues that the state has constantly partnered the market (‘private sector’) in the promotion of a certain pedagogy of domestic privacy and, therefore, the private has hardly existed ‘as such’ in the neoliberal era. Methodologically, the thesis deploys a typological study to demystify this pedagogy through selected urban housing schemes in London, Berlin and Athens, marking a geographical and chronological arrow of neoliberal advance: from anticipation to severe crisis. The investigation of typology sheds light on the links between the private narrative and the construction of the middle-class subjectivity and lifestyle, the proprietary and symbolic function of the urban form, the colonisation of housing by financial capitalism (home-ownership, household debt, dispossession). The failure of the neoliberal housing model to secure domestic privacy as essential autonomy is reminiscent of the term’s classical meaning of deprivation. As a response, the thesis proposes a shift from the economy towards an ecology of the private, which acts as an operational principle for an institutional and typological transformation in urban housing. The simultaneous and reciprocal fashioning of the private and collective subjectivity defines the social relations upon which the ‘right to privacy’ is to be reclaimed. Against private property: through a model for securing communally owned urban land for housing. Against individualism: as the possibility to ensure a quality of being private through a practice of commoning.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions