Contributing to an emerging debate that brings the mobilization of land rent as a financial asset to the heart of urban analysis, this article offers a narrative of land financialization as a ‘lived’ process. Focusing empirically on Bicocca (a post-industrial area north-east of Milan that traditionally hosted the activities of Pirelli, one of Italy’s most successful companies), the paper shifts the focus of enquiry on land financialization from global capital flows and real estate aggregate data to a qualitative analysis of the alliances and struggles between the elites and workers who animated the traditional manufacturing sector. Centring the analysis on these previously neglected actors permits an understanding of land financialization as a ‘lived’ and socially embodied process, and offers a complementary perspective to the discussion on the role of land rent in the making of financialized capitalism. First, it reveals the struggles and alliances between industrial elites, workers’ unions, and local governance as key protagonists in the way land became mobilized as a financial asset, was subsequently embedded in practices of urban renewal, and finally contributed to an epochal change in urban capitalism. Second, it shows how mobilizing industrial land as a financial asset performed not just a coordinating but also a transformative role in the transition from industrial to financial capitalism as it enabled traditional elites to launch into a financialized phase of transnational competition. Third, it reveals changes in urban governance to be as much responses to the needs of local traditional elites as they are responses to the demands of global financial elites.
- Capital switch, governance, industrial elites, land, financialization, land rent, Milan, Pirelli, real estate, urban transitions, workers’ unions, imaginary