Accepted Paper:

Markets and moralities in Danish housing cooperatives  

Author:

Maja Hojer Bruun (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the understanding of social values and exchanges within communities of cooperative apartment buildings in Copenhagen that points directly to the balancing of individual interest and social obligation in human behaviour as described by Mauss in The Gift.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the interplay between private interests and communal ideology in cooperative apartment buildings in the city of Copenhagen. Which values, structures and practices have enabled the cooperative housing movement to flourish for decades in a market economy and in an urban context where the ideology of community is not always matched in the residents' day-to-day activities? And what do current moral debates about market prices and critiques of alleged nepotism reveal about the cohesion of the communities? The understanding of social values and exchanges within the cooperative movement points directly to the balancing of individual interest and social obligation in human behaviour as described by Mauss in The Gift. It calls for further theorizing about the complex interplay between market and kinship behaviour.

Cooperative housing is a property form that traces its intellectual and historic ties to the rural cooperative movement in Denmark, one of Europe's oldest. Here small and large producers cooperated, irrespective of size, and egalitarianism has remained a key feature of cooperative housing ideology. Current political and economic forces in Denmark are increasingly challenging this ideology. External challenges include a right wing government promoting private home-ownership and introducting new fiscal policies, rising house prices, and new possibilities for obtaining loans in separate cooperative flats. Internal challenges include favouring kin and friends when allocating attractive flats, money paid "under the table", and tenants' temptation to make an individual windfall profit from selling at market prices the flat they bought for 'cheap' money.

Panel W002
Markets, kinship and morality