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Accepted Paper:

Individual distinctiveness in the plutocratic city  
Caroline Knowles (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the social consequences for the city of productions of individuality and distinctiveness in London's plutocratic neighbourhoods. New ethnographic work with wealthy residents and their 'butler class' reveal some of the emerging social relationships and the tensions this creates in the city.

Paper long abstract:

Whether designing the interior of a yacht or home, choosing clothes, jewellery or art, extensive iterations of individual taste prevail in shaping the lives of the super rich, and their domestic and neighbourhood environments. Wealth offers multiple possibilities for individual expression of distinctiveness, often varied and replicated at different scales by the less wealthy, as social researchers have noted. These generate significant surfaces in the social, architectural and commercial textures of urban life overall. Through ethnographic data collected with some of London's wealthy residents and their 'butler class', comprised of architects, interior designers, beauticians and wealth managers, this paper probes some manifestations of distinctiveness co-composing London neighbourhoods, and their consequences in generating particular social relationships and tensions in the city. London has become a major centre for expanding and parking global capital, much of it channelled through buying and embellishing lifestyle and living space. Plutocrats are London's most dynamic contemporary architects: architects of their own wealthy lifestyles and of the city that wraps itself around them. No abstract fraction of accumulated assets, capital works through bodies and emotions; and it eats, sleeps and pleasures itself in London's wealthier neighbourhoods. This paper is about some of the social fabrics and tensions this generates in urban life.

Panel P120
Individuality and the making of urban lives
  Session 1