(2014) Squatting as an alternative to Capitalism [ENG]

Monday 23 September 2013, by Miguel Angel Martinez

All the versions of this article: [English]

Martínez López, M. & Cattaneo, C. (2014). Squatting as an Alternative to Capitalism: An Introduction. In Cattaneo, C. & Martínez López, M. (Eds.), The Squatters’ Movement in Europe. Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism. London, United Kingdom: Pluto Press, p.1-25

To What Extent is Squatting an Alternative to Capitalism? Squatting in Europe Beyond the Housing Question

Miguel Martínez, Claudio Cattaneo


Is squatting a feasible alternative to the housing problems within the capitalist system? Is squatting only a marginal activity undertaken by people in need who are motivated against the rule of capitalism? Is squatting no more than a temporary reaction, to the unsolved “housing question” in the current crisis due to the malfunctioning of the capitalist mechanisms? In spite of several decades of social and political squatting, most of these questions remain very controversial nowadays. In this article we argue that there are evidences in both the practice and the discourse of political squatters, that various forms of alternatives, interferences and challenges to the capitalist system are actually developed. In addition, squatting not only satisfies housing needs, but also other social needs within a context of political experiments of self-management and autonomous mobilisation against many facets of capitalism and urban speculation. However, we also raise the question of the limits and contradictions of such an alternative. These can occur when the squatting experiences are isolated, when they carry on internal reproduction of capitalist relationships or when the capitalist and urban growth machine is not really affected by occasional cases of squatting. This ambivalence may explain the usually opposed approaches that squatting receives in the political arena. Therefore, it is not just a matter of turning every form of squatting into a political anti-capitalist collective what can contribute to enhance its anti-capitalist struggle, but the depth of the contentious interactions with the capitalist processes, and contradictions as well, in which the squatters movements engage. By claiming the right to squat and by spreading the practice of squatting it is not only the homeless or the anti-capitalist activists who benefit, but the society at large or, at least, those groups who could enjoy a greater social justice if capitalism were not ruling. Nevertheless, the political potentials of squatting are also constrained by its movement building capacity and the contexts in which neoliberal and urban capitalists can exert their power.

Key words

Political Squatting, Alternatives to Capitalism, Housing Question, Contexts, Contradictions