Well before Haussmann, ordinary Parisians invested in their streets and buildings, constructing their own capitalist geographies. This study of a street corner in Paris shows that their efforts involved not only a significant movement of capital, but also speculation on the exchange value of properties. Local business owners — “petit bourgeois” capitalists — had no means to draw on the “geographic” vision of the urban city planner. Carving new shortcuts through buildings and between streets, constructing sidewalks and passages couverts, they nevertheless reinterpreted the built environment at ground level, composing their own urban “texts.” The actions of such shopkeepers and tradesmen show us that nineteenth-century capitalist geographies were not the product of centralized city administrations alone. Capitalist geographies could also be created “in the street” by small-scale local entrepreneurs.
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Ralph Kingston; Capitalism in the Streets: Paris Shopkeepers, Passages Couverts, and the Production of the Early Nineteenth-Century City. Radical History Review 1 October 2012; 2012 (114): 39–65. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-1598006
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