Tenants’ movement: the domestication and resurgence of collective action in social housing
The tenants’ movement in English social housing has been institutionalised by technologies of collaborative governance and eclipsed by the rituals of public participation. Once characterised as an urban social movement, it is now fragmented and co-opted, enabled by the managerial strategies of housing organisations and appearing to exist only as the outcome of tenant participation policies. This study, however, evidences the continuing contentions of collective action within this ‘domesticated’ social movement and charts the resurgent challenge it presents to the imposition of consensus around a new social settlement and a restructured welfare state. In a radical inversion of the traditional narrative of movement institutionalisation, pushing forward the boundaries of governance theory, and uniting social movement theory and housing policy for the first time since the 1980s, this research demonstrates how a contentious movement emerges from the regulated practices of participation and evidences the construction of oppositional identities and new articulations of social citizenship. It advances the understanding of tenant collective action in social housing and provides a challenging study of the ability of contemporary social movements, especially ‘poor people’s movements’, to shape the debate around public services and engage with the unfinished project of welfare reform.