"There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no-one shall go hungry any more" – Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1974: 156)
As long as our civilization is essentially one of property, of fences, of exclusiveness, it will be mocked by delusions.
-R.W. Emerson (quoted in Blomley, 2009: 577)
If anyone needed a further reminder of the close relationship between property and law, the recent court hearing for the Place des Vosges squatters offers a sober lesson. The Jeudi Noir group (see my earlier posting) are not only facing eviction but a fine of over 140,000 Euros for a two-month occupation of an empty residence located on the historic 17th century Place des Vosges. The group is engaged across Paris in a serious of actions directed at drawing attention to the scale of the current housing crisis in the city.
In the case of Place des Vosges, it would seem that the landlord has not occupied the site since 1965 though they are still claiming it as their principal residence. They are currently living in a nursing home though they insist that they plan on returning to the residence. In district court proceedings, their legal representatives not only petitioned for the expulsion of the young squatters but also demanded (in accordance with property law) that they be fined 69,693 Euros per month dating back to October 31st. It should be said that the case was brought to court by the main guardian of the landlord’s estate though the landlord herself visited the squatters and praised them for the way in which the residence had been maintained.
Whatever the case may be, the Jeudi Noir squat is one of many urban struggles both in France and elsewhere that “force us to go beyond an exclusive focus on the workings of private property and to acknowledge the existence of counterposed property claims that are collective in scope” (Blomley, 2008: 316). As Nick Blomley reminds us in a recent article in Social Legal Studies, “the developer’s right to exclude is countered by the claim that the poor [and dispossessed] have a right to not be excluded” (2008: 316).