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Life in the Alpha Territory: London's "Super-Rich" Neighbourhoods

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This paper extends recent work on the ‘spatialization of class’ to an analysis of the territories of the ‘super-rich’. Such an approach has already been drawn upon within contemporary urban studies. This includes the now massive literature on gentrification, suburban life and middle-class identities, but also questions of domestic fortification and the spatial and political secession of the very wealthy. All contain elements that offer attempts at incorporating the very affluent within their analytic purview. However, such studies have not yet fully encompassed profoundly wealthy individuals, their lifestyles, networks and their economic significance to the metropoles within which they tend to cluster. To this end, the paper begins the task of applying approaches derived from the ‘spatialization of class’ literature to an analysis of neighbourhoods within which such populations have come to dominate. It offers an initial exploration of the analytic application of geodemographic techniques – originating in ‘commercial sociology’ – to the geography of the ‘super-rich’.

We use the Bourdieusian inflected Mosaic system to map out the geography of the ‘Alpha Territory’ in the UK.We examine four distinct geodemographic types: Global Power Brokers; Voices of Authority; Business Class; and Serious Money. Such areas are highly concentrated in central and inner London suburbs, with some outposts in the ‘home counties’. We present a number of detailed maps and visualisations of the precise geography of this Alpha Territory with a particular emphasis on its propinquity to other types of neighbourhood.

We discuss some initial socio-geographic implications of the findings.

This talk is part of the Cambridge City Seminar at CRASSH series.

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