Alpha City

Who owns London?

In recent decades, London has fallen into the hands of the super-rich. It is today the essential “World City” for High-Net-Worth Individuals and Ultra-High-Net-Worth Individuals. Compared to New York or Tokyo, the two cities that bear the closest comparison, it has the largest number of wealthy people per head of population. Taken as a whole, London is the epicentre of the world’s finance markets, an elite cultural hub, and a place to hide one’s wealth.

“It’s about how money has power, and how money has converted and perverted the mission statement of the city, which is to be a place for all citizens…”

Rowland Atkinson

Buy the book

We’re talking with Rowland Atkinson about his new book, Alpha City: How London Was Captured by the Super-Rich, which is published by Verso. Rowland presents a history of the property boom economy, going back to the end of Empire. It tells the story of eager developers, sovereign wealth and grasping politicians, all paving the way for the wealthy colonisation of the cityscape. The consequences of this transformation of the capital for capital is the brutal expulsion of the urban poor, austerity, cuts, demolitions, and a catalogue of social injustices. This Faustian pact has resulted in the sale and destruction of public assets, while the rich turn a blind eye toward criminal money laundering to feather their own nests.

“… enabling and allowing money to destroy [London’s] social fabric to create new rounds of development activity that have given little or more benefit what-so-ever to the wider citizenry”  

Rowland Atkinson

Alpha City moves from gated communities and the mega-houses of the super-rich to the disturbing rise of evictions and displacements from the city. It shows how the consequences of widening inequality have an impact on the urban landscape.

Read more here: How the super rich conquered London


Professor Rowland Atkinson is Chair in Inclusive Societies at the University of Sheffield. Rowland is an urban sociologist with a strong inter-disciplinary element to his work. His interests have tended to focus on the urban/spatial consequences of social divisions.

These interests have generated significant research projects on household displacement from gentrification, social exclusion and housing policy interventions and the rise of gated communities. Most recently, his work has focused on the impact of wealth and the wealthy on urban life alongside a strong interest in the public role of social science and the university in community settings.

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