Neighbourhood identity: The path dependency of class and place



Robertson D, McIntosh I & Smyth J (2010) Neighbourhood identity: The path dependency of class and place. Housing, Theory and Society, 27 (3), pp. 258-273.

This paper explores the value of path dependency as a tool to explain why the social identity of particular neighbourhoods can remain relatively fixed over time. Three neighbourhoods in a small Scottish city are examined using historical documentary and sociological qualitative research methods, over an 80‐year period. Class is shown to be the dominant influence in determining social attitudes towards these three neighbourhoods. Path dependency highlights three critical junctures, each of which had the potential to impact upon these neighbourhoods' identities. The first of these saw the original planning ambitions coming to fruition for all three neighbourhoods. The second, the introduction of the Right to Buy, markedly altered the trajectory of one neighbourhood. Current plans to regenerate another of these neighbourhoods, the third critical juncture, will be insufficient to overcome the class prejudice that has long stigmatized this locality. While path dependence helps explain historic neighbourhood trajectories, it is class that continues to determine social attitudes towards these areas and explains why their relative social positioning has not altered.

Class; Neighbourhood; Community; Identity; Path dependency

Housing, Theory and Society: Volume 27, Issue 3

Publication date31/12/2010
PublisherTaylor and Francis

People (2)


Professor Douglas Robertson

Professor Douglas Robertson

Honorary Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

Dr James Smyth

Dr James Smyth

Senior Lecturer, History