The paradox of tenant empowerment: regulatory and liberatory possibilities

Kim McKee, Vickie Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Tenant empowerment has traditionally been regarded as a means of realising democratic ideals: a quantitative increase in influence and control, which thereby enables “subjects” to acquire the fundamental properties of “citizens”. By contrast governmentality, as derived from the work of Michel Foucault, offers a more critical appraisal of the concept of empowerment by highlighting how it is itself a mode of subjection and means of regulating human conduct towards particular ends. Drawing on empirical data about how housing governance has changed in Glasgow following its 2003 stock transfer, this paper adopts the insights of governmentality to illustrate how the political ambition of “community ownership” has been realized through the mobilization and shaping of active tenant involvement in the local decision-making process. In addition, it also traces the tensions and conflict inherent in the reconfiguration of power relations post-transfer for “subjects” do not necessarily conform to the plans of those that seek to govern them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-146
Number of pages14
JournalHousing, Theory and Society
Issue number2
Early online date19 May 2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • Social housing
  • Community ownership
  • Tenant participation
  • Empowerment
  • Governmentality
  • Foucault


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