Responsible parasites: The ethics of small-scale property investment in the UK

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In UK public discourse, landlords count among the most unpopular figures. Their assumed immorality is often summarised in the image of the ‘parasite’. This paper draws on original ethnographic data from online communities for small-scale property investors who are also landlords, in order to explore what ethical ideas landlords themselves embrace. I argue that in the context of UK ‘asset-based welfare’, particularly the connection between pension provision and the property market, landlords can be seen to engage in ethical practices of ‘working on themselves’ in order to become successful investor subjects. Next to techniques of affect management and the accumulation of ‘knowledge capital’, this centrally involves eradicating in oneself ethical dispositions belonging to the waning paradigm of collectivised welfare and labour relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalHousing, Theory and Society
Early online date20 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Dec 2020


  • rental market
  • property investment
  • neoliberalism
  • ethics
  • risk
  • asset-based welfare

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