To read this content please select one of the options below:


Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-0-76231-096-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-261-0

Publication date: 7 July 2004


This paper is the initial published report of an ongoing research project focused on the occupational world and culture of the real-estate developer. 1 Data sources include intensive interviews with (mostly) California developers and associated occupational groups (e.g. architects, planners), participant observation of developer-oriented workshops and conferences, and diverse publications including: (1) the work of social science colleagues who have dealt – sometimes directly, mostly tangentially, with the topic; (2) biographies and autobiographies of contemporary and historic individuals who are “captured” by my classificatory scheme, that is, who I can clearly categorize as being in the development business or who are, at minimum, fellow travellers; (3) newspaper articles, columns, and op-ed pieces dealing with individual developers, with development projects and with support of or opposition to either; (4) social histories which capture the “who did what and when” details of growth and patterning of specific human settlements; (5) information available on the internet (and there is a great deal of it) dealing with both individual developers and with developer-related organizations; (6) publications (newsletters, journals, and so forth) of organizations which either directly represent or are enmeshed with or are in opposition to this occupational group; and (7) fictional works (films, short stories, TV, novels, newspaper and magazine cartoons, etc.) in which one or more of the characters is a developer.1 It is perhaps not surprising that this first report should deal with matters of symbolism, of imagery: As a self-identified symbolic interactionist and, more tellingly perhaps, as a student of Anselm Strauss, 2 Strauss’ Images of the American City (1961) and his edited, The American City: A Sourcebook of Urban Imagery (1968) were among the first works I encountered by him and they continue to be major influences on my thinking about urban matters of all sorts.2 these are the sort of issues that come most readily to mind whenever I am surveying data on almost any phenomenon. And while there are many, many other “stories” to be told about this occupation, I think it is fair to assert that all of them – or at least those dealing with the contemporary situation – will have to be understood against the backdrop of what I have come to think of as the developers’ “image problem.”

In what follows, I will first, overview my rationale for undertaking this study; second, provide some data to support the claims made by the title of the piece, i.e. that developers are seen as villains and that theirs is reasonably captioned a “stigmatized occupation” and then offer other data to question the accuracy of that image; third, propose a triplet of (among, undoubtedly, many other) reasons for this apparent mis-match between image and “reality”: and finally, in a concluding section, speculate a bit about consequences of this occupational stigmatization.


Lofland, L.H. (2004), "THE REAL-ESTATE DEVELOPER AS VILLAIN: NOTES ON A STIGMATIZED OCCUPATION", Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 85-108.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited