Moonlights, Sunspots, and Frontier Finance


Moonlights, Sunspots, and Frontier Finance

The Nexus between Money, Credit, and Urban Form


This research examines the historical process of urbanization under capitalism. While paying particular attention to the Marxist notion that capitalism has to urbanize to reproduce itself, we explore the historical trajectory of the land-capital nexus against the theoretical backdrop of a broad range of schools of economic thought. Capital accumulation and the production of urbanization go hand in hand (Lefebvre 1970; Harvey 1974; Harvey 1978; Harvey 1985). The urban place is crucial not only to the organization of production and consumption in a cash economy but above all to the accumulation of fixed capital as built environment and infrastructure.


The urbanization of capital, “Moonlights”, leads to recurring financial crises, “Sunspots”, which drive new financial regulation/government intervention which in turn leads financial innovation, opening up new financial frontiers, “Frontier Finance”. The causality runs from financial Working Title: “Risk, Finance and Urban Form” regulation to financial innovation! As the financial frontier moves across space, different “zones of exclusion” emerge (large scale vacancies, underbanked sections of the population). 


The evolution of urban spatial structure is the result of the historical urbanization of capital, “Moonlights” and recurring financial crises, “Sunspots”, alternatingly emanating from the real sector or the financial sector. 

These interrelated processes govern new financial regulation and government intervention, leading to financial innovation, opening up new financial frontiers, “Frontier Finance”.

In turn, this creates alternative avenues for the (sub)-urbanization of capital, giving rise to new dynamics for the evolution of urban form

This research proposes a historicized reading of Detroit/Michigan as...

Stereotype of Land-Capital Dynamics

Prototype of Financial Instability

Archetype of Frontier Finance

Detroit’s rise and fall are largely driven by successive waves of over-accumulation and speculative real estate development. 

Institutional origins of financial instability and banking-led crises in Michigan begin in 1830s (Free Banking). Detroit is at the epicenter of 1933 banking crisis; municipal bankruptcy precedent in 2013. 

As the financial frontier moves across time and space, different “zones of exclusion” emerge (mortgage speculation, large scale vacancies, financial illiteracy, underbanked sections of the population).