Nicolas Colin

On polarizing a polarized issue

I’ve read the book but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this. Polarizing is a good way to spread the word and gain attention, to organize a vocal minority, that’s for sure. But just because it helps you to go viral and win elections or a fight against one power by polarizing, is it an efficient solution to govern after the elections, or to inspire participation and support to grow your concept so it becomes common ground and makes a real difference?

What if I’m going after an already polarized issue, on which there has been no progress for decades. Let’s say I want vacant homes to be used again!

In France, this debate is polarized between:

  • the advocates of the housing right, who consider that the right of homeless people to survive is higher than the property right, and that empty property should be seized to house them (maybe 5 to 10% of the population?)
  • the advocates of the property right (around 84% of home owners or wannabe home owners in France), for whom owners have the right to chose what they want to do with their properties. Including the right to do nothing.

In the last decades, some politicians have talked a little about seizing vacant homes and then for the most part left owners do nothing with empty properties, focusing on building more and more housing. The building industry has been quite happy with that (and the resulting subsidies). We’ve been told by housing rights advocates that we need more housing for so long that most of us have forgotten about the existing empty homes.

I think this debate has been over-polarized, to the point where the vocal minority can’t be heard by the majority, and where any initiative on this issue is expected to fall into one of these categories. But we’re not fighting against one single power here: we need to change the way we use our individual and collective power as market players for a change and we all have a part of the solution.

My approach is to design a solution that escapes the existing polarization, because we’re all so entrenched in our moral standpoints that we’re not going anywhere on this. But should this solution draw a new line to be fuelled by a new polarization, if we aim to make people work together to put empty homes back on the market?