Eric Charmes, October 2015

Clubbization is a process by which localized social groups, which tended to form political communities, are formed into clubs (Charmes, 2011a). While in the former, the question is how to live together within a group whose composition is predefined (in traditional rural societies, one rarely chooses the village in which one spends one’s life), in the latter, the composition of the group is to be determined, while it is the conditions of living together that are fixed from the outset (one chooses the village in which one wants to live, and once settled, one does not question its characteristics). The peri-urban communes are particularly concerned by this process, because of their small size and the competences that are devolved to them (particularly in terms of land use regulation). Their small size facilitates the constitution of groups of inhabitants with similar interests. At the same time, their competences allow these groups to control the qualities of their residential environment.

Thus, in many peri-urban communes, the acquisition of a single-family house is very much like the acquisition of an entrance ticket to a residential club: by moving into a house, one also becomes a « member » of a municipality whose inhabitants are united by the common enjoyment of a particular living environment. As a result of the real estate market, the « clubs » that offer the most desirable living environment become those with the most expensive « admission ticket ». The least sought-after clubs, because they are far from the center or subject to nuisance, are the least expensive and are primarily attended by lower middle-class households. The social sorting is all the more vigorous because the neighborhoods of wealthy households are highly sought after (mainly for the education of children), and the wealthy families attract the wealthy families. In this context, residents cluster together based on similar tastes and incomes. They are linked by the sharing of a place of residence and are primarily concerned with the management and maintenance of this place, in an economic logic close to that which presides over the functioning of a co-ownership. They are also concerned with reserving access to and use of this place, which makes exclusivity and the determination of the modalities of belonging to the group a central issue. This is reflected, among other things, in urban planning regulations aimed at controlling the qualities of the settlement, with, for example, a ban on the construction of apartment buildings, or even a ban on all new construction.

In the municipality of Châteaufort, presented in sheet Châteaufort : commune prisée des Yvelines, the main local issues are keeping the school in operation and preserving the living environment. This desire guided the mobilization of the former inhabitants for the creation of the Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Nature Park (PNR). It also guided the mobilization against the air pollution generated by the neighboring Toussus-le-Noble airfield or against the national interest operation of the Saclay plateau. Very protective urban planning regulations reflect these concerns and justify speeches such as « there is no more building land » when only a quarter of the commune’s territory is urbanized.

Another type of peri-urban residential club is the suburban condominium. Rather than being managed by a municipality, the condominium complex is managed by an association of co-owners. The difference between public and private management, important in theory, sometimes becomes minimal when one analyzes the way things are done in practice. One sub-type of condominium for which the residential club concept is particularly relevant is the closed condominium. This type of residential complex is known by its English name : the gated community (Charmes, 2011b).


Eric CHARMES, 2011a, La ville émiettée. Essai sur la clubbisation de la vie urbaine, Presses universitaires de France

Eric CHARMES, 2011b, Gated communities : ghettos of the rich ?, La vie des idées.

Eric CHARMES, Lydie LAUNAY, Stéphanie VERMEERSCH and Marie-Hélène BACQUE, 2016,Paris versus the suburbs ? Les classes moyennes dans la métropole, Créaphis [forthcoming, working title].