"Feudal barons extracting tribute": narratives of market power in the Australian retail property sector during the 1980s

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Abstract

This article analyzes the ways that shopping center tenants deployed narratives to encourage government intervention in the Australian retail property sector during the 1980s. Tenants claimed that landlords were abusing their market power through a range of egregious and exploitative practices. Landlords responded with stories of their own, claiming that amateurish retailers were using isolated cases to make broad generalizations about the industry as a whole. Politicians retold retailers’ stories in Parliament, championed small business enterprise as a driver of economic growth, and produced retail leasing legislation aimed at protecting shopping center tenants. In the process, established conceptions of shopping centers were inverted. In the 1960s and 1970s they were seen as bastions of capitalist enterprise constructed by nation-building visionaries. Through stories, retailers captured the cultural legitimacy of entrepreneurship from their landlords, who were characterized as feudal barons blocking the free operation of markets they controlled. Exploring these developments offers new insights into the relational dynamics of preplanned retail environments, expands our understanding of postwar Australian retail history, and contributes to a growing historiography on the role of narrative in business history.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnterprise and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • narrative
  • regulation
  • retail
  • shopping centres

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