This chapter reviews the current ways of looking at housing. It examines some of the trends in post-modern societies and highlights the importance of individualism and the growing capacity of people to ‘make their own lives’ with the lessening importance of traditional collective social structures. It is argued that these trends strengthen the value of an approach that places individual and household perceptions, and the meaning they attach, to housing. The basis for a new approach is the tradition of social constructionism, which is critically reviewed. It is argued that this approach is not adequate on its own and it is integrated with insights from the work of Giddens and work on the nature of power. The chapter then introduces the concept of housing pathways and examines the ways in which the concept can be used to structure the analysis of housing. This chapter is intended to offer a framework for the rest of the book that is based around the pathways approach and attempts to illustrate and further define the approach.
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