Cities in the Urban Age A Dissent

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Cities in the Urban Age
Cities in the
A Dissent
The University of Chicago Press Chicago and London
The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637
The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London
© 2018 by The University of Chicago
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Published 2018
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DOI: 10.7208/chicago/[9780226535418].001.0001
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Beauregard, Robert A., author.
Title: Cities in the urban age : a dissent / Robert A. Beauregard.
Description: Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press,
2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index.
ers: LCCN 2017024308 | ISBN 9780226535241
(cloth:alk. paper) | ISBN 9780226535388 (pbk. : alk. paper) |
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Subjects: LCSH: Cities and towns. | Cities and towns„Social
aspects.| Urban economics. | Cities and towns„Political aspects.|
Cities and towns„Social aspects„United States. | Cities and
towns„Political aspects„United States.
cation: LCC HT151 .B38 2018 | DDC 307.76„dc23
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Preface vii
The City 1
Wealth, Poverty 22
Destructive, Sustainable 56
Oligarchic, Democratic 87
Intolerant, Tolerant 120
Encountering Contradictions 152
Acknowledgments 173 Notes 175 Index 209
With few exceptions, those who currently write and speak
about the city do so in celebration. They portray the city
as the driving force of national economies„
a hinge that
connects countries to global ”
ows of capital, people, and
ideas. The city nurtures innovation, brings forth unlim-
ited opportunities to pursue fame and fortune, and, with
its high density and large-
scale infrastructures, offers the
best hope for environmental sustainability. To live in
this city is to be surrounded by a vast and rich array of
culinary, cultural, and consumer pleasures. There, people
from different backgrounds, national origins, and life-
styles create a vibrant and a tolerant public realm. And,
while some people might choose to live elsewhere, no
country can prosper without such cities.
At least this is what we are told.
One would have to be mean-
spirited to deny to those
who make this argument their fascination with the city.
I, too, am endlessly intrigued and, at times, even in awe.
What bothers me, though, is the subtext of progress. The
underlying premise is that, over the centuries, the city
has become better and better at serving the needs of the
planet. Todays boosters would have us believe that hu-
mans have slowly but relentlessly devised a form of
settlement that offers security and prosperity while hold-
ing forth the possibility of surmounting the mundane
demands of everyday life. For such urbanists, the claim
that more than one-
half of the worlds population now
resides in cities is less an empirical observation than a
thinly veiled, triumphal boast. National fanaticism, wars,
religious intolerance, and institutionalized corruption might resist all
of our efforts to eliminate them, but the city ostensibly exists as the
one human achievement that has become increasingly adept at meet-
ing our needs.
As two well-
known policy experts recently wrote: The metropolis
is humanitys greatest collective act of invention and imagination.Ž
They are not alone in their opinion: the economist Edward Glaeser
declared that cities enable the collaboration that makes
shine most brightly.Ž More equivocally, but no less enthralled, Nan
Rothschild and Diane diZerega, both archaeologists, claim that
cities are arguably the most signi“
cant of human inventions.Ž Such
laudatory, even hyperbolic, statements are not only prevalent in the
contemporary literature on the city but generally uncontested as well.
The city, and speci“
cally the US city„
the topic of this book„
not always so inviting. In fact, throughout much of its history it has
been under the sway of contradictory impulses with prosperity exist-
ing alongside impoverishment and tolerance entwined with prejudice
and discrimination. In short, the city is not wholly advantageous. As
recently as the early twentieth century, its residents were overwhelmed
by epidemics, were made ill by contaminated water, lacked basic health
care, and had limited access to education. Most people of the time con-
demned the city as a pestilence and abomination that signaled the de-
cay of civilization, not its realization. The cities residents, noted one
observer in 1911, lived in smoke, amid ugly and incongruous build-
ings with unattractive highways, often poor and almost always inade-
quate, and without suitable parks, park space, trees, and other aesthetic
The city seemed more of a burden than a blessing.
In the mid-
twentieth century, these same cities„
all former manu-
facturing centers„
entered a period of unrelenting and chronic loss of
population and jobs. Soon thereafter, deprived of tax revenues, their
local governments began to reduce the public services that had kept
the city clean and well maintained and its residents protected from
harm. Conditions deteriorated even further when African-
rioted in protest of police brutality and the dismal conditions under
which they were forced to live. For some, these years of urban cri-
sisŽ marked the death of cities and presaged their eventual extinction.
The future seemed to lie in less dense forms of human settlement„
produced suburbs in particular. A generalized aversion to
an anti-
became part of the national culture in many in-
dustrialized countries.
Yet, a mere “
fty years later, the city has been
rescued from this dire fate and has ostensibly become„
once again„
symbol of human civilization and a cultural achievement of immense
This widely shared and ”
attering view rests on the presupposition
that the city exists and endures because it allows us to share lives of
prosperity, opportunity, and ful“
llment. As the worlds population has
grown, innovations have proliferated, economies have expanded, and
people have been drawn together on the land. Across the centuries, we
are told, the city has emerged as the settlement form that best enables
people to provide for their needs and nurture their aspirations. The city
seems to solve many of the problems that people confront in “
nding a
place to live, raising families, creating communities, forming societies,
and inventing nations. This is what progress looks like.
Praise is always comforting, and the point of view that gives rise to
this ”
attery is so prevalent and so embedded in how we think about
the city that it is impossible to imagine a more appropriate way of
bringing people and activities together. What would be the alternative?
Any replacement would seem to require a radical change in how
engage with each other, the many ways they meet their needs, and
how they wish to be governed. Such an alternative borders on science
ction. We can no more imagine a world without large cities than we
can imagine a future without smartphones, automobiles, and surveil-
lance cameras.
Contemporary urban commentary is rooted in this assumption of
progress, of a successive overcoming of challenges and a corresponding
improvement in how we live together. New construction techniques,
medicines, means of communication, production processes, and com-
modities mark the advance of civilization. This assumption of progress,
however, is wrong.
The city has a dark side, acknowledged by even its most rabid advo-
cates, of concentrated poverty, slums, racial discrimination, environ-
mental destruction, anti-
immigrant sentiment, and (now) terrorism.
Too many residents in too many cities are exploited, marginalized,
or treated unjustly. Although we have made advances in disposing of
human waste, providing housing for large numbers of people, protect-
ing the natural environment, and maintaining public health, thereby
making it possible for large and dense cities to function, many of the
problems these advances address„
contaminated water, the paucity of
inexpensive and high- quality housing, for example„
persist. Moreover,
the bene“
ts have not accrued to everyone. Neither have contemporary
cities banished the injustices and inequalities that plague all human
relations. Nor are they ever likely to do so.
The city does not erase the con”
icts that arise when people live in
close proximity: it does not eliminate criminal behavior, insensitivity
toward others, the urge to dominate, or the quest to amass personal
wealth to the detriment of others. The citys many positive qualities
contribute in important ways to prosperity, innovation, and social soli-
darity. And, yet, evil and vice, destitution and alienation, and corrup-
tion persist. Antagonisms abound with wealth and poverty, tolerance
and intolerance, environmental stewardship and degradation joined
together in city after city. In fact, by providing fertile ground in which
such antagonistic forces can ”
ourish, the city enables these contradic-
tions to endure. The city is not a solution to lifes dilemmas; it enables
The city is a crucible. At one and the same time it serves multiple
interests, virtues, vices, and passions and pits diverse publics in opposi-
tion to each other. The citys history is one of recurring antagonisms
and unstable compromises. Contradictions are ever-
surmounted, only renegotiated time and again. The result is not prog-
ress but rather an abiding incompleteness. Cities do not survive by
adapting to challengesŽ as if these challenges appear, are confronted,
and are summarily dispensed.
Challenges persevere. One only has to
survey the citys history to appreciate how malleable and unsettled it
can be in the face of demographic changes, technological innovations,
revolutions and wars, industrial collapse, and natural disasters. The
city accommodates and ampli“
es, repels and dampens. It heightens
or diminishes the antagonisms among groups as it grows and declines
and as people come into more frequent and more unavoidable contact.
The famous urbanist Jane Jacobs recognized this quality. She wrote
about and celebrated cities as inef“
cient and impractical„
to manage„
and proclaimed that this is exactly what makes cities
uniquely valuable.Ž
We cannot understand the city without attending to these paradoxi-
cal qualities. The city is the ground on which societys contradictions
are contested. While it does not create these contradictions, it medi-
ates between them, sometimes nurturing often amplifying, and, at
times, even dampening their opposing forces. More than a place of
extremes,Ž as if those extremes could be bridged, the city is funda-
mentally disordered.Ž
To give substantive weight to this argument, I have organized the
book around four contradictions: that between wealth and poverty, en-
vironmental destruction and sustainability, oligarchy and democracy,
and intolerance and tolerance.
Together, they capture the challenges
and choices that confront those who live and work in the city.
First, although cities make great wealth possible, they also concen-
trate it in the hands of a few individuals, families, and corporations.
This gives rise to poverty and in almost all cities we “
nd stark dispari-
ties in income and wealth and, following from that, visible discrepan-
cies in living conditions. These inequalities are more pronounced and
widespread in cities than in small towns and rural villages. While they
vary in extent from one city to the next, they are never fully absent.
Second, cities are the most environmentally destructive form of hu-
man settlement yet devised, but they also hold out the best hope for
environmental sustainability. Their extensive ecological footprints are
a consequence of their large size, complexity, and high density, all of
which are essential for technologies that conserve energy and protect
animal and plant habitats. Neither low- density suburban developments
nor small towns have the capacity to house the worlds expanding hu-
man population without irreparably damaging the environment.
Third, cities are ideal places for democracy to thrive. When people
live close together and have common needs, they are compelled to
share in the work of governance. Yet, cities enable political in”
uence to
be concentrated among a few people in ways that displace and weaken
democracy. They offer numerous opportunities for those with private
wealth or political connections to exploit public resources and affect
governmental policy. Consequently, local governments are almost al-
ways more oligarchic than democratic. That said, the conditions cre-
ated by these oligarchic tendencies frequently (although not inevita-
bly) engender popular resistance aimed at reasserting democracy.
Fourth, while cities encourage people to be tolerant, they also nur-
ture intolerance. To live easily in the city, one has to allow others to
be different. For centuries, observers have celebrated the citys public
spaces for their openness and people have ”
ocked to cities to live in
ways that some might consider idiosyncratic and even inappropriate.
In the competition for neighborhoods, jobs, and housing, however, dif-
ferences often breed antagonism, contempt, and violence. Under such
conditions, people experience hate crimes, ethnic and religious groups
face discrimination, and people of color are segregated in housing and
labor markets. Although tolerance exists, it does so precariously.
Widely acknowledged, these four contradictions haunt urban life.
Even observers who celebrate the city concede their existence. Poor fam-
ilies, abandoned industrial districts, crime, and
can be ignored but hardly wished away. At the same time, recognition
has to be given to vibrant business districts, attractive parks, and com-
fortable neighborhoods as well as a robust politics, tolerance for diver-
sity, and efforts to confront climate change. The problems of cities are
not anomalies and their good qualities are not automatic. They almost
always exist together.
What explains this? An obvious place to turn for an answer is the
literature on Marxist urban political-
economy. Dialectic thinking,
with its emphasis on the tensions that stalk society, is fundamental
to the worldview of Marxist scholars. At its root are the many ways
in which capitalist societies empower capitalists to exploit labor, drive
down wages, and create marginalized neighborhoods ravaged by dis-
ment. Control over space enables the rich to maintain the value
of their homes and keep others from enjoying the amenities„
the good
schools, playgrounds, and food retailers„
they have gathered around
Central to this Marxist, urban perspective is the idea that societal
contradictions have their roots in processes that transcend city bound-
aries. Cities are embedded in larger settings that are open to the ideas,
people, goods, and money that ”
ow among them. Investment capital
and migrants incessantly cross political boundaries despite the efforts
of national governments to slow or redirect these ”
ows. New “
instruments are devised in New York City and adopted in the banks of
Reykjavik, coal plants pollute the air in China and temperatures rise
in Europe, and war erupts in Syria and the effects are felt in Berlin and
Washington, DC.
For Marxist scholars, these contradictions originate
in capitalism itself, a mode of production that imposes its antagonisms
on the world.
Marxist scholars also recognize contradictions and paradoxes
but attribute them instead to the scarcity of resources or the venality
of humans. Rare is the non-
Marxist urban scholar who fails to mention
urban problems.Ž In doing so, however, they almost always treat such
problems as temporary malfunctions of an otherwise advantageous
city, not as contradictions that are central to it. For the most rabid of
celebrants, the citys problems are an afterthought to its ability to gen-
erate wealth and attract creative people.
Contradictions, then, are neither transitional states in the citys full
development nor correctable consequences of human fallibility. If they
were, we would see clear evidence that people learn from their expe-
riences and, so doing, eliminate the malfunctions, con”
icts, acts of
hubris, and greed that make the city inhospitable for too many of its
inhabitants. The city being celebrated is also cast as solely a human
achievement, as if humans acted alone without the need of technolo-
gies such as water pumps, electricity, and telephones and without hav-
ing to work with nature as embodied in water tables, edible plants, and
air inversions. The citys contradictions are neither temporary nor re-
ducible to human behavior„
and they are unavoidable.
To be clear, the city is a setting for these contradictions; it does not
create them. To make the latter credible, I would have to convince you
that the world is divided between places suffering all of the conse-
quences of such dilemmas, and places devoid of them, as if one could
ee St. Louis for the suburbs or for the hills of southwest Missouri and,
by doing so, travel to where the only antagonisms are personal and
eeting. Safely ensconced beyond the citys limits, life would be free
of irresoluble con”
almost edenic. Regrettably, the world is not so
neatly arranged.
Blaming the city for these contradictions would also mean treating
it as if it has intentions and preferences. The city is not like a person
rm, a government agency, or even a river. The city does not do
things. It does not act as one.Ž Rather, the city is an array of people
and activities that are constantly grouping and regrouping, in”
one another in myriad ways, and seldom acting harmoniously or with
a single, underlying intent. It facilitates a vast number of actions and
innumerable consequences, only a portion of which are predictable or
even immediately perceived. Consequently, we cannot write that the
city creates wealth or that by becoming too big or too congested it pro-
duces its own decline. The city does no such thing; it is the setting and
not the player.
In short, the city is inherently unsettled; it is always in ”
ux as it re-
lentlessly adapts to changing populations, technologies, lifestyles, and
institutions. It never reaches equilibrium and so can never be judged
complete or even celebrated for its accomplishments. Similarly, the city
is also unbounded. We cannot understand Dallas by focusing only on
what occurs inside of it. The citys in”
uence extends well beyond its
political limits and much of what Dallas is and how it functions origi-
nates from afar. Even attributing to it a “
xed set of functions is ques-
tionable since the city serves a multitude of ever-
changing needs and
desires. Claiming that it has a single or even dominant function„
generate wealth, for example„
is simply wrong. Yet, many who write
about the city focus on only one of its many qualities.
They present
it as a collection of neighborhoods, a control center for regional and
global economic relations, or a place of shared governance and often
highlight a single, noteworthy attribute: the technological stature of
Palo Alto or the religious signi“
cance of Salt Lake City. The decision
to do so is understandable. The city can never be comprehended or
described in all of its complexity. But, there is danger in reducing its
complexity and subduing its dynamism. To conceive of the city solely
as a mechanism for generating wealth, an incubator for human creativ-
ity, or merely a physical form does it a disservice. We can never portray,
or even know, the many aspects of the city, but neither should we then
opt for simpli“ cation. What we should do instead is recognize its con-
tradictory nature.
Emphasizing these four contradictions is more than my attempt to
uence how to think about and perceive the city. It is also a state-
ment about how we position ourselves morally in relation to one an-
other. If we conceive of the city as a product of human progress, then
harmony and prosperity become inevitable. In such a world, no dilem-
mas have to be resolved and no enduing con”
icts stand in the way of
a better future. That is not the city we live in, however. When we de-
ne the city in terms of its oppositions and paradoxes, the innumerable
choices that affect and de“
ne our responsibilities to each other and to
nature become unavoidable. The citys complexity and unsettledness
bring forth a constant stream of occasions when we are compelled to
assess the consequences of opposing tendencies that deepen inequali-
ties and disrupt ecological communities while, at other times, reduce
social disadvantages, protect the environment, and enhance democ-
racy. Rather than being swept into the future by progress, such that in-
justices, suffering, and marginalization are successively eliminated, we
are confronted by endless moral choices. As a result, we are compelled
to become political beings who acknowledge the differences among us
and, in recognition and of necessity, assume civic responsibility. That
not everyone does so, or acts accordingly, is simply another contributor
to the citys contradictions.
For illustration, I draw on evidence from cities in the United States.
I know those cities best. This is not to imply that my argument makes
sense only in this one country; it can be applied fruitfully to cities
in other countries and cultures as well. Likewise, my examples will
mainly reference current events and conditions; this is not a history. I
want you to sense the contemporary city in its substantive details and
to consider my perspective alongside an abundance of examples.
My hope is that the reader will “
nish with a better understanding
of how cities function and a greater appreciation for what it means to
live together with people different from ones self and ones group. In
addition, I hope that this approach to thinking about Tucson, Mobile,
Burlington, and Lansing dispels the prevailing ethos; celebration of the
city marks a retreat not just from the unsettledness that makes the city
so attractively vibrant but also from the miseries and con”
icts that are
all too present and for which we are responsible.
Each generation decides how it will position itself in relation to the
city. The current generation of commentators has elected to celebrate
it, and most of the population of the United States and the world has
chosen or been compelled to live within its domain. A prior genera-
tion in the United States, contemplating the death of the city, was not
so forgiving. I have written this book for the next generation. I hope
that many of them too will be attracted to cities and “
nd living there
satisfying and stimulating. Notwithstanding, they should never lose
sight of the citys contradictory tendencies or the complex and ever-
changing relations that are its nature. If the next generation thinks of
the city as simply another marker of human progress, I will have failed.
To hold this conviction is to cling to a worldview at odds with real-
ity. The city is malleable, but not in“
nitely so. It is accommodating,
though only to a degree. It is unsettled, but not to the point of chaos.
It is susceptible to modi“
cation and even rejection. The arrangements
that people make to live well together and prosper are always provi-
sional. The city, the type of human settlement that currently looms
large in human affairs, might well be only temporary. That it is inces-
santly perplexing and endlessly fascinating makes me want to believe
The City
Until the 1850s, a family dissatis“
ed with village life in
Massachusetts might have relocated to the farmlands of
Ohio or further northwest to the woods of Michigan. It
would not have felt the need to live in a city; life in its
new home would have been perfectly “
ne. Cities did ex-
ist. One was quite large with nearly 400,000 residents, but
aside from New York City, places like Austin, Louisville,
and Baltimore neither were big enough nor had become
so entangled with the rest of the country as to dominate
the choices that people made in deciding where to live.
Subsistence in villages and small towns, on the plains and
in the forests, was no less satisfying because it was beyond
the citys reach. Not yet an urbanŽ nation with people
clustered together in dense settlements, the United States
was still a country where living beyond the limits of the
city in no way diminished ones quality of life.
Between the late nineteenth and the mid-
leys and, later, the automobile) eventually enabled people to reside be-
yond urban borders where development was less dense, nature more
accessible, and the citys noise, congestion, and social diversity at a dis-
tance. The residents of these peripheral places, however, had not es-
caped the citys in”
Today, slightly more than 8 of every 10 households in the United
States reside in or directly adjacent to a city. Access to jobs, education,
cultural opportunities, wealth, and even political careers are increas-
ingly found in core cities and their adjacent suburbs, what together
are called metropolitan areas. The non-
urban possibilities of the past
century have almost wholly disappeared. Even people who carry on
a solitary existence high in the Rocky Mountains or deep in Floridas
Everglades cannot break from the citys reach. To be totally alone, one
has to be self-
cient and off the grid,Ž not just disconnected from
the technologies of modern life but also severed from government and
the many bene“
ts that it offers.
In the early years of this century, then, it has become virtually im-
possible to be untouched by what happens in cities. One can still de-
cide whether to work or live there, but the decision to establish a home
in the suburb of Marietta rather than in Atlanta city proper still posi-
tions ones family amid that citys many in”
uences. The suburbs where
most adults commute to work are simply extensions of the core. Locat-
ing further beyond the urban fringe seldom means leaving behind all
of the things of the city: health care, magazines and television, smart-
phones and the internet. A family can live far outside the municipal
boundaries of Butte or El Paso; it is not, however, outside of it in a way
that makes the city irrelevant to daily life.
Cities, however, are not just a functional framework for human exis-
tence, a machine for living. They also have an imaginative component.
When popular commentators and politicians re”
ect on what it means
to be an American, the city is inevitably drawn into the conversation.
Debates about immigration, public versus for-
t (charter) schools,
climate change, mass transit, and tax policy all hinge on basic con-
siderations about how we arrange ourselves on the land in relation to
others, how we coexist with nature, and what technologies we deploy
to allow people to live closer together or further apart. Do we go to
the movies, a diversion produced for cities, or hike in the foothills? Do
we imagine a single-
family home surrounded by a well-
trimmed lawn
and replanted shade trees or imagine coming home in the evening to
a cozy apartment on the fourteenth ”
oor of a building indistinct from
its neighbors? Do we drive to work on country lanes or descend subway
platforms? Do we mingle with strangers or mostly encounter friends
and acquaintances as we move through the day? These and numer-
ous other questions arise as we consider how we want to live and with
whom. All of them encourage us to consider whether the city resonates
with our sense of who we are and that of the groups to which we be-
long. Are we comfortable being ourselves in these surroundings? Are
we able to live with others who provide us with support?
From its European beginnings, the country did not lack what might
have been then considered the equivalents of cities. Plymouth Colony
in what is now Massachusetts, Jamestown in Virginia, and New Am-
sterdam, the Dutch trading port that eventually became New York
ally, in families, amid others like ourselves, as a nation„
and how we
actually do live? What is it that cities do?
These are not just rhetorical questions to be left unanswered, but
central to the perspective of this book. My goal is to provide you with
a way to think about the city such that you can imagine living there
among its many paradoxical tendencies. So situated, I hope you will
also re”
ect on the moral implications these contradictions pose.
Before addressing these issues, we need to re”
ect on what a city is.
When households with young children leave Chicago for better schools
in Evanston or Somali refugees relocate to Omaha, what are they leav-
ing and where are they going? How are these new places different from
those they were drawn to or have left behind? Most people have no
problem with these questions. To a great extent, popular discussion al-
lows the city to draw its meaning from the way in which it is used
within a conversation. When a television news reporter announces a
mass shooting in Charlotte, we know where they mean, more or less.
For scholars and researchers, however, a bit more precision is required.
The meaning of the city needs to be questioned. The same concern ap-
plies to my argument about cities being the crucible for societys con-
tradictions. More needs to be made explicit. Three themes will provide
the necessary background: First, whether we think of the city as a place
or an object like a tree or offshore oil rig; second, how we distinguish
a city from that which is not a city; and, third, once we have identi“
something called a city, the extent to which it can be considered stable,
contained, and even knowable.
Thinking the City
For urban scholars, the cityŽ is an object of endless fascination, whether
they treat it as a place where things happen„
for example, where mu-
sic genres take root as in Detroit in the early 1960s and the Motown
or as a thing-
itselfŽ; that is, as a coherent and singular ob-
ject of interest as is often done with Washington, DC (a center of global
politics) or Hollywood (the hub of the “
lm industry). These distinc-
tions matter. When considered as a place, our attention often turns to
the people, organizations, and activities located within its boundaries
and to how cities differ from each other. So, for example, we might
consider how immigrants adapt differently in El Paso than in Chicago.
Which city is more accommodating? Underlying this question is a very
important assumption: where something happens affects how it hap-
pens. Geography and social relations are conjoined. Treating the city
as a self-
contained object, in contrast, turns our attention outward to
the relations between and among cities. Prevalent in the contempo-
rary literature is a discussion of how cities compete with each other for
capital investment, international cultural events, and highly educated
Implied is that the city is coherent and has integrity simi-
lar to that of an airplane or a book and acts much like a person or cor-
poration. It is not obvious, however, that cities are self-
contained and
organizing objects. And, it might not even be a useful way to think
of them. For a number of scholars, the focus should be placed instead
on the processes of how cities come to be, not on the form they take.
As one has commented: We do our understanding of cities a great dis-
service when we focus on them as objects, rather than on the urbaniza-
tion processes that produced them.Ž
Urban scholars are continually debating these possibilities. By em-
bracing the multiplicity of the city, as we will do, its status as either a
simple setting or as a thing-
itself disappears. Identifying its effects
on what happens there and the relationships it encompasses become
problematic. In this alternative perspective, what we think of as urban
extends beyond the con“
nes of the city itself.Ž
Indicative of this ap-
proach is Jennifer Robinsons comment that the city is both a place and
a series of unbounded, relatively disconnected and dispersed, perhaps
sprawling and differentiated activities, made in and through many dif-
ferent kinds of networks stretching far beyond the physical extent of
the city.Ž
nitions such as Robinsons, however, seem to encourage
a vagueness that is simply unhelpful, particularly in a literature satu-
rated with discussions of the city that never quite de“
ne what is being
To talk casually about cities, then, is easy; to de“
ne them in a way
that absorbs all of their complexity and mystery is not. A commen-
tator might deploy a simple de“
the city as any dense human
in terms of people and functions. This is a very common de“
and draws on the notion of agglomeration from economic geography
and a classic article by the urban sociologist Louis Wirth that re”
on what it meant to be urban, a condition that he labeled
For Wirth, urban places were large in size, comparatively dense, and
geneous in their inhabitants and activities. These are its de“
ing elements. His use of the concept of urbanism was meant to focus
attention on how people live within cities, their ways of life. In doing
so, Wirth suggested that the city is not just a physical place but also a
way of being in the world. To this extent, it is both experienced and
perceived. When we discuss the city, then, we are pointing both to a
material presence and to imaginative possibilities.
On the physical side, cities are places where people and activities
have concentrated and done so increasingly over the centuries because
of building technologies such as steel construction and infrastructures
such as subway systems and water distribution networks. In the pro-
cess, once-
natural landscapes have become occupied but not wholly
displaced. The physical city is a network of humans and their various
forms of association (for example, families, ethnic groups); reservoirs,
rats, and land forms by which nature is integrated into the city; and
electricity systems, traf“
c regulations, and newspaper distribution
mechanisms that represent the technologies without which people
could not live together in such proximity. The city is a social, ecologi-
cal, and technical system of relatively large size, density, and complex-
ity. It contains humans and nonhumans, some of which (like pigeons)
are living and others of which (like street lights) are not. To this ex-
tent, cities are not solely human achievements but rather achievements
forged in collaboration with nature and technologies.
Life in cities also has an imaginative component. People live there
and think about themselves as living there. Humans are self-
aware and
respond to the world through both physical cues and the meanings
they attach to those cues. In short, their understandings of their ex-
periences are part of those experiences. When we act, we think about
what it means to act and how our actions are being perceived or might
be perceived by others. To this extent, the city lives in the minds of
those who engage with it and does so whether they confront it directly
as users or vicariously through various media. Thus, while the city is
not just a physical place, the physicality of the city in”
uences how we
think about it. This does not happen in any determinative way. Mid-
town Manhattans of“
ce skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks enable us
to imagine it either as vibrant and prosperous or as discomforting and
This imaginative city does not just operate in the present. Through
memory, it also invades the past. We remember what the city was like„
Providences downtown “
lled with shoppers headed for department
stores and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans before its devastation
by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. These remembrances “
lter our percep-
tion of the current moment and in”
uence discussions about whether
to live there or not, visit or not. Such memories affect the stories told
about cities along with collective decisions regarding the buildings
and places to be preserved in order for their history to be celebrated.
Decisions about what investments need to be made to recapture the
past or move the city away from conditions sti”
ing its development are
similarly “
ltered. Deliberations about historic preservation, economic
development, public capital investments, gentri“
cation, and business
elsewhere. Or, should they, instead, organize to change what is push-
ing them away? Would a new zoning regulation allow their now-
bedrooms to be used to accommodate an in-
law apartment? Would
sity do play a role in making these distinctions. Places that have rela-
tively few people living some distance from each other and lacking a
full range of the goods, services, and activities necessary to live a mod-
ern life usually fail to qualify as cities. Such settlements might have
only a few hundred residents living in detached houses each occupied
by only one or two families. These houses are likely to be spread far
apart and surrounded by “
elds or woodlands. Most importantly, while
a resident can pick up the mail, buy gas, and purchase a loaf of bread a
few miles distant, the place lacks a full-
service supermarket, a lawyers
ce, a medical clinic, and a shoe store. A person has to travel else-
where to buy certain items or services and to consult a tax specialist
or attend a professional sporting event. These settlements are not con-
sidered cities. Or, to reverse the thought, big cities are not only larger
and denser than suburbs and small towns, but are actually different,
experientially richer and culturally and economically more diverse.Ž
Many cities were once non-
cities. As they grew, they added residents
and businesses, became denser as land became more expensive and
developers and property owners made buildings higher and put them
closer together, and became large enough in population for the resi-
dents to support a shoe store or an accountant. They came to be more
and more like cities. When, though, does a growing settlement become
a city and no longer a village or small town? The answer to this ques-
tion can be reasonable and defensible, but is nevertheless arbitrary; no
objective criteria allow us to distinguish a city from a non-
city similar
to how we might distinguish between being in the continental United
States and having left it. The distinction is purely a matter of conven-
tion. Many US researchers work with government population data and
use 50,000 residents as a dividing line between cities and non-
But not only does this ignore density and diversity, it has no strong
defense on either theoretical or practical grounds. Not much difference
exists between a cityŽ of 52,000 people and a townŽ of 48,000 people
as regards either how land is used, peoples daily lives, or how many
different goods and services can be purchased there.
When scholars and popular commentators discuss cities and distin-
guish them from other types of places, they often refer to something
beyond physical attributes. For most people, cities have a certain, even
unique, feeling. This returns us to the imaginative dimension of city-
ness or, better, urbanity. New York, Seattle, Denver, and Washington,
DC, feel like cities. They have skylines, sidewalks busy with pedestri-
ans, streets packed with cars, delivery trucks, and taxis that assault us
with a cacophony of horns and police sirens. People move with intent
or they sit leisurely along the edges of plazas. One can “
nd a place to
enjoy a glass of microbrew beer, watch a foreign movie, attend a profes-
sional wrestling match, or browse through a comic-
book store. Street
vendors sell eyeglasses and religious groups proselytize. People are eth-
nically diverse and almost all unfamiliar„
strangers. You are anony-
mous. The public spaces of Center City or of the Northern Liberties
neighborhood in Philadelphia have the feel of a city. These are not vil-
lages or small towns.
The feelŽ of a city is palpable, even if almost impossible to de“
or measure. It seems to have something to do with size, density, and
diversity but whatŽ eludes us. Even cities that meet such quantitative
criteria are often denied the label. Not too many years ago, city lov-
ers accused Los Angeles (then the third largest city in the country) of
not being a city. It had no center,Ž its downtown streets were empty
at night and its sidewalks barely used, and businesses, hotels, doctors
ces, and sports stadiums were scattered across the land rather than
clustered in the core. Similar comments have been made about Phoe-
nix, Houston, and Las Vegas. One commentator has written about
Phoenixs downtown that no one would confuse it with the core of
a major urban center.Ž
Where, these commentators ask, is the city?
These places might be big, relatively dense, and multifunctional, but
they are so fragmented spatially that they lack a sense of being a city. A
visitor from Chicago or Baltimore would view them as imposters. Why
do its residents and visitors have to travel to and fro across the city to
nd the activities that one expects there? Why is there no street life?
Such distinctions have a physical dimension that supports other no-
tions of urbanity. For example, we label as cities both Boston with its
dense concentration of people and activities, its skyline, its high prop-
erty values, and its subway system, and Detroit with its acres of empty
land, innumerable vacant and abandoned homes and factories, a falter-
ing city government, and the predominance of poor, unemployed, and
undereducated residents. Compared to Boston, Detroit seems to have
lost its urbanity, despite having approximately 730,000 residents in
2014 and a downtown (even if one that is deadŽ at night). At the same
time, we are willing to accept Muncie, Indiana, or Worcester, Massa-
chusetts, as being cities even though they are small places, are not very
dense, and fall short of offering the array of goods and services one can
nd in Boston. The idea of the city is pulled and stretched across a va-
riety of places.
Objective measures are of help, but urbanity, this particular sense
of cityness, is something to be experienced rather than subjected to
science. Sidewalk cafes, night life, entertainment venues, of“
ce towers,
and active public spaces are certainly conditions that we can document
and even measure, but their combination, along with certain ”
qualities, is what makes a place feel like a city. We cannot really say,
nitively, what a city is in these terms and thus are unable to draw a
ne line between places where large numbers of people cluster together
and cities. (Of course, we can always arbitrarily assert a distinction, as
governments and researchers frequently do.) If there is a continuum,
consensus is only available at the extremes. After that, it is all more or
less open for discussion, as it should be.
A recent response to this problem is to reject any distinction be-
tween the urban and the non-
urban. From this perspective, the city
and the countryside are expendable as geographic categories. The argu-
ment is that the distinction inhibits clear thinking about the process of
urbanization, not that Denver or Providence do not exist. There is no
place, these theorists claim, that has not been penetrated by or come
under the in”
uence of an urbanization process that transgresses, ex-
plodes, and reworks inherited geographies.Ž
We live in a time of plan-
etary urbanization. The ”
ow of trade, the spread of music and fashion,
advanced telecommunications from cell-
phone towers to the internet,
international migration, and air travel have connected the far corners
of the earth. Every place has been touched by diplomacy, commercial-
ization, email, property markets, and television. Nomadic tribes in the
Jordanian desert have access to cell phones and their movements and
livelihoods are affected by territorial disputes rooted in global con”
This argument resonates with those scholars who claim that capital-
ism, and not the city, is the vehicle for the colonization of the world.
Today, however, those arguing for the urbanŽ treat capitalism as only
one aspect of this planetary phenomenon. Urbanization is the more
encompassing and dominant force in both its material and imaginative
manifestations. It is the force behind globalization.
Such an argument provides an answer to what is a city?Ž by dis-
placing the question. The issue is not cities as a material presence but
urbanization as a process. To distinguish cities from non-
cities, specify-
ing what a city is, these theorists argue, only detracts attention from
the central issue of how the urbanŽ has spread across the landscape
such that no place escapes its in”
uence. Yet, what is meant by
is still unclear and here we encounter the same issues that we do with
. Neither objective measures nor intimations of urbanity provide
a solution. Urbanization cannot be de“
ned independently of the city
and thus little is gained by shifting the terminology and ignoring the
citys material presence as if stability or the physicality of the city does
not matter. How do we know when a place has become a city, that is,
has made the transition from relatively unin”
uenced by urbanization
to engulfed by it? To what extent does this argument assume the prior
existence of unadulterated places where people lacked the qualities we
now associate with urban,Ž an assumption that resonates with the no-
tion of progress? The whole argument has bothersome overtones of the
century distinction between civilization and its absence.
If we reject the notion of a fully urbanized world, and thus continue
to believe in both cities and non-
cities and their importance for how
people live and corporations and governments act, we come up against
the third, background issue. How do we distinguish between where
a realŽ and speci“
c city„
ends and something else begins?
When we talk about Boise, Idaho, or Mobile, Alabama, to what spaceŽ
are we referring?
In the United States, cities are considered to be different from the
communities that surround them„
the suburbs.
The more precise
term for the former is central cities for, historically, they were the
centers of commerce, cultural life, and governance for their regions.
Together, the central cities and their suburbs constitute metropolitan
areas. In these places, the central city and its suburbs are interdepen-
dent; they are joined together by business relationships, the commut-
ing of workers from one to the other, political bodies that manage water
and transportation on a regional basis, identi“
cation with the profes-
sional sports teams or cultural offerings such as museums and sym-
phonic orchestras, and the television, radio stations, and newspapers
that serve the entire region. For many commentators, and particularly
those concerned to capture the in”
uence of cityness, the realŽ city
is the metro
polis. One can no more separate the city from its suburbs
than one can separate the wheels from a bicycle and still pedal to the
neighborhood park. The interdependencies between them are so thick
that it makes no sense to consider one in the absence of the other. The
city is the metropolitan area.
Once we accept this argument, then we are back to trying to iden-
tify where the in”
uence of cities (or metropolitan areas) ends. Obvious,
for example, is that commodity markets in Chicago affect the decisions
that farmers in Iowa make about crops and livestock and thus the pros-
perity of these rural places.
And crop failures in Iowa are going to re-
verberate in commodity markets in Chicago. This muddles any notion
of a functional urban (or, more precisely, economic) region, which is
what a metropolitan area is meant to be. One solution is to claim that
places must be contiguous to be part of the city, thereby preserving the
notion of the metropolitan area. But this means ignoring the undeni-
able in”
uence of cities beyond their metropolitan boundaries and di-
minishes our understanding of them. We do not want to adopt the po-
sition that the whole world is urban, but neither do we want to dismiss
how cities have come to affect the country itself as well as places much
farther away. Cities have consequences beyond their borders, whether
those borders are drawn tightly around the central city or more loosely
around the metropolitan region. Adding a good deal of confusion is
that such functional borders hardly ever re”
ect political boundaries.
Making these distinctions more dif“
cult to navigate is that within
the US federal system of government, cities have a political status that
clearly distinguishes them and their territories from suburbs, small
towns, and villages.
One can argue that Tampa has to be thought
of as being its metropolitan area, but Tampa is nonetheless a munici-
pality separate in tax capacity, residency laws, and governmental ar-
rangements from the suburbs such as Brandon and Temple Terrace
that surround it. The city has its own elected of“
cials, school system,
and streets department. A person who lives there, moreover, is consid-
ered an of“
cial resident of Tampa„
the place where she votes and pay
and not a citizen of the metropolitan region. Politically, Tampa
is a distinct entity and is treated this way by both the Florida state
government and the federal government. Regional agencies might co-
ordinate waste management and highway construction, but for many
issues such as affordable housing, public schools, building code en-
forcement, and policing, what matters to elected of“
cials, property
owners, and residents is the city itself and not the functional urban
region. The city has a special political status that cannot be ignored, a
fact that has sti”
ed efforts to match political territories with functional
territories. The metropolis might be the economic unit, but it is politi-
cally fragmented and, for researchers and scholars intent on knowing
the city, this further complicates matters.
In some ways, when we imagine or speak of cities, the thing to which
we refer is relatively clear. Spurred by tourism and media representa-
tions, most cities are associated with speci“
c images and to mention
those cities is to convey a relatively precise sense of place. New Orleans
evokes the French Quarter with its numerous clubs and restaurants and
the many revelers and bands that parade during Mardi Gras. Mention
Philadelphia, and one imagines the Art Museum and the Benjamin
Franklin Parkway along with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall.
Mention Miami and the images are of gleaming, balcony-
clad apart-
ment buildings overlooking deep-
blue waters. In visualizing a city, we
often focus on iconic objects and places: think the Space Needle in
Seattle and the adobe buildings surrounding the plaza in Santa Fe. The
distant view is often clearer than that on the ground. Referring to the
1970s, the historian Sam Bass Warner argued that the city was domi-
nated by two images: the skyline and the ghetto.
Today, the skyline
continues to represent cities in the popular imagination, but people
are more likely to think in terms of vibrant streets lined with sidewalk
restaurants and people strolling along waterfront promenades than of
poor, dilapidated, and racialized neighborhoods.
Whether in the foreground or the background, the notion of the
city is elusive. We can neither specify precisely what it is nor fully en-
capsulate it within our descriptions. Cities are restless, with their con-
sequences extending beyond their political boundaries. To ask where
New Orleans ends and other cities begin is to confront the citys mul-
tiplicity with a human need to bring order to the world. New Orleans
exists in„
and has consequences for„
multiple places. After Hurricane
Katrina in 2005, many of its residents ”
ed to Houston and yet still
maintained property and family relations in New Orleans. Representa-
tives from the city travel to Washington, DC, to in”
uence legislation
on bayou restoration and shipping channels. Without connections to
oil companies around the world, tourists from Chicago, Los Angeles,
and London, and federal aid from the nations capital, the city would
wither. Additionally, New Orleans has an imaginative presence that
reaches to jazz musicians in Boston and revelers celebrating Mardi Gras
in Kansas City.
The city is also mysterious, existing just beyond our comprehension
and not fully resolved. That does not mean that we cannot write and
talk about it. In fact, we can measure its physical presence and study its
changes, although doing so requires that we make educated but essen-
tially arbitrary, though defensible, distinctions concerning the city and
its boundaries. What is required for those who wish to present a broad
understanding is that the citys meaning is clear when the term is used,
even if that meaning changes as the city is portrayed from different
perspectives. In such discussions, precision is overrated and ambiguity
a friend.
Within this framework, I place the four contradictions that consti-
tute the core of this book. The city is not “
xed; it is not a thing. In
addition, the city is unsettled and complex, and its workings elusive.
It is diverse in the things that constitute it and impossible ever fully to
comprehend. It is neither a single thing nor a solo actor in a play about
redevelopment, ethnic con”
ict, or political corruption. Neither is a city
like a person with a more or less coherent identity and intentions. What
is important here is that thinking about the city in this way keeps us
from turning the city into a fetish, an object of worship, and from at-
tributing to it, and it alone, anthropomorphic qualities. The city is not
an organism like a human body. And, it is not, as one observer has
boasted, the greatest social experiment in human history.Ž
The criti-
cal issue for us is what it enables people to do and what it prevents
them from doing. To emphasize again the theme of the book, this de-
pends on its contradictions. No city, no one, can escape them.
Four Contradictions
For me and many others, the city is more than elusive and mysterious,
complex and ever-
restless; it harbors contradictions.
A contradiction
exists when a corporate policy, an economic system, or an ideologi-
cal agenda contains opposing tendencies. These tendencies are neither
unintended nor self-
canceling. They are not accidents; they do not bal-
ance or cancel each other out, creating a Panglossian best of all pos-
sible worlds.Ž Unavoidable and yet contingent, they cannot be elimi-
nated and their consequences do not always manifest in the same way.
National legislature, in order to balance contending interests, might
fund programs that discourage people from driving automobiles (for
example, placing a heavy tax on gasoline consumption) and, at the
same time, encourage them to do so by building highways and skimp-
ing on the funding of mass transit. An industrialist might lower wages
to increase the companys pro“
ts, but this also reduces the purchasing
power of workers and thus the demand for what the company makes.
Such contradictions are not inherently urban; nonetheless, they are
pronounced in cities. Even if it does not create contradictions, the city
nurtures them.
This quality of cities is often attributed to capitalism rather than
The argument is that a speci“
c economic arrangement is
contradictory, not that the city is. Capitalisms contradictions involve
a deeply rooted division between those who own the means of produc-
tion (and thus the means of producing income and wealth) and those
who do not. Karl Marx, capitalisms great theorist of the nineteenth
century, noted the numerous ways in which opposing tendencies were
harbored within the capitalist class, divided capital and labor, and
stood between the workers and the state. He pointed out how the driv-
ing down of wages enabled capitalists to extract more pro“
ts but also
weakened the health of the labor force needed to create these pro“
Marx also pointed to how competition among capitalist “
rms hindered
the kinds of collaborations that would provide public goods such as
harbors or roadways without which raw materials could not be shipped
to factories or “
nished goods to markets. In these instances, govern-
ment has to step in to protect capitalism from itself.
Marx made a compelling argument for these opposing tendencies
within capitalism and for locating societys contradictions in its politi-
cal economy. For urban theorists such as Henri Lefebvre, however, the
city is best seen as relatively independent of capitalism. The urbanŽ„
icts over land use, the juxtaposition of diverse activities, the as-
sembly of humans and ecology„
is what gives society its dynamism
and fuels its paradoxes.
In effect, Lefebvre subordinates capitalism to
urbanism: Urban reality modi“
es the relations of production.... It
becomes a productive force.Ž
With such comments, he suggests that
cities, not capitalism, generate„
one might say causeŽ„
the contradic-
tions that haunt society. I would disagree. To resurrect and invert an
old idea„
geography is not destiny.
To be clear, I am not claiming that cities create contradictions that
mentators take to be the de“
ning characteristics of cities. They also
allow me to range across the citys diverse manifestations and convey
what cities do for the people and nonhuman things that inhabit them.
First, cities are robust mechanisms for creating both private and
public wealth. More so than rural settlements, they enable people to
earn large sums of money and amass property from expensive homes
to corporate stocks and Impressionistic paintings. At the same time,
they empower governments to build public parks, schools, commem-
orative monuments, recycling facilities, and bridges. The density and
interdependencies of economic activity, the competitive pressures, the
need for supportive infrastructure, and the public demand for health
and well-
being are only some of the factors contributing to this capa-
city for producing goods and services and consolidating monetary re-
wards. And, while these various mechanisms can falter and struggling
cities present fewer and fewer opportunities for living well, the poten-
tial for generating wealth is almost always present, even if dormant.
On the other hand, cities do not harbor strong mechanisms for dis-
tributing wealth in an equitable manner among their residents. Wealth
is frequently concentrated among a few families and groups rather
than fairly shared. In cities, we “
nd the countrys richest corporations,
its wealthiest citizens, expensive art galleries, and the most prestigious
universities with the largest endowments. We are also likely to “
high concentrations of people living in poverty, deteriorated neigh-
borhoods, troubled schools, and areas where services such as health
care and libraries are inadequate. For many of the countrys wealthiest
cities, the disparity between those who live exceedingly well and those
who barely eke by is vast. The richest households earn many times
what working-
class households do and their wealth is often in“
greater since the poorest of households have no wealth at all on which
to rely. Poverty and inequality coexist with wealth and prosperity and
this seems an unavoidable consequence, suggesting that, in contradic-
tory fashion, these conditions are inseparable.
Second, cities have a contradictory relationship with nature. On the
one hand, and particularly when compared with lower density settle-
ments such as the typical suburb of detached, single-
family homes of
postwar vintage, cities are environmentally advantageous. Living in
apartment buildings consumes less land. Traveling by bus or subway
minimizes air pollution and uses less energy per person. Water and
sewer infrastructure can be provided more ef“
ciently, as can mail de-
livery. In these and many other ways, cities hold forth the potential to
be sustainable or, more accurately, more sustainable than other forms
of human settlement. Cities, though, are also environmentally destruc-
tive. Cities use up vast amounts of natural resources (especially land)
and concentrate air, water, and soil pollution. To function well, more-
over, cities have to extract, and be able to extract, resources from an
area larger than that which they occupy. Their
ecological footprint
, as
this is known, is much, much bigger than their territorial footprint. As
cities grow in size and number, more and more of the planet is affected.
This expansion has important consequences for ecologies, natural re-
sources, and air and water quality around the world. By making
more sustainable and more resilient, we encourage them to expand
and, in doing so, in”
ict even more harm on the natural environment.
Third, cities create the conditions for more-
democratic governance
by bringing together people with common concerns. Living in close
proximity with others, people need public schools, waste manage-
ment, and sidewalks that are best provided collectively. They also face
common threats: natural disasters or large public projects that disrupt
neighborhoods or threaten places of historic value. It thus makes sense
for people to organize into publics to obtain what they need to live well
and protect themselves against harm. Banding together requires that
they talk with each other and act in ways that maintain commitment
and hold publics together. Under such conditions, democratic practices
are likely to thrive.
Once governance mechanisms are in place to provide public goods
and services and to regulate what can and cannot be done, however,
they attract people who want to control them for other, more private
and even personal reasons. Real estate interests act publicly to in”
ence land use regulations so as to create development opportunities.
Politicians use the local government, its many agencies, and subsidiar-
ies such as public authorities to amass power or wealth. These govern-
mental bodies have money to invest, supplies to purchase, contracts to
assign, and services to buy, all of which can become favors to increase
personal in”
uence and lead to future rewards. Control of governments
and governance more generally often become concentrated among a
small segment of the business community, professional politicians, and
other civic leaders. The “
nancial resources and legal powers of munici-
pal governments offer numerous opportunities to concentrate power
amongst a few people with the consequence that the very democracy
that cities foster is weakened. At these moments, oligarchy reigns and
democracy is sti”
Fourth, and lastly, cities encourage tolerance while simultaneously
establishing the conditions for discrimination against and the margin-
alization of minorities, whether homosexuals, Mexican immigrants,
Americans, or Muslims. As places where people of different
ethnic and racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, religious beliefs,
ages, and incomes are brought together, cities require tolerance to func-
tion. For the most part in the United States, tolerance exists toward di-
verse others (including strangers) with people mingling without overt
In fact, people who would otherwise be discriminated
against frequently relocate to cities to escape the intolerance of their
small towns. There, they experience an anonymity that allows them to
embrace a lifestyle that suits them and to “
nd others, others like them-
selves, with whom to mingle.
Of course, even within diverse cities people do not fully mingle in
neighborhoods and workplaces. Numerous separations allow highly
paid lawyers to occupy the same buildings as low-
wage cleaning work-
ers who do their jobs after the lawyers have left for the day, low-
households are unlikely to reside in middle-
income areas, religious
groups often cluster around their place of worship, and people with
disposable income are more likely to be found at major sporting events
than those who struggle from paycheck to paycheck. In a number of
these situations, as we will discuss, such separations are more or less
acceptable. They are not, however, innocent. Less in”
uential groups are
often marginalized or discriminated against in law of“
ces, hospitals,
and neighborhoods. Unable to wholly avoid each other, groups clash
over religious festivals, ethnic parades, access to jobs, and the curricula
of neighborhood schools. In worst-
case scenarios, certain groups are
ghettoized, fearful of going where they are unwelcome or likely to be
physically assaulted.
These four contradictions intersect and their interconnections are
For example, economic wealth has political implications
and those who command it often have better access to elected of“
than the average citizen. Groups become politically dominant and are
then able to pass laws banning legal protections for undocumented
immigrants or convince the government to adopt green technologies.
Elected of“
cials channel government resources to encourage economic
activities that serve already-
wealthy workers and investors to the detri-
ment of the less wealthy, thereby exacerbating inequality. Local groups
defend a polluting industry against environmental activists because it
provides employment.
The point is that cities are not simple machines producing a single
product (for example, wealth) but complex and contradictory places in
which a variety of diverse consequences are at play.
My goal with this
book is to convey a particular understanding of how cities work, what
they enable, and whom they serve. And while I have political biases
that favor equality, sustainability, diversity, tolerance, and democratic
governance, I am less interested in convincing readers to agree with me
than in demonstrating the existence and consequences of these con-
tradictory tendencies. To celebrate the city without acknowledging the
deeply anchored nature of its antagonisms is to hide from reality.
Final Thoughts
Much of the urban literature clings to the point of view of a single
scholarly discipline. If we view the core problem of human settlements
as how people manage to live together, resolving con”
icts and engaging
in collective activities that have mutual bene“
ts, then we are likely to
cast the city as a political space and governance arrangements as central
to its de“
nition. If we are concerned with how people interact, identify
with places, and form communities, then we will be more sociologi-
cal and turn our attention to neighborhood dynamics, churches and
bowling leagues, and the way people come together in public spaces.
If our leanings are toward architecture and urban morphology, then
we will approach the city in terms of its buildings, sidewalks, road net-
works, utility systems, and playgrounds and emphasize the visual. This
reduction of the city to that which can be viewed through a single and
narrow (disciplinary) lens, however, is not what I wish to do here. This
is not a book about the culture of the city or its economy, but rather
aims to cut across these perspectives. The reader might feel compelled
to situate the four contradictions in disciplinary categories, but this is
not my intent. As a whole, the book is meant to blur such boundaries.
I am not, however, claiming to be inter- or even multidisciplinary.
To do so verges on having no point of view whatsoever. My aim is nei-
ther to encompass all disciplinary approaches nor to be indiscriminate
as regards those aspects of the city that matter. Moreover, while I draw
on a strong belief in the importance of economic relations for both
how people live in cities and whether cities thrive or not, the book
does not end with the economicŽ all-
powerful and determining. Any
reduction of the city to its economy relegates the rest of the world to
epiphenomena. Cities are highly complex formations of humans, tech-
nologies, built forms, and nature and I use this understanding to move
closer to the concerns of people who live and work, visit and invest
there. Their lives are not lived in disciplinary categories.
My objective is to identify what matters to those who use the city.
This means not merely describing what happens in as un“
ltered a way
as possible. We must also recognize that the choices we make in the
face of the perplexing consequences of these contradictions are what
give the city„
and any particular city„
its character and what impli-
cates us in the moral ties that de“
ne neighborhoods, church congrega-
tions, sports clubs, and the city itself. Because they emerge out of con-
tradictions that challenge shared values, these are not simply physical
conditions. They also embody what we as a people deem acceptable in
living together. They have moral implications.
Much, if not the great bulk of, contemporary popular commentary,
scholarly research, and public policy focuses on the city as an eco-
nomic phenomenon.
For that reason, and keeping in mind the caveat
above, I begin with the contradictory presence of wealth and poverty.
The opportunities for people to earn money and spend their incomes
have a signi“
cant impact on whether a citys economy grows or de-
clines. The ways in which people live in cities (and the workings of
its economy) depend, as importantly, on how people treat the natural
environment, how the city is governed, and whether tolerance or intol-
erance reigns. Heavily in”
uenced by the form and functions of a citys
economy, these other consequences are nevertheless not determined
by it. We turn, now, to this “
rst contradiction: the ways in which cit-
ies enable the creation of wealth and block its fair distribution. In too
many cities, the consequence is great af”
uence side-
side with un-
shakable poverty.
Wealth, Poverty
Driving along the streets from one side of Phoenix or
St.Paul to the other offers visual con“
rmation to the trav-
eler not only that people live differently but that the qual-
ity of the places in which they live is alarmingly dissimi-
lar. Some people occupy neighborhoods with trash-
lots and cracked sidewalks; their homes are dilapidated
and the local retail area pockmarked with vacancies. Oth-
ers live near upscale shops and well-
manicured parks;
their homes are large and inviting. The co-
presence of af-
uence and poverty is there for all to see.
What one witnesses on such a journey is a playing out
of a contradiction between two mutually antagonistic but
inseparable forces. On the one hand are the forces that
generate and concentrate wealth; on the other hand, those
that create and concentrate poverty. Resources and oppor-
tunities are gathered into the hands of a few people, while
others are denied them. Lacking strong mechanisms to
redistribute wealth, poverty and inequality are the result.
Not just the result, they are seemingly necessary if great
wealth is to be enjoyed by a small minority of the citys
residents. And while cities do not create this contradic-
tion, they provide the conditions that enable it to ”
The purpose of this chapter is to describe and docu-
ment the relationship that exists between the forces that
generate wealth and those that generate poverty. We begin
with a quick immersion into what it means to live amid
these antagonistic forces and then move to the generation
of wealth, the concentration of wealth and poverty, and
the interdependence of the two. Emphasized throughout is the insepa-
rability of public wealth and private outcomes.
Living amid Wealth and Poverty
Because of cities, great wealth is possible. Unlike small towns and ru-
ral areas, cities create large and diverse markets and open numerous
avenues to “
nancial pro“
t. They bring together diamond merchants,
textile “
rms, drug stores, and accountancies that compete against each
other while spurring innovations in product quality, service, and mar-
keting. Out of competition and cooperation emerge novel commodi-
ties that fuel consumer demand and expand commerce. Banks provide
nancing for new ventures, law “
rms offer legal services, insurance
companies protect against risk, and business consultants give advice.
Within commuting distance are workers with a variety of skills and
education with publicly “
nanced transportation networks connecting
homes to places of employment. In brief, a multitude of opportunities
exist to distribute pro“
ts to business owners and investors and jobs to
residents and commuters.
Cities also support large (even international) airports, convention
centers that draw visitors from around the country, clusters of colleges
and universities and hospitals, and extensive networks of public parks.
The wealth of cities is not just private (that is, due to and in the hands
of individuals and corporations), it is also public. To ease commerce
and make life not just bearable but pleasant for its residents, govern-
ments build roads and subways, operate schools, set aside land for
parks and playgrounds, attend to public health with child vaccination
programs and food sanitation regulations, and use their police powers
to assure public safety. They invest in museums and professional sports
stadiums and support hospitals, churches, and private educational in-
stitutions by reducing property tax burdens and providing “
re protec-
tion, sewage services, and traf“
c control. Governments also subsidize
urban redevelopment projects, regulate air and water quality, and build
and maintain public parks. All of this is part of the wealth of the city
and essential to what makes it attractive to households and investors.
Public wealth thus enhances the creation of private wealth. As illus-
tration, local schools prepare children to enroll in college, subsequently
earn graduate business degrees, and take high-
paying positions in ma-
jor corporations. Governments “
nance waterfront development and
the resultant projects boost adjacent property values; they extend light-
rail systems to bring more people downtown to shop and work. By com-
parison to private wealth, public wealth is more widely shared. Even
poor neighborhoods often have bus access, an elementary school, recre-
ational facilities, and emergency health care.
uent neigh-
borhoods and poverty-
stricken ones frequently coexist in the same city,
the blame for this disparity almost wholly lies with the distribution of
private wealth and not with the distribution of public wealth.
Adept at generating private wealth, however, cities fail at distribut-
ing it in an equitable manner.
Some businesses„
banks, investment
„become quite large and their executives extremely well paid
with yearly salaries multiples above what are earned by the clerical
workers, technicians, and low-
level managers that they employ. A few
landlords and investment companies own a disproportionate share of
the citys large apartment and of“
ce buildings. Universities, hospitals,
class museums, and foundations pay their chief executives and
skilled staff amounts that greatly exceed that earned by the aver-
age store clerk, public bus driver, or electrician. Having incomes well
beyond subsistence needs, these people have surplus funds to be in-
vested in real estate, stocks, and bonds to generate even greater wealth.
Money, as the political philosopher Michael Walzer reminds us, is a
primary good that can be used to buy other goods„
education, health
care, political connections, prosperous neighborhoods.
With money
comes in”
uence and with in”
uence money. People neither start equal
in wealth nor end up there. By fostering the concentration of wealth
among a small number of highly skilled workers, businesses, property
owners, and entrepreneurs, cities exacerbate inequalities.
A few people become very wealthy and many households live well,
but a large portion of the citys population has barely enough money
to manage a precarious existence. The “
nancial distance between those
at the top and those at the bottom is obvious to anyone who travels
through a major city in the United States. Multi-
million dollar homes
occupy some neighborhoods and low-
rent and run-
down apartments
others. The af”
uent purchase courtside seats to watch professional
conclusion, it seems, at least for US cities, is that private wealth more
than public wealth matters for living well.
This interplay of private and public wealth and their distribution
across the residents of the city is the central concern of this chapter.
Although cities are great at generating wealth, they perform poorly in
distributing it such that all who reside there can prosper. To make this
argument, we begin with how cities foster the conditions for wealth-
generation and concentrate it among a few businesses, institutions,
and households. Why do some people disproportionately bene“
t? How
does poverty become entrenched? And, why do wealth and poverty oc-
cur together and persist?
Generation of Wealth: The Public Contribution
To understand how wealth is generated, we need, “
rst, to recognize the
extent to which the prosperity of private individuals and organizations
depends on the presence of public wealth; that is, on the good roads, li-
braries, parks, and public museums that enable commerce, make cities
attractive to households and businesses, and mitigate the excesses of
private sector activities. Once done, we can turn to the creation of pri-
vate wealth. Our focus throughout will be on the geographic concen-
tration of workers and capital and the way this fosters growth.
Until public wealth is put in place, cities do not even begin to gen-
erate private wealth.
Without roads and wharves, protection of pri-
vate property, a supply of potable water, banking regulations, and laws
regarding sanitation, among the many contributions of government,
people would not be able to live in dense and large settlements, ship
goods to market, and amass fortunes. During European colonization,
local elites often taxed property owners so that warehouses and mar-
ket stalls could be built, roads made passable, and lands (usually what
became the village green) opened for grazing sheep and cows. Internal
improvements such as bridges and canals were also key to urban devel-
opment. In the late nineteenth century, the City of Houston dredged
a ship channel to the Gulf of Mexico that greatly increased commerce
and, in the decades just after the Second World War, numerous local
governments subsidized and coordinated urban redevelopment proj-
ects to attract private investment, boost property values, and gener-
ate jobs. Using government policies and private sector “
nancing, cities
like San Diego have launched initiatives to attract technology “
and health laboratories. More recently, a number of cities have built
municipal broadband networks that provide residents with free access
to the internet. The increasing importance of the internet to daily life
has convinced these local governments that such services deserve to be
publicly available.
Throughout the history of American cities, the creation of private
wealth has depended on government regulation of interest rates, zon-
ing laws that protect private property from unwanted encroachments,
the granting of rail rights-
way, and suppression of labor unrest. To-
day, the wealth of cities is widely believed to be a direct consequence of
the presence of educated labor and the public and private universities
that support research, generate innovations, and train individuals to
start businesses.
Equally signi“
cant are the global airport connections,
the policing of crime, and governmental regulations that protect real
property and investments.
Local governments also construct and maintain buildings and infra-
structure that enrich the daily lives of residents, facilitate commerce,
and give texture to the urban landscape. Spread across the city, “
re sta-
tions house emergency vehicles, parks provide a respite from the citys
hard surfaces, and libraries offer learning opportunities to immigrants.
Public streets enable bakery vans to deliver bread to the citys restau-
rants each morning. Consider Long Beach, California, a city of approx-
mately 462,000 people in 2010. At that time, its city government
managed 132 public buildings with a replacement value of $800mil-
lion. (See table 2.1.) In addition, it was responsible for local and arte-
rial streets, sidewalks, curbs, alleys, catch-
basins (3,000 of them), and
storm drains, pipes, and channels. These nondescript public assets are
frequently overshadowed by the large-
scale infrastructure that cities
build: Denvers $4.8 billion international airport that opened in 1995,
Portland, Oregons light rail system with its 52 miles of track and 87sta-
tions, and Miamis Metromover (monorail) with 21 stations and a daily
ridership of 35,000 passengers, to name just three. Cities grow because
of these buildings and structures and because of the regulations, laws,
and services that governments provide. Most importantly, they thrive
when these public contributions are of high quality, are appropriate for
a citys size, and attend to the citys diverse people and functions.
Over the centuries, public wealth has been generated in a number
of ways. Until the formation of local governments, trading companies
made the improvements (as in New Amsterdam in the early seventeenth
century), local elites pooled their resources, or taxes were levied on
property owners. Land heretofore unoccupied or used by Native Ameri-
cans was forcefully or deceptively appropriated and rights-
way estab-
lished. Until the late nineteenth century, many internal improvements
were small and ad hoc rather than large and systematically
One exception was the Erie Canal that began operation in 1825 and
connected New York City to an interior rich in natural
resources and
agricultural products. Not until laws were established for the election
or appointment of local of“
cials and mechanisms devised for collect-
ing taxes from property owners were local governments able to offer
infrastructure and public services such as policing or “
re protection
on a citywide scale.
Even then, the development of public wealth de-
pended to a great extent on the creation of new technologies such as
water pumping stations, gas lighting, and traf“
c signals along with the
training of engineers, architects, and accountants who could manage
public funds, design and build public projects, and craft and enforce
public health, construction, “
re safety, and land use regulations.
Public wealth, of course, is no more naturally occurring than private
wealth. It depends on the disposition of elected leaders (what is usually
termed public policy) and entails the willingness of governments to tax
private wealth and designate funds to build roads and community cen-
ters. Public wealth also depends on the extent to which economic elites
recognize the bene“
ts of public goods and services. Never far from
decisions about expanding libraries or extending the local public bus
Table 2.1
Buildings and Structures Owned and Managed
by the Government of Long Beach, California, 2007
Park buildings
Fire stations
Police stations
Health facilities
Local streets
Arterial streets
Storm drains, pipes, channels
Source: City of Long Beach, A City in Need of Capital Invest-
mentŽ (Long Beach, CA: Public Works Department, 2007).
service are concerns about the proper role of government in relation
to private economic activity and individual freedoms. Do government
regulations enhance or diminish economic growth? Are taxes a burden
or an opportunity? Should the local government have more powers or
fewer? What is the proper relation of the municipal to state and federal
governments? These questions, and the debates that they engender, lin-
ger beneath all decisions about public wealth, whether it is to provide
more day care facilities or sell the local airport to a private “
The Generation of Private Wealth
As for private wealth, the pathways to its creation are innumerable and
cities (in part through their governments) support these pathways in a
variety of ways: facilitating the concentration of consumer and labor
markets, fostering a division of labor that enhances productivity and
innovation, increasing the scale and density of activities, simplifying
access to capital, and engendering the agglomeration that gives rise to
a multitude of opportunities for sharing ideas, resources, and space.
Consider, “
rst, the concentration of economic activity. Brought to-
gether in high-
density settlements, households form local markets that
enable providers of goods and services to grow in size. These markets
give rise to banks that provide loans for the purchase of homes and
the operation of businesses. At the same time, numerous individuals
are available to be hired as workers such that businesses can grow and
thrive. In short, large markets set the base conditions for individuals to
expand economic activity and make money. Cities are places where
good ideas get a hearing from investors, where entrepreneurs can
rapidly prototype and then test-
market sophisticated products, [and]
where a start-
up “
rm can draw on a thick talent pool.Ž
In villages and towns, drug stores are small, restaurants are few (of-
ten a single diner for the locals), and hardware stores nonexistent. Shoe
and clothing stores are unlikely to be nearby and although a lawyer,
an accountant, or a doctor (usually a general practitioner) might set up
business, more specialized professional services can only be found else-
where. When the town grows in population and becomes a city, busi-
nesses can be bigger, more numerous (as with automobile dealerships),
and more diverse. A city has a large number of people who need food,
clothing, and shelter along with medical services, legal advice, enter-
tainment, and appliances. Dallas has multiple stores selling musical in-
struments along with hospitals that have the latest medical technolo-
gies; the sparsely populated Archer City, approximately 150 miles away,
offers neither. And as businesses emerge and the local government ex-
pands to service a greater diversity of needs, they augment the demand
for accountants, of“
ce supplies, and computer repair services.
Individuals who start businesses to serve this demand can decide ei-
ther to remain small, targeting only a portion of the market or con“
ing themselves to one area of the city, or grow to serve an expanding
population. Those who take the latter path have the option of becom-
ing quite big, leading to control over a large share of the market for, say,
lumber or newspapers. One or two “
rms become the major suppliers
of concrete for construction with only a handful of companies build-
ing major of“
ce complexes and sports facilities. A clothier expands his
range of goods, builds a larger space, advertises daily in the local news-
paper and on the radio, and becomes the citys major department store.
food chains, clothing and food franchises, and corporate phar-
macies establish multiple locations across the city and metropolitan
area. Consumers travel downtown from their neighborhoods to shop
at the citys largest furniture store, while heating oil “
rms can easily
access multiple clients. Not only is demand relatively concentrated, but
roadways, subways, and public buses enable purchasers easily to access
goods and services and businesses inexpensively to deliver to custom-
ers. A large market, close at hand, enables all of this to happen.
The combination of transportation accessibility and the multitude
of individuals and businesses in need of supplies and advice drives
businesses to grow in market share, expand in size, and achieve sig-
cant sales. Business “
rms in cities are generally larger than they
are in non-
metropolitan areas. Whereas in 2011 only 0.3 percent of
all “
rms in the country had more than 500 employees, the percentage
in metropolitan areas was much higher: 6.4 percent in Tucson (AZ),
8.0 percent in Durham (NC), and 4.8 percent in Oklahoma City (OK).
These differences also hold for smaller “
rms that have between 20 and
500 employees. Bigger and more prosperous businesses, moreover, have
revenues that can be translated into larger pro“
ts for the owners os-
tensibly compensating them for their business acumen, the “
investment they have made, and their management skills. In addition,
the greater the market share and the fewer the competitors for advertis-
ing services or meat provision, the more leeway business owners have
in setting prices. The existence of big consulting “
rms, automobile-
makers, and telecommunication companies that serve regional, na-
tional, and even global markets does not negate the importance of
cities to their beginnings or to their continued operation. Cities put
forward the concentrated markets, the public infrastructures, and the
regulatory technologies that allow businesses to deliver their product
at a scale that enhances pro“
tability and leads to earnings that “
expansion beyond a citys boundaries.
Key to the emergence of a large and diverse array of “
rms is the
concentration and availability of labor„
more speci“
cally, of a wide
range of skilled and unskilled workers willing to be employed at vari-
ous hourly wages and salaries. Many people migrate to cities because
they wish to “
nd jobs in advertising agencies or “
nancial service “
be near hospitals where they can open a medical practice; own a pizza
joint; play in the local symphonic orchestra; or work in the citys
schools. Others are pulled less by occupational interests than by the al-
lure of the city as a place of opportunity. There, they might spend their
days or nights as waitresses, cab drivers, garment workers, sales clerks,
and security personnel. Most working-
age adults are employed by oth-
ers rather than being self-
employed. They are attracted by the higher
salaries in cities. (See table 2.2.) In Miami, the average yearly salary in
2014 for a chef was $57,000; in the non-
metropolitan Butler County in
Missouri, it was $21,000. A “
ghter could earn $71,000 in Miami and
$29,000 in Butler County. For those starting businesses or nonpro“
organizations, and for governments, the city offers vast numbers of
potential workers with a wide range of skills and experience. Without
those workers, businesses would remain one-
person “
rms or family op-
erations with meager prospects for signi“
cant growth.
The extensive division of labor makes cities even more valuable for
the creation of private wealth. As more and more people come together,
opportunities exist for some to specialize in violin repair or “
Table 2.2
Annual Mean Wages (US$) by Occupation for Selected Large Metropolitan
and Non-
metropolitan Areas, 2014
Large metropolis
Fort Lauderdale94,830
Des Moines
metropolitan area
Bailey County (TX)
Butler County (MO)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Metropolitan and Non-
metropolitan Area Occupational Em-
ployment and Wage Estimates,Ž posted 2014, accessed April 3, 2015, www
wealth management. People gravitate to speci“
c jobs and, as their in-
comes increase, desires expand and people want a greater variety of
goods and services. This further pushes businesses into specialized
markets and people into different occupations. With specialization,
workers and businesses become better at what they do and productiv-
ity increases. Pro“
ts rise and are distributed, albeit disproportionately,
between workers and owners. Here is another way„
heightened pro-
ductivity through a division of labor„
in which cities enable wealth to
be generated.
Wealth is amassed not only by those who own businesses. Many
people relocate to cities for fame, not just for fortune. They might hope
to become a television newscaster, a rock star, CEO of an internet start-
up, a famous chef, or a widely published author. Or, they might join a
hedge fund “
rm, become a department head at a major hospital, or seek
employment as a statistician with a professional sports team. Workers
in many of these occupations and industries also have the potential to
become quite prosperous. Large corporations, banks and “
nancial ser-
vice “
rms, universities, hospitals, philanthropic foundations, and real
estate development companies (among others) hire highly educated
people and pay them signi“
cant salaries. Health clinic doctors, profes-
sors at major research universities, and heads of public authorities all
earn sums of money greater than what they need to live comfortably.
As illustration, see the salaries of university professors as shown in
table 2.3. Those working in major cities earned an average yearly salary
in 2013…
2014 well above the average incomes of the respective metro-
politan areas. At colleges and universities outside the major cities, the
salaries are much lower. A good portion of this difference can be at-
tributed to the larger size of the former universities and their af“
with medical schools, but much also has to do with the synergies of
the city that generate higher (and high) salaries in the businesses and
organizations there.
The concentration of markets for goods, services, and labor gener-
ates wealth in other ways as well; it enables economies of scale and
creates densities that facilitate commerce. Economies of scale are the
correlate to the productivity gains from a division of labor; they occur
as a consequence of the increasing size of things and activities. The ba-
sic idea is that an activity has a certain scale at which it is ef“
cient and
other scales at which it is not. A theater company might be pro“
putting on plays for an average-
size audience of 300 patrons over the
run of the play, but not for 225 people. At 300 theatergoers, all costs are
covered and after that, as the audience increases, the pro“
ts continue
to grow, limited only by the size of the venue and the ticket prices peo-
ple are willing to pay. A similar phenomenon occurs with elementary
schools, department stores, cardiology practices, and policing. This is
one of the reasons an architect might “
nd it dif“
cult to establish a prof-
itable practice in a rural area; there are simply too few clients to make
a decent living. At a certain size, activities become more pro“
table and
cient. This is true even for such governmental activities as building
code enforcement that need a certain number of buildings to keep in-
spectors busy. These economies are not “
xed but rather vary by the size
and af”
uence of the city, prevailing technologies for producing goods
and delivering services, and the accessibility of supportive public in-
frastructure such as mass transit. Outside of cities, these conditions are
less likely to be present.
More than just the number of buyers of goods and users of services
matters. The greater the geographical density and accessibility of con-
sumers and users of public services, the lower the costs„
costs in economic parlance„
of matching them to demand. The costs
in time for a family to travel to an optometrist or a playground, for
a furniture store truck to deliver a dining room table and chairs, or
for a shelving installer to drive to a clients store are„
depending on
c congestion„
less than in lower density places. High density and
the proximity that it creates smooth the interaction of businesses as
Table 2.3
Annual Professorial Salaries (US$) in Large versus Small Cities,
2013… 2014
Full ProfessorAssistant Professor
Large cities
Chicago: University of Chicago
New York: New York University
Los Angeles: California Institute of Technology182,100116,200
Boston: Boston University
Small cities
Williamstown, MA: Williams College
Muncie, IN: Ball State University
Joplin, MO: Missouri Southern State
Rocky Mount, NC: North Carolina Wesleyan College52,400
Note: California Institute of Technology is in Pasadena in the Los Angeles metropoli-
tan area. The median household incomes in 2013 in Chicago, New York, Boston, and
Los Angeles respectively were $60,564, $67,786, $72,907, and $58, 869. See Amanda
Nuss, Household Income: 2-
13Ž (
Washington, DC: US Bureau of the Census, 2014).
Source: 2013…
2014 AAUP Faculty Salary Survey, accessed April 24, 2015, http://
those businesses sign contracts with each other, ship raw materials
and “
nished goods back and forth, and share in the pool of workers.
A company that assembles custom-
designed windows will have access
to metal manufacturers, glass supply houses, makers of rubber gaskets,
and hardware manufacturers. In a relatively large and dense market,
numerous opportunities exist to organize businesses and deliver public
services ef“
ciently and, for private enterprises, pro“
tably. Size and den-
sity, coupled with public transit and public streets, enable scale econo-
mies to be realized, thereby enhancing the creation of both private and
public wealth.
With their size, density, and diversity of economic activities, cities
also make capital more accessible. Entrepreneurs require money for
investment in new businesses and existing businesses need operating
capital so that they can purchase raw materials, hire consultants, and
pay their workers while themselves waiting to be paid for the products
that they have sold. Businesses generate cash and that cash has to be
put someplace safe until it is needed. Banks provide this service and
then lend the money to other businesses as well as to consumers wish-
ing to purchase homes or put an addition on their house. Banks thrive
where numerous businesses are involved in a multitude of “
transactions. Money can be made by facilitating the ”
ow of funds from
businesses to workers, from businesses to suppliers and subcontractors,
and from businesses to government and into investments. Of the top
25 banks by total assets in 2014, all but three were headquartered in a
major city with over one- half of them in New York City, Chicago, and
San Francisco.
It is not just banks that locate in cities to take advantage of the
money circulating in their economies. Cities also attract and give rise
to investment “
rms, venture capital funds, and wealth management
operations which, in turn, attract accounting “
rms, law of“
ces, devel-
opers to build of“
ce buildings to house all of them, and janitorial ser-
vices to clean of“
ces at night. And, even though banking and “
services easily cross city and even national boundaries, they seem to
be most pro“
table when clustered in cities. There, they add to private
One illustration of the pull of cities is the concentration of major
corporations. Each year,
magazine ranks the 500 largest closely-
held and public corporations in the United States by gross revenues.
(Public corporations are those with stocks that are traded publicly
rather than being privately owned and untraded.) In 2014, 27 of the
top 50 corporations had their headquarters in large and medium-
cities that were the centers of their metropolitan areas. These were
places like Houston, Charlotte (NC), and New York City. Another 19
were outside the central city but still within a major metropolis. Ex-
amples are Microsoft (ranked 34th) in Redmond (WA) in the Seattle
metropolitan area and PepsiCo (ranked 43rd) located in Purchase (NY)
within New Yorks metropolitan region. Only four of the top corpo-
rations were in small towns or in small metropolitan areas. Wal-
(the largest of these corporations by gross revenue) is headquartered
in Bentonville (AR), Marathon Petroleum in Findlay (OH), State Farm
Insurance in Bloomington (IN), and Dow Chemical in Midland (MI).
The spatial concentration of activities, its agglomeration, is credited
not only with providing large and accessible markets, lowering transac-
tion costs, and increasing the potential for economies of scale, but also
with providing innovations that enable urban economies to adapt and
The key here is the large size and diversity of the economy.
The most important factor is the density of human interactions. The
argument is that where large numbers of businesses and individuals
exist close together, many more interactions are likely to occur among
them. This engenders heightened competition among “
rms, thereby
encouraging them to “
nd ways to maintain and enhance their mar-
ket share and accelerating the ”
ow of ideas. Known as knowledge spill-
overs, these ideas are often adopted by others and used to develop new
products, manufacturing processes, technologies, and services. The
resultant innovations then enable the local economy to expand and
replace goods and services no longer in demand or currently being
Consider Detroit and its automotive industry. That industry emerged
from the metal-
working milieu that existed there in the early twenti-
eth century. In New York City, the synergies among advertising, mag-
azine and book publishing, and fashion have created a robust media
concentration. Toledo (OH) was able to develop a solar panel industry
because of the knowledge and skills developed in an earlier era of glass
manufacturing. As a last example, Boston has replaced manufacturing
with “
nancial services, expanded its medical sector, and nurtured its
universities by drawing on an educated population with a diverse set
of skills.
These stories of economic success are a function of the ag-
glomeration qualities of cities and the knowledge spillovers and mutual
learning that ”
ow from them.
Agglomeration not only creates wealth through innovation and
expansion of the economy, it also does so by increasing densities and
boosting land values. For many people and businesses, much of their
wealth resides in the real property that they own and the land and
buildings that they use. Cities enable this wealth by making speci“
locations highly desirable and thus causing those who want to be there
to pay a good deal of money to do so. Land is made to be scarce and its
value is re”
ected in the value of buildings. In 2013, the median value
of owner-
occupied housing units in the United States was $176,700. If
you lived in San Jose (CA), however, the value was quite different„
while in Stamford (CT) it was $515,400 and in Los Angeles
This is not, moreover, a matter of a value inherent to a lo-
cation or solely of the economic competition for land, but also of the
many activities of government that make some places more desirable
and valuable than others.
Public investments are major contributors to the bene“
ts of agglom-
eration. As Alex Marshall has noted: Creating places is almost wholly a
product of public, political, and tax-
payer “
nanced decisions.Ž
governments build highways and bridges and allow bus and commuter
rail agencies to construct access roads, tracks, and terminals in the city
center, these cities become highly accessible and thus desirable as places
to locate of“
ce buildings, department stores, and high-
end retailing.
Most retail businesses want to be easily reached and large insurance
ces and banks want to minimize the cost of commuting for their
workers. Big entertainment venues such as clubs or arenas attract large
crowds by locating in high-
density cities where roads and transit lines
converge. Add to this the many individuals who work in these “
and wish to be close to their place of employment with easy access
to grocery stores, movie theaters, hairdressers, and restaurants. Gov-
ernments make cities even more attractive and valuable by protecting
property values through zoning and other land use regulations, build-
ing parks, keeping the rivers clean and the air unpolluted, and stipu-
lating property boundaries and recording real estate transfers. As im-
portant, they provide political support and “
nancial subsidies to local
elites that strengthen certain industries (for example, biotechnology)
and make the city more attractive to tourists and conventioneers.
Public infrastructure also generates wealth by adding value to loca-
tion. The resultant proximity to services and amenities drives up the
price of land in the center or around various nodes where transit lines
converge and densities have peaked. Property companies emerge to
buy up and manage apartment buildings and of“
ce space, while house-
holds purchase expensive apartments near restaurants, entertainment,
and the of“
ce buildings in which they work. This value is captured
through private ownership. And, as the city grows in population and
economic activity, land becomes even more valuable. The wealth of
owners increases as the land appreciates.
All of this happens because of roads, bridges, and subway lines, wa-
ter and sewer systems, publicly regulated electrical utilities, schools
systems, public health regulations, property use restrictions, laws pro-
tecting private property, and “
re and police services.
These public ser-
vices enable commerce, support economies of scale, encourage density
and agglomeration, and create the conditions for people and “
rms to
amass wealth. Cities that grow, moreover, build public wealth. Their
governments add water treatment facilities, high schools, parks, play-
grounds, traf“
c lights, and environmental regulations. These assets
have both an intrinsic value and a value that extends outward to con-
tribute to the generation of private wealth. A neighborhood park pro-
vides residents with opportunities to socialize and enhances adjacent
property values. The central bus terminal enables patrons to transfer
from one line to the next and brings consumers into the city to shop.
another form of public wealth„
provide the legal founda-
tion on which private wealth is built and create public spaces (such as
parks) without which the city and its residents would live a less reward-
ing existence. Absent these public services, a city would neither grow
in size nor reach the density necessary for sustained economic growth.
Private wealth, of course, is not simply dependent on public wealth;
the reverse is also true. Local governments are able to build infra-
structure, inspect housing for code violations, and provide day care to
the extent to which they can extract revenues from households and
economic activity via business, sales, and property taxes. A number
of cities levy taxes on resident income and charge fees to develop-
ers wanting to build luxury apartments or of“
ce buildings. The more
activity and wealth, the more tax revenues can be captured and the
more money is available to run programs and pay off the bonds used
to construct schools, bridges, and recreation centers. The synergies are
important if the citys economy is to grow and the city is to remain
attractive. This does not mean that public wealth follows inexorably
and in proportion to private wealth. To the extent that taxes diminish
business pro“
ts and the disposable incomes of households, taxpayers
(and corporations in particular) resist even as they bene“
t from them.
How do public investments, they ask, serve local business and property
owners, the interests of investors, and those (for example, poor chil-
dren) in need of public services such as free school lunch programs?
What will it cost in taxes to provide these supports? Here is where law
and politics merge as local of“
cials, economic and cultural elites, and
community advocates debate what taxes should be levied on whom,
what capital investments should be made, and which programs should
be expanded, contracted, eliminated, or launched.
Certain forms of public wealth are privately owned. Think of non-
t museums such as the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh or
the Getty in Los Angeles, symphonic halls in Denver and Fort Worth,
and private universities such as Rice University in Houston, and the
Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. Then there are the hos-
pitals and professional sports arenas that one “
nds in almost all large
cities. These are public assets: they are open to the public, contribute to
the urbanity of the city, and “
gure into the citys economy. The pub-
lic acknowledges this by having the government subsidize their con-
struction and renovation. Local governments recognize the need to
protect and enhance these assets.
In 1993, for example, voters in the
Pittsburgh metropolitan area approved the formation of the Allegheny
County Regional Asset District that dedicates county-
wide tax proceeds
for the support of cultural institutions, libraries, parks, and sports fa-
cilities, most of which are in the city of Pittsburgh.
To such public wealth, I would add private foundations that contrib-
ute to the quality of life in cities by making them livable and attractive.
Cleveland is a better city because of the presence of the Gund Foun-
dation and the Cleveland Foundation. A similar claim can be made
for Seattle with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Baltimore
with its Annie Casey Foundation, and Chicago with the MacArthur
Another form of private wealth that has public value can be found
in buildings. Among a citys cultural assets are public buildings such as
city halls and libraries as well as private buildings such as residences,
famous of“
ce towers, and factories. The Colonial-
era homes in Soci-
ety Hill in Philadelphia and on Beacon Hill in Boston contribute to
the historic and public character of these cities„
and to their unique-
ness. The early twentieth-
century of“
ce buildings in Chicago (such as
the Monadnock and Wrigley buildings) and, more recently, the John
Hancock Center, the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower, and the Aqua apart-
ment building by Studio Gang Architects are all valued contributions
to the citys skyline and streetscape. The casinos of Las Vegas, the Se-
attle Space Needle, the Arch in St. Louis, and the Darwin Martin House
in Buffalo designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright pro-
vide character and cultural signi“
cance. Together, these buildings and
structures make a city desirable, give it identity, and enrich the urban
experience. In doing so, they expand the citys wealth.
If a person wants to become wealthy, she must (with exceptions) go
to a city. If she wants to become exceptionally wealthy, the city is un-
avoidable. There, numerous conditions nurture the creation of private
wealth. These conditions, however, operate robustly only in the pres-
ence of a strong public realm.
Concentration of Wealth
Cities contribute to the generation of wealth and enable it to become
concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, families, and busi-
nesses. To this extent, they are places where inequalities in wealth and
income, along with stark variations in the quality of peoples lives, be-
come visible.
Consider a few examples. Each weekday morning, senior corporate
executives are picked up for work by a limousine service, while a re-
tail clerk, forced by high rents to live far from his job, walks blocks
to a public bus stop in order to make his way to the nearest light-
connection. When summer comes, the executive ”
ies her family on a
private jet to a vacation resort for an extended stay or to their house in
southern France; the retail clerk drives the family to the beach for the
weekend. Uniformed doormen hail taxis for the residents of high-
apartment buildings, while homeless individuals push their shopping
carts (loaded with their possessions) along the sidewalk behind the bus
terminal; shops sell expensive Italian clothing for men while corner
liquor stores in distressed neighborhoods sell beer and alcohol from
behind protective plexiglass barriers.
Documenting the concentration of private wealth, however, is not
easy, in part because the very wealthy often have multiple residences„
not only a place in San Antonio where they have their business but a
vacation home in Breckenridge, Colorado, that they visit throughout
the year. Although they might have a primary residence in one city,
their wealth is geographically dispersed across multiple properties and
across investments that move incessantly through the global circuits of
capital. For the rich, only a small proportion of their wealth is spatially
xed. In 2010, for example, the wealth of home-
owning US households
in the lowest income quartile was $282,000, while that for home-
owning households in the highest income quartile was $1,572,000.
For the former, 36 percent of that wealth came from home equity
compared with 16 percent for the latter, despite the fact that house-
holds in the highest income quartile are likely to own multiple proper-
These data do not establish the urban concentration of wealth.
The issue for my argument, though, is one of trying to understand how
cities concentrate wealth in individuals and families, not how wealth
becomes situated in cities.
One way to measure this concentration is by using earned income.
Census data show that most high-
income households live in highly
populated areas. Of the households earning at least $191,000 per year
between 2006 and 2011 (that is, the top “
ve percent of the national
income distribution), 52 percent of them lived in the 50 largest met-
ropolitan areas.
The “
ve metropolitan areas with the largest percent-
age of these households were San Jose…
Santa Clara (Silicon ValleyŽ),
Washington, DC, San Francisco, New York, and Boston-
Silicon Valley led the way with nearly 16 percent of its households in
the top 5 percent of the income distribution. Boston-
Cambridge was
the lowest of the group with slightly less than 10 percent of its house-
holds this wealthy. If one considers all metropolitan areas, not just the
most populous ones, Bridgeport-
Stamford, Connecticut, led the way
with almost 18 percent of its households in the top tier of income.
Such concentration is to be expected given the high wages and salaries
paidin large cities.
High incomes, however, are not evenly shared across a citys labor
market. Income inequalities are quite striking. Of the 50 largest cities
in the country, Atlanta leads the way with the richest households earn-
ing 19 times what the poorest households earn.
San Francisco is not
far behind. Even in the city with the lowest ratio„
Virginia Beach, the
richest households earn 6 times what the poorest households earn.
(See table 2.4.) A study of the income gap for New York City in 2013
found that the citys top 5 percent of households earned 88 times what
the lowest 20 percent earned.
In a city where the median house-
hold income was $52,000 and 1.7 million people had incomes below
the federal poverty threshold of $23,000 for a family of four, the top
households took home that year a salary of $864,000. This unequal
distribution of income is highly correlated with the unequal distribu-
tion of wealth. An individual with less than $40,000 a year in income
in 2010 had only, on average, $3,000 in wealth, whereas those earning
over $110,000 per year had net assets of $200,000.
The poorer you
are, the less wealth you have and the less wealth you have, the less able
you are to weather unexpected events such as a health issue or sudden
How do wealth and incomes become concentrated among relatively
few households and businesses? The answer begins with the observa-
tion that cities exacerbate advantages and disadvantages. This has con-
sequences for who has access to and bene“
ts from the private and pub-
lic wealth that they generate. The answer does not stop there, however.
We must also attend to the effects of place and the ways in which cities
concentrate opportunities for advancement, the value of social connec-
tions, and the in” uence of government.
First, and central to any increase in inequalities, is the existence
of initial advantages such that people with greater capabilities„edu-
cation, access to resources (for example, inherited property, political
connections), and family backgrounds and cultural experiences„
better positioned to pro“
t from opportunities they generate or that
come their way.
Those lacking these advantages are less able to amass
The computer revolution of the late twentieth and early twenty-
centuries led to such success stories as Bill Gates, who built the software
giant Microsoft, and Jeff Bezos of the online retailer Amazon. Both
started with advantages. They came from middle-
class families, at-
tended good schools (Gates at Harvard University and Bezos at Prince-
ton University), had access to existing computer technologies (in the
Table 2.4
Inequality in Selected Cities of the United States, 2012
Inequality Ratio
Greatest inequality
San Francisco
Washington, DC
Least inequality
Virginia Beach
Arlington, TX
Mesa, AZ
Las Vegas
Average of “
fty largest cities
Note: The Inequality Ratio is the ratio of household income in the
20thpercentile to household income in the 95th percentile.
Source: Alan Berube, All Cities Are Not Created Equal,Ž The Brookings
Institution, posted 2014, accessed November 11, 2014, www
case of Gates) and “
nancing (in the case of Bezos, who initially worked
needed), and low crime. And, if they have retail areas, the shops will
offer top-
quality goods. When this array of high property values and
services is threatened, its residents will mobilize resources and social
connections to assure that the status quo is preserved. Having access to
legal and political skills and strong neighborhood organizations, af”
ent neighborhoods protect themselves, thereby reinforcing their place
in the citys residential ecology.
At the other end of the spectrum are neighborhoods populated
mainly by poor or near-
poor households and homes much lower in
value. There, fewer people own and rents are relatively low, which is
why the housing attracts poorer individuals. Their retail districts have
vacant storefronts and low-
quality and oftentimes overpriced goods
for sale. The public schools are de“ cient and other services are mea-
ger. Social connections exist but they do not lead to opportunities to
move out of poverty. In growing cities, low-
rent neighborhoods are sus-
ceptible to gentri“
cation in which more af”
uent households purchase
homes cheaply and renovate them, soon to be followed by develop-
ers turning empty lots into apartment buildings. The neighborhood
changes and, while many current residents might stay, few new resi-
dents like them are apt to move in.
If we broaden the urban focus to the metropolitan area, we “
nd a
corresponding, uneven landscape.
The ecology of neighborhoods
differentiated by property value and income now becomes a munici-
pal ecology. And, like city neighborhoods, the more af”
uent suburbs
have better public and private services (including schools), residents
with numerous in”
uential social contacts, and appreciating property
values that add to their wealth. These places„
Greenwich (CT) outside
New York City and Lake Forest (IL) outside Chicago„
are advantaged
relative to the poor municipalities within the metropolis. The latter
are often older suburbs either of an early post…
Second World War vin-
tage or former industrial satellites whose industry has collapsed or left.
Chester(PA) adjacent to Wilmington and Lackawanna outside the city
of Buffalo are two of many such places. The weak tax bases of these
municipalities provide little hope that conditions will soon change.
In short, cities and their metropolitan areas do not just express the
concentration of wealth in their landscapes. Spatial arrangements fur-
ther exacerbate these differences. Most importantly, spatial (and social)
disparities are reinforced by governmental policies that privilege the
already privileged, both for tax purposes and because of social connec-
tions between those who command wealth and those who make public
Another of the reasons for urban wealth concentration involves the
clustering of opportunities available for living well. People migrate to
cities because their current residence fails to reward their capabilities
and ful“
ll their aspirations. In response, they take their skill at playing
the cello or acting or their education in a graduate school of journalism
to where these talents might be better appreciated and rewarded. The
cinematic version of this is the young actress who dazzles the audience
in college plays and then is drawn to New York City where she becomes
a Broadway star. In the city, her ability to inhabit her characters earns
her praise, adulation, and “
nancial reward. Many others, immigrants
being the most prevalent, locate in cities because of the concentration
of employment and educational opportunities. There, talent, educa-
tion, and connections will, they hope, be acknowledged. Immigrants
with language dif“
culties and poor educations, however, often end up
in low-
wage industries where bene“ ts are meager, hours of work unsta-
ble, and opportunities for advancement few. So positioned, it becomes
more dif“
cult for them to rise to the upper reaches of an industry or
launch a lucrative career.
To take advantage of these opportunities, one must be aware of
them and consider them attainable. Cities contain numerous mecha-
nisms that sort people across occupations and industries, and between
those who own businesses and those who end up working for others,
whether in business or in government. School systems that offer col-
lege preparation courses or training in plumbing or computer repair
can have a big impact on what people decide to do in their lives. The
neighborhood in which one lives and thus with whom one comes into
contact also has an effect.
Living among storeowners or textile work-
ers encourages a person to see these as potential occupations. Place
Ones ability to move about the city and enter into downtown of“
buildings or nightclubs, visit hospitals, or have easy access to a manu-
facturing district also plays a role in shaping ones understandings of
how one might live. These engagements with the world of work are
mediated through family background. Those who have been sent to
good schools, have met a variety of successful people, been exposed to
different types of activities from cooking in a restaurant to teaching at
a university, and have traveled widely are presented with more choices.
As people enter into and are sorted across different occupations and
work environments, they are arranged in other categories as well. One
of the most important for the concentration of wealth is whether a
person ends up self-
employed, operating a business that she owns and
from which she can extract both wages and pro“
ts, or working for oth-
ers. Owning a prosperous business, one that has a signi“
cant share of
the market or provides a very high-
priced good or service to af”
consumers, is a primary path to becoming wealthy. Not all businesses
succeed or are able to meet these thresholds. Those that do, generate in-
come beyond what the owners need to live. This excess can be invested
to increase their wealth.
Becoming one of a small number of suppliers
of concrete to the local construction industry, the manager of a string
of fast-
food franchises, senior partner at the citys premier real estate
law “
rm, or the sole business in the city making and selling high-
picture frames are only a few examples. Owning these “
rms is far bet-
ter than working in most occupations as a wage or salary worker. Own-
ers make money not only from managing the business but also from
the value created by the employees (only a portion of which is returned
to them in wages). And, if that business can dominate the market, even
greater pro“
ts are possible.
Nonetheless, employees of certain industries have the potential
to earn higher incomes and amass even greater wealth than business
owners. Here we “
nd individuals working in banks, “
nancial services
rms, investment companies, and large corporations where salaries for
level and other key personnel are signi“
cant. A chief “
cer for a big international corporation can earn millions of dollars
each year and a worker in an investment bank, paid a large, year-
bonus depending on the “
rms pro“
tability, is likely to do equally as
well. Doctors, particularly those with specialties, and corporate lawyers
also have this potential. Heads of public authorities, foundations, and
universities are extremely well paid compared to the average worker,
as are professors in research universities, experienced pilots for major
airlines, and business consultants. All of these people have earnings
that enable them to purchase property and invest in ways that multi-
ply their wealth.
In addition to initial advantages and geographical effects, we also
have to consider social connections.
These connections are an initial
and continuing advantage in learning about and exploiting business
opportunities, job openings, and investment possibilities. Such con-
nections come in many forms: friendships developed in college, family,
business acquaintances, and social ties to government of“
cials, neigh-
bors, and fellow volunteers at (and donors to) cultural and charitable
organizations. Moreover, they are concentrated spatially and thus eas-
ier to access in cities, particularly when they depend on face-
face en-
gagement. More accessible, they are more valuable.
Hardly automatic
in their consequences, they need to be cultivated with some people
subsequently becoming more networked„
and thus in”
others. A person born into a real estate family is likely to know more
about real estate development, construction, marketing, and “
and have more acquaintances among large property owners, bankers,
government of“
cials, and architects, than someone who is not. These
ties can be strengthened by making campaign contributions to people
running for elective of“
ce, donating to and being involved in charities,
and involving others in ones projects (hoping that they will recipro-
cate later). Without these connections, a person is isolated and, so iso-
lated, is less likely to encounter wealth-
enhancing opportunities.
The concentration of wealth is further exacerbated when those with
high incomes have more money than they need to live comfortably.
The surplus is then invested in businesses (buying stocks, for example),
multiple properties (a home in the city and the countryside or part-
ownership of a small of“
ce building), expensive automobiles and paint-
ings, and private schools for their children. For those who have good
connections and can pay for sound “
nancial advice, these investments
are likely to yield substantial rewards and expand the familys wealth.
Once again, initial advantages are translated into further advantages.
And while the rich might invest poorly and lose assets, catastrophic
losses are unlikely given their access to professional advice. The myth
that anyone can become rich in the United States is overshadowed by
the reality that once a family has become wealthy, it is likely to stay
wealthy. Those lacking wealth cannot take advantage of investment
opportunities or develop the requisite educational skills and social
connections. Consequently, they fall further and further behind those
who can. Rather than a land of opportunity„
where hard workers
from any background can prosper,Ž the reality in the United States is
far less encouragingŽ with social mobility about average for democratic
countries with market economies.
The city sets out the possibilities
and those with initial advantages and connections use them to access
resources, strengthen their capabilities, and concentrate wealth.
The wealth to which these initial and subsequent advantages lead
is protected and stabilized by governmental policies. Laws regulating
private property, business taxes, and corporate status; the relation-
ship between management and labor; restrictions on labor organizing;
zoning regulations that bolster property values; inheritance laws; and
tax policies constitute a framework that perpetuates the concentra-
tion of wealth. Wealth does not have to be shared. Widely accepted in
the United States is that those who succeed at becoming rich can do
whatever they wish with their fortunes, subject to certain taxes and
minimal regulations. At times, the rich might feel embattled, but the
evidence suggests that their af”
uence is hardly at risk of being lost. A
dominant ideology„
freedom, unlimited opportunities, and rewards
for hard work„
es the concentration of wealth and reinforces
the self- serving notion that the wealthy have„
by themselves„
their riches.
A number of government policies counteract these tendencies. The
federal income tax system is more or less progressive, drawing a larger
percentage of a richer persons income. Combined with greater assets,
this means that the rich pay more in taxes, as they should. Inheritance
laws dampen the intergenerational transfer of wealth. As regards in-
equality, government programs exist to improve the lives of those who
are struggling to live well. School lunch programs for poor families, tax
credits for low income households, subsidized housing and health care,
are even more regressive in that less af”
uent households spend a higher
proportion of their income on goods and services than more af”
In addition, zoning and land use regulations protect property from
being devalued by the intrusion of inappropriate users as when a night-
club is blocked from opening in a high-
end retail district. The citys
best schools are often in its most af”
uent neighborhoods. Policing is
disproportionately targeted on minority youth, adding another bar-
rier to upward mobility. Sidewalks and parks are likely to be less main-
tained in poor rather than rich neighborhoods, thereby discouraging
income households and developers. On the other side of the
ledger, city governments create value for property owners and investors
when they increase the allowable densities for development or open up
opportunities for building apartments or hotels in industrial areas. In
these many ways, cities concentrate wealth in the hands of a minority
of the citys residents.
Cities not only enable the generation and concentration of wealth,
they also do the same for poverty. Wealth and poverty, though, are
not two separate and independent states of affairs. Rather, the con-
centration of wealth engenders inequality with high concentrations
of poor people often living in the same cities as concentrations of af-
uent households. Poverty is a correlate, even if an imperfect one, of
Concentration of Poverty
Poor people have lived in the countrys cities since European coloni-
zation. And, despite numerous efforts by charitable organizations,
churches, and governments to eliminate poverty, poverty remains a
reality in contemporary urban areas. Poverty can also be found in ru-
ral areas and is just as devastating to peoples lives. It differs, however,
from urban poverty in a number of ways, the most important of which
is its spatial juxtaposition and functional relationship to wealth. One
commentator has noted, beginning somewhat breathlessly: Cities are
extraordinary economic engines of wealth and innovation, but this
same mechanism can cause terrible inequality and poverty.Ž
In 2012, an estimated 15 percent of the US population„
47.1 mil-
lion people„
were living in conditions of poverty. Notwithstanding
the spread of poor people into the suburbs, poverty had become (over
the decades) more clustered and concentrated in distressed and high-
poverty urban neighborhoods: the poor are over-
represented in the
central cities of every one of Americas metropolitan areas.Ž
In these
areas, 23% of the poor lived in high-
poverty neighborhoods compared
to 6.3% of the suburban poor. Moreover, a higher percentage (18.2%)
of residents of cities were poor compared to residents of the suburbs
Poverty, moreover, is present not only in cities whose econo-
mies have faltered. Wealthy cities have signi“
cant percentages of poor
people as well. In 2013, Boston was simultaneously the sixth wealthiest
large city and the tenth poorest. Even in growing cities, poor people
are still an embarrassing portion of the population. For example, El
Paso, which had a 15% population increase between 2000 and 2010
and is still growing, was nonetheless the eighth poorest large city in
the United States in 2013 with nearly 31% of its households earning
less than $25,000 per year.
(See table 2.5.)
Admittedly, poverty is not a condition peculiar to cities; it is a na-
tional (and even global) phenomenon. It originates in an economy
that fails to generate a suf“
cient number of well-
paying jobs and that
allocates a large portion of the population to low wages or intermit-
tent work. Many people are unable to become suf“
ciently wealthy to
weather dif“
cult times or to live well during retirement. In numerous
wage industries, labor is unorganized and fails to bring enough
pressure on owners and managers to assure high wages and adequate
ts and protections. Those with initial disadvantages thus “
Table 2.5
Poorest and Wealthiest Cities in the
United States, 2014
Poorest Cities
Percent Residents
Earning Less Than $25,000/Year
Wealthiest Cities
Percent Residents
Earning More than $150,000/Year
San Francisco
San Jose
Washington, DC
San Diego
Source: Ryan Childs, These Are the Poorest Cities in Amer-
, November14, 2014, and Ryan Childs, These Are
the Wealthiest Cities in America,Ž
, October30, 2014.
themselves struggling to live decently or to gain access to the kind of
education or develop the skills that will move them to higher-
positions. Moreover, they are pushed into housing markets where a
stable home life is near-
Immigrants with little education
and having to learn a new language and culture are particularly disad-
vantaged. The United States does not have powerful mechanisms that
move people into high-
wage jobs, maintain a living wage across indus-
tries, dampen wage inequality within industries and corporations, pro-
vide enough well-
paying jobs to keep all working-
age adults and their
families out of poverty, or assure adequate housing.
Americans, other people of color (for example, Latinos), and
Asian, Middle Eastern, and African immigrants face discrimination
as well as exploitation. Despite anti-
discrimination legislation, these
individuals have dif“
culty being hired, gaining access to neighbor-
hoods with good schools for their children, and positioning them-
selves in social networks that lead to opportunities for advancement.
Minority individuals are much more likely to be poor than those in
the white majority and much more likely to be concentrated in ur-
ban areas. In 2008, African-
Americans and Latinos constituted 67% of
the poor in major cities but only 24% in new suburbs and 19% in the
The disadvantage of being a minority is exacerbated for the elderly.
While African-
Americans were about 9 percent of the population in
2008, they represented 21 percent of the elderly poor. And even though
poverty rates for the elderly are higher in rural than urban areas, the
elderly still constitute a signi“
cant portion of the urban poor. In Bev-
erly Hills, one of the most af”
uent cities in the country, 4 out of 10
poor people are senior citizens. On the other coast, in New York City,
the elderly are a growing segment of the population with one in “
citizens over 60 years of age considered to be poor. The poverty rates
of the immigrant elderly are even higher and elderly women are much
more likely to be poor than elderly men. For cities where in-
is meager and the population is shrinking, thereby increasing the pro-
portion of elderly residents, this is a serious problem.
The homeless„
a small but important category of poor people„
heavily concentrated in cities. One estimate has about 85 percent of all
homeless living in cities with one out of “
ve in either New York City
or Los Angeles„
Los Angeles being labeled the homeless capitalŽ of
America. In 2013, New York City had the largest number of homeless,
but Los Angeles had the highest number of homeless living outside
of shelters; that is, living on the streets. Seattle is another city with a
large contingent of homeless. Note that all three are relatively af”
Numerous factors, both urban and non-
urban, make life even more
cult for the poor. High on the list in terms of effect are insuf“
governmental supports to overcome initial disadvantages and compen-
sate for low-
wage or intermittent employment along with geographi-
cal conditions that diminish access to resources and connections and
thereby sti”
e capabilities. The federal government does provide subsi-
dized housing and health care (though not to all) and “
nancial ben-
ts to retired workers. This has reduced poverty, most dramatically
among the aged.
At the local level, however, governmental policies
are too anemic to shrink income disparities. Children born into low-
income families are inadequately served by school systems. Laws sup-
porting union organizing are weak. Housing subsidies do not extend to
those most in need. Food assistance is far from suf“
cient. Despite nu-
merous programs at the federal, state, and even local levels of govern-
ment, poverty persists and is a condition from which an embarrassing,
large portion of the countrys residents suffer.
Where people live also contributes to poverty. Economic activity
is unevenly distributed across the country, within metropolitan ar-
eas, and in cities. Rural areas where mines have closed, industrial sub-
urbs and cities where the dominant manufacturing “
rm has left, and
neighborhoods where the only nearby jobs are in small, retail estab-
lishments, street vending, or informal activities offer few opportunities
for living well. Such places fail to attract new investment suf“
cient to
generate the jobs needed to reinvigorate the local economy. For those
who have lost their jobs and have few savings, living there is unlikely
to improve their quality of life. Moreover, they often do not want to
relocate and leave family and friends behind; consider themselves too
old to move elsewhere or take up another occupation; or simply lack
the resources to do any of these things. The result is an increase in the
number of poor people in these places and the further concentration
of poverty.
Relocating, though, makes sense, particularly if the poor live in a
shrinking city from which most of the middle-
class and likely all of
the wealthy have departed. Poor people are better off in cities with a
wealthy and highly educated population. There, the schools are better,
health care is more accessible, and local governmental expenditures
on public services are higher. Opportunities are more numerous. And,
to the extent that life expectancy is diminished by poverty and poor
health, living in more advantaged places is likely to increase it as well.
Life expectancy is highest in New York, Santa Barbara, and San Jose
and lowest in Gary (IN) and Tulsa.
Where a household lives within a city also has implications for pov-
erty. Consider San Antonio, the most spatially unequal city in the
Comparing its poorest areas with its wealthiest, the differ-
ences are striking. In the former, 4 out of 10 households lived below
the poverty line in 2013; in the latter, one of 25 did. The poorest areas
have few people with a high school diploma, older housing, more un-
employment, and a declining economy with businesses leaving rather
than entering the neighborhood. Most telling, growth in the citys
most af”
uent areas is doing little to raise the fortunesŽ of the most
distressed areas.
Involuntary residential segregation by income and race plays a
central role. The only housing options poor people have are in neigh-
borhoods with other poor people. The odds of “
nding an affordable
apartment in an af”
uent neighborhood are against them. And for
minorities, if their income does not force them to live in a marginal
neighborhood, it will when combined with discrimination in the
housing market. Comparing white and African-
American families with
similar incomes, an African-
American family is more likely to live in a
poor neighborhood lacking day care options, good schools, and play-
grounds. This racial gap (regardless of income, remember) varies across
cities, with the largest gaps in Milwaukee, Newark, and Gary and the
smallest in El Paso, Riverside (CA), and Albuquerque.
In these segre-
gated neighborhoods, African-
American families have limited access to
jobs, are deprived of decent and affordable housing as well as opportu-
nities to amass wealth from homeownership, and constricted in their
social connections. Their children are channeled into weak schools
that lack the capacity to adequately educate them. That they might
choose to live with others like themselves and close to their families
and “
nd social support there does not obviate the fact that being con-
ned with other poor people exacerbates their initial disadvantages.
Social connections are particularly important. A person living in a
poor neighborhood with no ties to anyone who is wealthy is disadvan-
taged in the quest for riches. Her acquaintances have knowledge only
about low-
wage jobs, few business opportunities are forthcoming, and
advice on how best to invest or save for unexpected events is scarce. For
people on the citys geographical and social margins, what social con-
nections they have„
and they have many that support them and en-
rich their lives„
are less apt to magnify initial advantages or generate
wealth. Even pooling resources and collaboration is dif“
cult given the
few resources they possess and the lack of investment opportunities
where they live. Their social connections„
mediated by proximity and
concentrate their disadvantages socially and geographically.
When people with few marketable skills, weak educational back-
grounds, and minimal resources do move, they do so to both growing
and declining cities. Growing cities are attractive because business and
job opportunities are expanding and growth promises that they will be
able to improve their current prospects. The population is increasing
and businesses are hiring. With many people doing well “
numerous service jobs„
nannies, delivery boys, waitresses, store clerks,
union construction laborer„
exist for those with little education
and weak language skills. Once established in an entry-
level job and,
most importantly, in a decent neighborhood, the odds of moving to
better and better positions improve.
People are also attracted to cities that are losing population and
businesses and where property values are falling. Camden, New Jersey,
one of the poorest and most crime-
ridden cities in the country, has lost
population but not emptied out. Many poor households move into the
city for the cheap housing and access to suburban jobs. People leave if
they can, while others settle there because it is all that they can afford.
Further concentrating poverty in the city is the clustering of busi-
nesses and jobs in terms of wages. High value and high-
wage businesses
are almost always located in the central business district of the city or
in smaller satellite (edgeŽ) cities in the suburbs. And while the central
business district is often accessible from poor neighborhoods, residents
there are unlikely to have the social connections to obtain the better-
paying positions. Because many good-
paying jobs are in the suburbs
and edge cities, and because public transit is usually absent, commut-
ing almost always requires an automobile. This is a major barrier for
disadvantaged households. Overall, few income-
producing business
opportunities and well-
paid jobs are available to the working poor
where they live. This blocks their advancement to middle-
class status
and con“
nes them to these areas. Even if cities are not the main cul-
prits in generating poverty in the United States, they are signi“
contributors to its concentration and perpetuation.
Wealth and Poverty
The dynamics that generate and concentrate wealth have, as one of
their effects, the generation and concentration of poverty. The reverse
(generation and concentration of poverty leads to generation and con-
centration of wealth), however, is not the case. Wealth and poverty are
asymmetrically related. Consider these ways in which the concentra-
tion of wealth exacerbates poverty.
In the world where wealthy people own and manage businesses that
prosper and in cities where many such entrepreneurs and investors
live, two consequences ensue. The “
rst is that business opportunities
are quickly taken up if they show signs of signi“
cant growth and ro-
bust pro“
tability. Or, to put it differently, if there is money to be made,
the already-
wealthy will be involved. This is a very common experi-
ence for start-
up “
rms needing capital or growing rapidly. They attract
major investors who, in return for their infusion of capital, take par-
tial ownership and control. Consider another example. A young, im-
migrant entrepreneur develops a highly acclaimed clothing store in a
marginal neighborhood and soon thereafter other entrepreneurs open
similar shops nearby to capture some of the cachet of this recently dis-
covered destination.Ž In short, the wealthy can easily identify and ex-
ploit business opportunities. By doing so, they dominate many of the
opportunities for prosperity and make it dif“
cult for those with little
wealth to become wealthy.
The second consequence concerns the ways in which wealth gener-
ates low-
wage jobs. Large and prosperous businesses and institutions
derive a portion of their pro“
ts by minimizing their wage bill. The sec-
retarial and cleaning staffs of law “
rms, the maintenance workers in
hospitals and universities, the clerks in insurance companies, and the
restaurant workers, ushers, restroom staff, and parking attendants at
professional sporting events are all paid much, much less than the ex-
ecutives of these “
rms. The pro“
ts of these entities are as high as they
are in part because labor costs are held down. For some of these work-
ers, their wages might be suf“
cient to support a family, if their partner
also has a job. For others, particularly those with only part-
time and
seasonal work, it is not; they hover close to the poverty line. Wealthy
businesses do not generate poverty directly. Rather, they maintain in-
equalities of income that, in turn, lead to other inequalities.
The demand that the wealthy have for service workers has similar
consequences. Wealthy people have money to hire people to do tasks
that non-
wealthy people do for themselves. A family in a high income
bracket often has a cleaning person, a nanny for the children, and a
walker. The super-
rich have their own cooks and chauffeurs, along
with gardeners and caretakers for their country estates. The wealthy
frequently dine out at restaurants where the back-
house staff
minimum wage (if that), take taxis whose drivers struggle daily
to make a decent living, and attend gyms where the staff earns just
enough to satisfy basic needs. Then there are the carpenters who re-
build the kitchens and the doormen who watch over the building in
which the wealthy live. Af”
uent households desire and pay for a range
of services and, while this is not a signi“
cant factor in expanding and
concentrating the poor, it maintains their wealth and status and, by
doing so, stabilizes the gap between them and the less fortunate. With-
out doubt, these purchases also create and support jobs. Most of these
jobs, however, are low-
wage positions.
More directly related to the coexistence of wealth and poverty in
cities are the dynamics related to place itself. One of them involves the
efforts that the wealthy make to protect their neighborhoods from en-
croachment by unwanted land uses or people (for example, a halfway
house for abused women, a car impoundment lot) and thus from any
change that might threaten the value of their property or the types
of people who live there. One consequence of this is to shift these ac-
tivities and people to neighborhoods where residents are less politi-
cally connected and have fewer resources to resist. This solidi“
es the
hierarchy of neighborhoods within the city while often burdening the
residents of poor neighborhoods with unwanted facilities that generate
noise, air pollution, and traf“
The second way in which place dynamics affect inequality is more
convoluted but nonetheless real. The nature of capitalist real estate dy-
namics is to be constantly restless, searching for new investment op-
portunities and moving on when buildings become old and obsolete
and pro“
ts falter. The relentless outward and upward growth of the city
is, in part, a consequence of this tendency, with developers opting to
invest on green“
eld sites rather than rehabilitate where they have al-
ready built or replace a pro“
table of“
ce building with one taller and
even more pro“
table. One result is a landscape with high and low prop-
erty values: af”
uent and poor neighborhoods, af”
uent and marginal
retail districts, and af”
uent and low-
end of“
ce areas. This discrepancy
in values is bene“
cial for real estate investors, particularly when cities
are growing. Money can be made by investing in an area that has been
devalued but has the potential to be revalued.
Lastly, and to repeat a point made earlier, cities with wealthy popu-
lations and growing economies attract poor people. Poor people mi-
grate to cities because, by doing so, they improve their prospects for
nancial and social advancement. The dynamics of wealth, politics,
and the ecology of neighborhoods nevertheless pose formidable barri-
ers to upward mobility, despite the many opportunities that are made
available. Cities enable both great wealth and enduring poverty. They
concentrate the wealthy and the poor and they stabilize inequalities.
Cities are engines of prosperity and inequality in equal measure, and
when the inequality tips poor they look unsaveable; when it tips rich,
they look unjust.Ž
Destructive, Sustainable
Every day, people in Chicago consume immense quan-
tities of food that arrive from nearby farms, large agri-
businesses further a“
eld, and producers around the world.
Oranges are sent from citrus groves in Florida, chicken
parts from processing plants in South Carolina, bananas
from growers in the Dominican Republic, olive oil from It-
aly, wine from the Loire Valley in France, and grapes from
Chile. Cab drivers, automobile commuters, and truck driv-
ers purchase gasoline that began as crude oil in Canada,
the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia and
was re“
ned in Louisiana and Texas. Furniture is shipped
from Sweden, machinery from Germany, train cars from
Canada, and clothing from Turkey. For the people of Chi-
cago to live well and its visitors to eat and sleep, conduct
business, and enjoy the tourist experience„
for the city to
raw materials and “
nished products have to be
imported from places beyond the city limits.
Chicago is unexceptional in this way; all cities draw re-
sources and commodities from far-
ung places. Their eco-
logical footprints„
the land area devoted to their care and
exceeds by many magnitudes the area occupied
by their residents. For very large cities like Los Angeles and
Dallas, their footprints are vast. The disposal of the hu-
man waste, plastic food packaging, construction debris,
and discarded paper and the water runoff and air pollution
attendant to their functioning further expand the places
brought into the environmental frame. Outmoded com-
puters are sent to China for recycling, air pollution drifts
across the region, and used clothing is shipped
overseas to
developing countries. The ecological impact of cities reminds us, once
again, that while cities might be de“ ned by their political territories,
they are hardly contained within them.
In short, cities use more of the environment than they occupy. They
ow their boundaries. When they grow, their reach extends even
further and, as new cities arise, even more land and resources are drawn
on for sustenance. Jungles in Brazil are turned into pastures, the tops
of hills in West Virginia are removed so that coal can be strip-
and shoe factories built in Vietnam draw more and more people into
the cities from the countryside. The extraction of resources, the use of
land for grazing, forestry, and crop production, and the manufactur-
ing of goods are all intensi“
ed. When it comes to the natural environ-
ment, cities are greedy. They consume 75% of the worlds energy and
produce 80% of its greenhouse gas emissions.Ž
As the population of
the world continues to grow (exceeding 7.4 billion in 2016 according to
the United Nations) and urbanization increases (exceeding 54 percent
of the worlds population), it is dif“
cult to accept calmly that more and
more and larger and larger cities actually contribute to a sustainable
world. Can one really argue that large cities protect ecological habi-
tats, preserve valued landscapes, oceans, and glaciers, and tread lightly
on nonrenewable resources such that the earth can support future
Yet, cities are touted as saviors of the environment, our only hope
for sustainable urbanization. As one observer has commented, Cities
represent the best chance of realizing the aspiration of global sustain-
For many observers, they are the only form of human settle-
ment with the potential to minimize energy use, encroach as little as
possible on the natural environment, and integrate human activity
with ecological settings. Purportedly, they are also the only settlement
form able to absorb an ever-
expanding population. Low-
density sub-
urbs, small towns, and rural villages fall well short of these goals when
compared to dense, compact cities. The call from popular commenta-
tors and scholars alike is for cities to be sustainable and resilient. The
rst protects, as much as possible, the natural environment for future
generations, while the second keeps them from falling apart in the face
of disaster and disruption. Together, sustainability and resilience es-
tablish the basis for additional urban growth. Having these qualities,
large cities are neither a threat to the environment and, by extension,
to human functioning, nor a source of insecurity. Rather, they are the
places, the sole places, where sustainability makes sense.
Which is it then? Are cities a curse on land, air, water, and min-
eral resources, not to mention on animals, birds, plants, and creatures
of the sea„
an insult to nature? Contrarily, are they the best alterna-
tive that humans have for protecting the natural environment and its
many resources and ecologies? What can be done in the face of contin-
ued population growth and the unrelenting urbanization that together
fuel consumption and deplete and degrade the material world? My ar-
gument, as expected, is that they are both and can never be either one
or the other. Cities are always destructive; they cannot be otherwise. At
the same time, cities hold out the promise of sustainability.
Given the subsistence level at which a signi“ cant portion of the
worlds population lives„
896 million people below the international
poverty line in 2012„
coupled with the rapacious appetite of those who
reside in high-
income countries, more and more of the material world
will have to be consumed„
not less„
in order to reduce those living
in poverty to manageable numbers.
The only reasonable path to sus-
tainability, though, seems to be to decrease the ecological footprint of
humans and limit how much each of us, and each of our technologies
from factories to gas-
powered vehicles to electrical infrastructure, takes
from the earth. Such an objective can be seriously considered only if
we account for the need to improve the quality of life among the mul-
titudes who live a bare and mean existence. For the cynical among us,
even a modest stabilization of human presence seems unlikely. As cities
grow, they require more of the world for themselves, regardless of how
sustainable this might be. In fact, the more sustainable cities become,
the stronger the justi“
cation for allowing increased urbanization with
more, not less, ecological destruction the result.
This chapter is organized around the two themes signaled by its
title: the negative impact that cities have had and continue to have
on the environment and the prospects and quest for sustainability.
To understand the tension between the two, we need to acknowledge
that the countrys cities are solidly entrenched„
8 of 10 people living
in urbanized areas„
and the bene“
ts of urban living, at least for now,
are widely publicized and embraced. No one that I know of, moreover,
has imagined an alternative and equivalent form of human settlement.
Consequently, we can neither return to a state of nature, and inno-
cence, nor abandon the cities. Our only hope is to become better at
mediating between the citys environmental destructiveness and its
potential for sustainability.
Cities and Nature
The beginning point for any negotiation of this contradiction begins
with recognition of the inseparability of culture and nature and, thus,
the indivisibility of cities and the natural environment. The modernist
conceit is that humans are a species qualitatively different from and
superior in many ways to other living things. Humans have free will,
interact with each other using elaborate languages, collaborate to pro-
duce steam engines and cities, are able to imagine the consequences of
their intentions, and often act emotionally (even though they are ulti-
mately in control of their baser urges). Plants, animals, birds, and in-
sects ostensibly lack similar qualities and these differences enable hu-
mans to dominate them. This argument justi“
es thinking of the world
wholly from a human perspective. The belief, however, is false. Culture
and nature are not separate and distinct realms. Anyone who interacts
with animals, for example, soon realizes that they have intentions and
are capable of learning, much like humans. We are not so different.
The modernist conceit is based on a false distinction and, partly be-
cause of this, cities should not be considered a displacement of nature
but rather a collaboration with it.
For the most part, cities are set within the landscape and tightly
joined to the natural world on which they depend. Without the air
and water that ecologies provide, humans would not be able to sur-
vive. Rock and soils support their buildings and roads and provide the
materials for making walls, ”
oors, and pavements. Plants, animals,
and insects are abundant and, in almost all instances, an unavoidable
presence. Set within nature,Ž cities have not, however, left it intact.
Trees are removed and hills ”
attened to make sites for homes and of-
ce parks. Rivers are dredged and their banks shaped so that docks can
be built. The ecologies of predators (such as wolves) are disrupted and
even destroyed. For centuries, and as humans built their settlements,
wetlands that had once provided food and shelter for birds, “
sh, and
other aquatic creatures were “
lled with gravel or, worse, with the ashes
from incinerators, construction debris, and the discarded objects of
daily life. Factories and power plants pollute the nearby streams and
soils on which they are built. Plant colonies are uprooted, animal and
bird migratory pathways disturbed, and rivers and streams dammed so
as to create reservoirs and navigable bodies of water. As a consequence,
fewer wild animals are present, even though deer and black bears in
search of food now frequently wander into the suburbs of Denver, New
York, and other cities.
As cities evolve, new plants, animals, and land forms appear.
berries and sage brush are pushed aside by lawns, ornamental plants,
and shade trees. Domesticated pets„
dogs, cats, gold“
sh, parakeets„
replace the foxes, snakes, and rabbits that had previously inhabited
these places. Rats and pigeons multiply as they adapt to city life; hawks
build nests on apartment buildings to survey the sidewalks and parks
for prey and to protect their young. Certain insects„
mosquitoes, spi-
ders, and cockroaches„
become more prevalent. Ants, house”
ies, and
bedbugs invade residences and businesses. Bird species become fewer as
their habitats are displaced by homes and factories. Novel land forms
(such as outdoor amphitheaters and ponds) are placed in parks with
many of these bodies of water and open “
elds becoming stopover des-
tinations for migratory birds. New surfaces appear: cobblestone streets,
asphalt roads, crushed stone walkways, and permeable concrete al-
leyways. Nonnative plants (lilac bushes) and trees (ailanthus) are in-
troduced. Much of nature is displaced by the city, but nature is still
To establish these accommodations and collaborations, numerous
technologies are developed and deployed.
They are built so that hu-
mans can communicate with each other (as with cell-
phone towers)
or travel from place to place or engage with (while also exploiting) na-
ture and its many ecologies. At times, these technologies are benign; at
other times, destructive. Funiculars are built so that humans can tra-
verse steep slopes, while (visually less intrusive but nonetheless prob-
lematic) pesticides are used to control the mosquito population in the
wetlands along the lakefront. Dams, aqueducts, and sewer systems are
used to store and channel water. Treatment plants make water potable.
Devices are attached to the smokestacks of factories and utility plants
to clean pollutants from the fumes that are being discharged; cata-
lytic converters on automobiles and trucks perform a similar function.
Waste disposal systems combat noxious smells by removing decaying
esh, food, and feces from streets and backyards. Traps are set for mice
and rats. Exterminators spray chemicals to eradicate cockroaches and
other insects.
Areas of parks and playgrounds are designated as dog runs. Regula-
tions are posted on their entry gates and the urine-
saturated soils are
periodically replaced. Laws are passed to control which animals can
be kept as pets and how they can be disposed of when they die. Walls
and roofs protect humans from the rain, the sun, and the wind. Special
foundation systems have been invented to enable tall buildings to rise
skyward and serve as of“
ce space for corporate executives. Air qual-
ity monitors indicate when automobile traf“
c should be limited. Tem-
perature signs remind us of what to wear and weather forecasts warn of
imminent ”
ooding or sandstorms. In the city, humans engage nature
directly and through the intermediaries of technologies.
This interaction of technology, nature, and humans is central to the
founding, growth, and development of cities. San Francisco is a typi-
cal example: nature and the city (supposed opposites) are intertwined.
The city could not have grown without nearby farms to produce foods
for its residents. As the city grew, however, it did not simply push these
farms further away, but absorbed them into its periphery. Watersheds
were designated and pumping technologies used to bring water from
afar, thus integrating them into the urban fabric. Construction required
building materials and, as a result, brick-
making operations, concrete
plants, and quarries (to mine sand and gravel) came to be interspersed
throughout the region. The bay, a de“
ning element of the San Fran-
cisco landscape, was dredged for minerals, used for commercial “
and the harvesting of shell“
sh, and “
lled with rocks and soils to make
land for new development. Pollution from pesticides and manufactur-
ing along with the runoff from roadways further transformed the bay.
None of this was inseparable from local and even supra-
local politics
as different groups vied for place and pro“
ts and worked to make San
Francisco a city attuned to their needs. Despite the unavoidable depen-
dence of humans on nature, as geographer Richard Walker has noted,
no city will ever be reconciled with the countryside.Ž
For him, this is
inevitable when growth is a dominant goal and capitalism the domi-
nant form of political-
Technologies are not just ways of adapting nature to human pur-
Humans also have to adapt to and collaborate with nature;
they have to share the city with it„
coexist. If cities like Las Vegas, Los
Angeles, and Phoenix that lack nearby sources of water are to continue
to grow, they must “
nd ways to accommodate to water scarcity using
technology to bring water to them and “
nding means to utilize and re-
cycle ef“
ciently the water that they have. The residents of Denver have
to accept that winter will bring major snow storms that will slow travel,
despite ”
eets of snow plows. The suburban residents of many metro-
politan areas can scarcely ignore the non-
domesticated animals (such
as deer, coyotes, black bears, and turkeys) that wander into their midst
and disrupt their lives. Of“
ce towers have to be designed to minimize
the disorienting effects that their glass facades have on migratory birds,
thereby preventing bird deaths and damage to the buildings. And, as
most residents of cities are well aware, stepping around that ”
ock of
pigeons on the sidewalk might well be preferable to walking through
To think of the city as solely the realm of humans is to inhabit a fan-
tasy world. Such cities simply do not exist. Cities are not for peopleŽ
alone. Acknowledging this is the “
rst step in recognizing that the city
is an accommodation and collaboration with nature. And although
such arrangements vary greatly in the bene“
ts they confer on each of
the parties and the consequences they have for environmental sustain-
ability, they are no less important or consequential because of it. The
extra bene“
t of such a perspective is to undermine the hubris of hu-
mans that portrays them as masters of the universe.
Dominating Nature
We can grasp the actual as well as the potential destructiveness of cities
by re”
ecting on them in a historical context. Their destructive impact
was particularly striking before the passage of environmental laws in
the mid-
twentieth century meant to preserve ecological sites, mandate
levels of air and water quality, protect endangered species, and encour-
age the use of renewable energy sources. Three cities, at different points
in history, will serve as examples: Jamestown, Pittsburgh, and Phoenix.
With this understanding in place, we can then turn to two of the ways
that policymakers and researchers think about the intrusion of cities
on nature: urban metabolism and the ecological footprint. Tying them
together is the undeniable presence of urban sprawl.
The destructiveness and sustainability of human settlements has a
good deal to do with scale; that is, with how large and dense these
settlements are and the numbers of people who work, live, and play
there. Particularly important are the technologies that support these
activities. They enable humans to grow crops, make use of natural re-
sources (such as water sources), produce commodities from buildings to
clothing, and dispose of waste. Many of the technologies used in the
countryside for raising crops and mining stone, moreover, were created
in cities. This is one of the reasons that the famous urban commen-
tator Jane Jacobs argued that rural economies, including agricultural
work, are directly built on city economies and city work.Ž
By this sca-
lar logic, when settlements are sparsely populated, their inhabitants
can live by using renewable resources (for example, harvesting trees for
fuel), take “
sh from streams without depleting the stocks, or farm the
land so as to maintain the quality of the soil. The environment is not
irreparably harmed. As one historian commented about one speci“
environmental problem: Outdoor air pollution of any serious conse-
quence came only with cities.Ž
Contrary to this logic, small and low-
density human settlements
are not necessarily a path to environmental sustainability. The ancient
city of Ur, for example, was responsible for the deforestation of a large
area of Mesopotamia and experienced shortages of water due to intense
agricultural cultivation.Ž
An equally complicated set of relationships
has characterized subsequent settlements. Take, as an example, James-
town in Virginia in the years just after its founding in 1607.
Led by Captain John Smith of The Virginia Company, an entity
chartered by King James as a pro“
making enterprise, over 100 En-
glish settlers landed on Paspahegh island in the Powhatan (later,
James) River and proceeded to build a fort along with small, thatched
houses in which to live.
The expectation was that the settlers would
trade with the natives, grow their own crops, “
sh and hunt, and send
commodities such as “
sh and salt back to England. In contemporary
terms, the settler community would be (by necessity) sustainable. The
speaking tribes (known as the Powhatan) were not particu-
larly welcoming however. They had clashed with earlier English expe-
ditions and were suspicious of invaders. Nevertheless, they did share
two of their main crops„
maize (corn) and tobacco„
with the new-
comers. The strained relationship led to con”
ict with periodic killings
on both sides and a massacre by the Powhatan in 1622 that left 347set-
tlers dead.
Past encounters between native Americans and settlers were not the
only reason for the con”
ict. The settlers also failed to grow suf“
quantities of food and their cultivation of tobacco for trade with En-
gland used valuable agricultural land and diverted their energies from
food production. Consequently, and despite the abundance of game,
sh, fruit, and berries in the area, the early settlers were constantly
on the verge of starvation. Seemingly incapable of planting and har-
vesting food to meet their needs, they were also burdened by poor wa-
ter supplies and the diseases attributed to nearby swamps and marsh-
lands. Between 1606 and 1624, 7,289 immigrants landed in Jamestown
and 6,040 died of malnutrition, disease, or violence. In the winter of
10, “
ve hundred colonists were reduced to sixty.Ž
In response,
the settlers took to raiding the native villages for food. What partly dis-
couraged the settlers from growing food crops and where settlers were
successful was with the lucrative trade in tobacco. This crop, though,
led the Virginia Company to expropriate more and more land for to-
bacco plantations, thus further encroaching on lands the natives used
to farm, hunt, and “
sh. This expansion and the constant attacks on
the natives irrationally destroyed the supplies of grain and “
sh sorely
needed by both races.Ž
Until the English settlement, the Powhatan had lived in small vil-
lages, engaged in sedentary agriculture, and hunted and “
shed. Their
presence was sustainable; there was an ecological balance. The James-
town settlement changed this. The growth of tobacco as the dominant
(settler) crop depleted the soil of its nutrients and led to further en-
croachment on the “
elds and forests. The growth of the settler popu-
lation as a result of additional immigration drew down the stocks of
sh, birds, and animals, while the need for wood for fuel and building
materials depleted the forests. John Smith in 1629 wrote that James
Towne [has] most of the woods destroyed, little corn there planted, but
all converted into pastures and gardens.Ž
In addition, the ecological
footprint of the area was signi“
cant in that the settlers mostly relied
on England for tools, utensils, and items to trade with the natives. And,
it expanded as the number of residents grew. The ecological footprint
was further extended into the interior as tobacco plantations were es-
tablished and settlers migrated westward. The story of one of the coun-
trys earliest European settlements, and thus of its earliest European
towns and cities, is hardly one of environmental sustainability or sym-
pathetic coexistence with the regions social ecology.
By the early twenty-
rst century, few such seemingly self-
and small settlements exist in comparison to the vast number of cities
whose ecological footprints extend well beyond their political bound-
aries. Of“
cially designated cities in the United States in 2000 ranged
in size from Carson City (NV) with 52,460 residents to New York City
with 8,008,280 residents. Their land areas varied from Hobokens (NJ)
one square mile to Anchorages (AK) 1,697 square miles. And, their
densities started at Anchorages 153 people per square mile and ended
at Union Citys (NJ) 52,970 people per square mile.
When cities be-
coming bigger and metropolitan areas expand in land area, the human
population makes greater and greater use of the land and raises the
potential for environmental damage.
Cities are not small villages of low density relying mainly on tech-
nologies that use only renewable resources.
Large and dense, with
almost none of their residents engaged in farming, addicted to fossil-
fuel energy sources, and needing to import large amounts of food and
materials, they cannot live lightly on the land as could Native Ameri-
cans. The industrial cities of the early twentieth century are prime
examples of the way in which urbanization and technologies severely
compromised the natural environment. Changes in production tech-
niques, “
nancing, and management practices enabled business owners
to expand their “
rms and produce for mass markets. Small workshops
were turned into large factories and, as markets grew geographically,
it became more and more important to locate these factories adjacent
to ports and near rail hubs. People ”
ocked to the city, both to “
nd em-
ployment and because the mechanization of agriculture was making
scale farming and self-
cient living less and less viable. Busi-
ness owners and households required services such as paved streets, “
protection, and public markets. The cities grew, simultaneously becom-
ing denser and expanding across the land.
This urbanization occurred in the absence of regulations that now
exist to protect the natural environment. Air and water pollution were
rampant. Soils were contaminated with the by-
products of manufac-
turing. Wetlands were “
lled so that warehouses could be built next to
docks. Animals were chased away; forests were denuded. Housing was
built adjacent to factories and both were built in the absence of build-
ing codes and safety regulations. Wells were not inspected. The result
was cities susceptible to the spread of disease and prone to destructive
res that spread from one ”
ammable property to another. In the early
twentieth century, it was still acceptable to keep pigs and goats in the
city and the use of horses to draw carriages and carts contributed sig-
cantly to the unsanitary condition of the streets. The industrial city
brought extensive environmental destruction.
Consider the case of Pittsburgh. Even though this is an historical
and an example of behaviors and conditions that would not be
tolerated today„
it illustrates how cities engaged with the natural en-
vironment during a period of large-
scale industrialization. Pittsburgh
es the environmental conditions that plagued cities that had
large, heavy-
manufacturing sectors (such as automobile and steel pro-
duction) during the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries.
From the mid-
1800s onward, Pittsburghs prosperity came from the
abundance of coal in the region and from rivers that allowed iron ore
to be brought down from the north and steel to be sent by barge to
markets to the east and south. Mining and iron manufacturing became
critical industries. As the 1900s unfolded, steel manufacturing rose to
a dominant position and massive, integrated plants were built along
the riverbanks. Steel was joined by other large manufacturers: railroad
equipment, metals fabrication, and electrical equipment among others.
Air, water, and soil pollution were three of the consequences. The citys
hilly topography pushed these factories onto the rivers ”
oodplains and
into the river valleys with railroad tracks, rail yards, and shipping fa-
cilities located there as well. By the early twentieth century, and in the
absence of environmental regulations and effective land-
use controls,
the city had become environmentally degraded. As early as 1866, one
commentator wrote that quiet valleys have been inundated with slag,
defaced with refuse, marred by hideous buildings. Streams have been
polluted with sewage and waste from the mills. Life for the majority of
the population has been rendered unspeakably pinched and dingy.Ž
Pittsburghs many factories, its reliance on coal for heating and as
an energy source for manufacturing, waste from the steel mills, and
buildings erected on the ” oodplains contributed to poor air and water
quality, periodic ”
ooding of the city, and hillsides, ravines, and valleys
lled with contaminated soils and waste.
By the mid-
ried that pollution controls and a shift away from coal would mean a
loss of jobs. As the economy transitioned away from manufacturing
and the regions steel industry declined, these controls became less of a
potential burden and were widely implemented.
Pittsburghs industry and a lack of land-
use controls also contributed
to soil contamination and the degradation of hillsides and valleys. The
closure of the mills in the 1980s left behind brown“
eld sites that had
to be remediated before new development could take place. The pro-
duction of steel had generated large quantities of slag and this slag had
been dumped in ravines and valleys, killing plant and animal life and
polluting streams. The postwar expansion of automobile ownership
led to the construction of boulevards and highways within the city, a
number of which were cut into hillsides and placed along the waters
edge. Environmental laws subsequently reduced soil pollution and pro-
vided the legal and “
nancial basis for cleaning up the brown“
eld sites.
And, with the shrinkage of the steel industry and resultant decline of
the citys resident population, the building of highways ceased as well.
Numerous Federal environmental protections were initiated in the
1970s in response to the severe air and water pollution still emanat-
ing from oil re“
neries, chemical plants, and tanneries. During that
decade, the National Environmental Protection Act was passed, clean
air and clean water legislation was strengthened, and later, in 1980,
Congress established a program to remediate contaminated indus-
trial sites. As a result, not only was pollution from factories and farms
abated, but encroachments on wetlands, species habitats, and water
bodies became more dif“
cult due to stricter regulations. In New York
City, a city government-
led effort in the 1970s to “
ll in the shore of the
Hudson River as part of a highway improvement project was blocked
by environmental legislation and the courts.
Before this time, there
would have been no strong legal basis available to prevent this from
Despite these laws and the rise of an environmental movement, an
informed citizen can still read of power plants polluting the air with
toxins, barges spilling the oil being delivered to city distributors, hill-
sides collapsing due to excessive runoff from impermeable surfaces, and
rivers and lakes being polluted when heavy storms wash chemicals and
debris from the land. Take, for example, an event that occurred in New
York City in 2005, when water build-
up behind a 75-
high stone
retaining wall caused its collapse and deposited a 150-
wide pile
of soils, trees, and boulders on a major roadway.
And, even with the
introduction of catalytic converters and cleaner grade gasoline, air pol-
lution from trucks and automobiles continues to be an environmental
and public health problem.
As might be expected, environmental harm has not been con“
to the older, industrial cities. (See table 3.1.) Phoenix, a city lacking in
the heavy manufacturing associated with the environmental problems
of places like Providence, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh, is a good example.
Phoenix, San Diego, Dallas, Orlando, and other cities in the south and
west of the country are not known for goods production, but for busi-
ness and “
nancial services, medical care, technology, education, and
tourism; that is, economic activities that ostensibly do not pose obvi-
ous environmental risks. Yet, these cities still have industries causing
environmental damage. Many had an
d continue to have manufactur-
ing districts and railroad yards and ports that are not quite as cleanŽ
(environmentally speaking) as banking. These cities were not estab-
lished after dirtyŽ manufacturing had closed or moved offshore. They
are not pristinely post-
industrial. Moreover, many contemporary man-
ufacturing processes (for example, the production of semiconductors in
San Jose, California) have serious environmental consequences.
we should not forget the airports, parking lots, and limited-
access high-
ways whose environmental impacts have to be constantly mitigated.
The ethnographer Andrew Ross has labeled Phoenix the countrys
least sustainable city.
His claim might be borderline hyperbolic, but
his case for the environmental inadvisability and destructiveness of
Table 3.1
Least Green Cities in the United
Baton Rouge, LA
eld, CA
Memphis, TN
Note: Based on a scale developed from measures of environ-
mental quality, greenŽ transportation, energy sources, and
local policies.
Source: Richard Bernardo, 2015s Greenest Cities in
America,Ž WalletHub website, accessed April 7, 2016, www
Phoenix is convincing. The city is located in a region with fewer than
8 inches of annual rainfall and with aquifers insuf“
cient for support-
ing a city of 1.6 million people and a metropolitan area of 4.2 million
people that sprawls over 1,000 square miles. Consequently, water has
to be imported from 335 miles away. In addition, Phoenix is located
in one of the hottest areas of the country and requires extensive use of
consuming air conditioning to make it livable in the summer.
It also imports almost everything its residents consume: water, energy,
manufactured goods, and perishable products,Ž thus giving it an ex-
tensive ecological footprint.
Being a low-
density city with little mass
transit, its residents rely heavily on the automobile. This, and the fact
that it is also in a geological basin, has led to high levels of dust pollu-
tion and unhealthy ozone levels. With its economy heavily dependent
on new construction and the real estate industry assertive in its push
for further expansion, usually in the form of land-
hungry residential
subdivisions, farmland continues to shrink as threats to fragile ecologi-
cal areas persist.
Phoenixs environmental destructiveness is due not just to its ill-
advised location, its sprawl, and the ubiquity of the automobile, it is
also related to its industry. Rapid growth and the accompanying con-
struction of new homes, of“
ce buildings, schools, shopping malls, and
highways mean an urban periphery with numerous sand and gravel
operators and asphalt plants that pollute the environment. The region
is also burdened by toxic waste from uranium mines, chemical dump-
ing from factories, numerous hazardous waste facilities, and land“
for disposing of construction debris and the detritus of consumption.
A pro-
growth local culture, moreover, restricts regulation of sprawl
and blocks outright prohibition by the government of such destructive
The toxicity of Phoenix falls heavily on the poor, and particularly
Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans who are segregated
from the af”
uent, white population. Those who are marginalized tend
to live closer to polluting factories and other environmentally sus-
pect land uses and, as a consequence, suffer health problems. Af”
ent, white residents are able to isolate themselves from environmental
harm. Ross writes that there is nothing sustainable in the long run
about one population living the green American dream while, across
town, another is still trapped in poverty and pestilence.Ž
Using an even more alarmist tone, the urban critic Mike Davis
has documented the ecological conundrum that is Los Angeles. In its
hills wander cougars (mountain lions) that prey on pets and, rarely,
on humans
. Snakes wash up on the beaches. Storms cause ”
and “
restorms race through the dry lands of Malibu (an ultra-
community), destroying homes and threatening the lives of animals
and the people who live there. Earthquakes are unavoidable given that
the city straddles a major geological fault. The earthquake in 1994 left
people dead, 12,000 injured, and 25,000 homeless. The total dam-
ages were estimated at $42 billion with 437,000 homes in need of re-
pair. Davis concludes that Los Angeles has deliberately put itself in
harms way. For generations, market-
driven urbanization has trans-
gressed environmental common sense.Ž
porary times, thus making cities much more energy dependent than
rural areas. Evidence further suggests that the
metabolism of
cities is
intensifying, particularly as more and more people move into them.
Stepping back from these examples presents us with another picture
of environmental destructiveness. As cities grew in population size and
number, they increased in density and expanded across land once con-
sidered suburban or even rural. Until European colonization in the sev-
enteenth century, much of this land was inhabited by Native Americans
and used for small-
scale hunting, “
shing, subsistence farming, and the
gathering of wood and plants. By the mid-
nineteenth century, land ad-
jacent to growing cities was often being farmed with single homes and
small factories scattered about and small towns here and there. By the
twentieth century, mass suburbanization was underway.
Land absorption is one of the most destructive consequences of ur-
banization. Currently, more than 380 metropolitan areas occupy ap-
proximately 3 percent of the land of the United States. Much of the
remaining land, however, is unbuildable. Even in exurban areas just
beyond the suburban fringe, only a small proportion of the land (about
16 percent) is developable. Developable land is most abundant in rural
areas, but that is not where people are interested in living. These lands
are unprotected by governmental designation and thus open to many
different uses. Because of soil conditions and extreme slopes, however,
building on them is likely to be dif“
cult and costly.
Until widespread automobile ownership and usage, the land ab-
sorbed into cities roughly matched the growth of the population. Con-
temporary modes of transportation„
commuter rail lines, streetcars„
were not designed to serve low- density development and their effect
was to concentrate the population geographically, not to disperse it.
And even though people had automobiles as far back as the 1900s, they
were expensive and thus uncommon with too few highways existing to
make it easy to commute from small towns in the metropolitan periph-
ery to the central city.
With the surge in automobile ownership and
highway construction after the 1940s, land was absorbed at a much
greater rate than before. Population growth and land absorption be-
came disengaged. Between 1950 and 1980, the number of people living
in metropolitan areas went from 84.5 million to 169.4 million and the
amount of land in urban use went from just less than 20 million acres
to just over 50 million acres.
Of particular note is that U.S. cities
have been built on the most fertile soils.Ž Cities have accounted for a
1.6 percent annual decline in the net primary productivity of land as
measured by plant growth. This has been offset by a 1.8 percent annual
increase from the expansion of farmland.
Adding to the demographic
pressure, households are becoming smaller (with more people living
alone) and homes are becoming bigger. The average household size in
the United States has fallen from 3.37 persons in 1950 to 2.59 persons
in 2010, while the average home size went from 1,730 square feet in
1983 to 2,600 square feet in 2013.
These factors amplify the impact of
urbanization on the land and, even though this land is not necessarily
despoiled, much of it had once been used for agriculture and its loss
is signi“
cant. Development, moreover, often brings soil erosion along
with water and air pollution.
Over the past four or “
ve decades, this concern for the encroach-
ment on productive farmland and ecological areas has been debated
around the issue of sprawl. The postwar suburban development that
came to de“
ne the US metropolis was one of low-
density communities
organized around the automobile, with the automobile geographically
dispersing rather than geographically concentrating homes, businesses,
and public services such as schools, parks, and playgrounds. Sprawl ap-
pears when rapid, unplanned, or at least uncoordinated, scattered,
density, automobile-
dependent growth [occurs] at the edge or in
the urban periphery.Ž It is the consequence of a complex array of con-
ditions: a growing population, rising incomes, greater automobile use
and highway construction, falling commuter costs, federal policies,
weak development controls, and popular attitudes related to race and
poverty. One observer described sprawl as the new kind of postindus-
trial ugliness that was overspreading the landscape.Ž
A 2014 study of sprawl in the countrys metropolitan areas used four
factors to measure its existence: the density of development, the mix
of land uses, the spatial juxtaposition of people and jobs, and the con-
nectivity of streets and their accessibility to pedestrians.
Using these
four factors, the authors created an index that ranked the metropoli-
tan areas in terms of how compact and interconnected they were. At
the top of the list were New York City, San Francisco, Atlantic City
(NJ), Santa Barbara (CA), and Champaign/Urbana (IL). At the bottom
of the list were Hickory (NC), Atlanta, Clarksville (TN), Prescott (AZ),
and Nashville. The study then noted that people in more compact and
connected metropolitan areas have greater economic mobility, spend
less on the combined costs of housing and transportation (even though
they spend more on housing), and have more transportation options.
They also walk more and are more likely to use mass transit and to be
less obese and live healthier, safer, and longer lives.
Critics of sprawl„
those who champion dense and compact cities„
have enumerated a long list of problems. Sprawl causes excessive travel
due to the spreading out of destinations, is aesthetically displeasing,
contributes to a boring and conformist lifestyle, diverts much-
nancing from the cities (particularly for mass transit), and leads to
racial and economic segregation as minorities are blocked from enter-
ing the suburbs and jobs are located far from those who most need
One of the major criticisms is that sprawl is environmentally
destructive: it encourages more automobile use (increasing greenhouse
gas emissions) and highway construction (taking up more land), makes
cient use of water, sewage, and electrical infrastructure, and leads
to water-
intensive lawns and plantings as well as impermeable surfaces
(especially highways and large parking lots) that cause erosion and
ooding and contribute to water pollution. Additionally, the spread-
ing out of homes impinges on farmland as well as wildlife and plant
habitats. As one critic has commented, Few can argue that low-
development does not increase auto emissions, water use, pollution,
trash, loss of species habitat, and energy consumption.Ž
The defense of sprawl is two-
fold. First, people want to live in sub-
urban environments as indicated by the demand for suburban homes
and the relatively slow growth in the population of central cities. In
fact, many of sprawls defenders consider it the preferred settlement
pattern everywhere in the world.Ž
The truth of this claim is debat-
able. Despite much concern about central city population decline in
the decades after World War II, the central city population went from
53.7million in 1950 to 77.8 million in 1990 and to 114.1 million in
2010. Admittedly, much of this increase had to do with towns grow-
ing into cities rather than older cities expanding; that is, the growth is
partly a statistical phenomenon. Second, low-
density development can
much in the same way that cities are said to have the potential to
environmentally sustainable, but only with the addition of more
mass transit options, alternative energy sources, fuel-
cient auto-
mobiles, more compact development, and stewardship of public lands.
In short, only if they become more like cities.
Whether sprawling or not, suburbs pose threats to air, water, and
soil quality as well as being major uses of nonrenewable energy. In fact,
the postwar suburbs were a major factor in the emergence of the envi-
ronmental movement. Absent environmental laws pertaining to low-
density construction, animal habitats were disrupted, forests were de-
nuded, wetlands were “
lled, and soils were damaged so that large, ”
expanses of land could be prepared for street after street of single-
houses. Insensitivity toward nature on the citys periphery, less than
the threats to wilderness, led to the passage of protective legislation.
Even in the 2010s„
and despite the spate of environmental regulations
that monitor and govern manufacturing processes, transportation,
construction, land development, and ecological remediation„
and suburbs still coexist with nature in ways that are more threatening
than respectful.
One of the destructive sides of cities is captured in the notion of
the ecological footprint.
This footprint measures the land and water
area required to absorb the citys waste and provide it with the energy
and the materials (for example, corn, gravel, and water) that it needs
to function and for residents to enjoy a desirable quality of life. Or,
to use a more evocative de“
nition, the consumption footprint is the
sum of the cropland, grazing land, forest land, “
shing ground, built-
up land, and carbon uptake land .... required to produce the food,
bre, and timber [a city] consumes, and to absorb the carbon dioxide
waste it generates.Ž The emphasis is on the ”
ow of energy and matter
into and out of the city with the measure capturing the impact of a city
on nearby and far-
ung ecosystems. And although land absorption is
only a small fraction of their environmental impact,Ž land is still cen-
tral to this way of thinking about the environmental effects of cities.
Ideally, and to be environmental sustainable, the provision of resources
and absorption of wastes should not deplete the capital stocks within
the footprint or undermine ecological systems. One of the overarching
questions is the extent to which a city runs an ecological de“
cit or sus-
tainability gap through its use of nonrenewable resources.
Not surprisingly, cities have extensive ecological footprints. They
draw resources from around the world and send waste such as obso-
lete electronic products well beyond their political boundaries. Con-
sequently, cities use up much more of the planet than they occupy;
they exceed the carrying capacity of the land on which they sit. For
cities in advanced economies, food comes from across the country and
beyond their borders, electronics and carbon-
based fuels are imported,
clothing is produced in low-
wage economies and transported in con-
tainer ships to local markets, and water (as in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and
Los Angeles) is brought from hundreds of miles away. People might
live in local places, but those who live in cities can do so only because
businesses, transportation systems, and “
nancial arrangements pull re-
sources from elsewhere. Not to do so would mean living at subsistence
levels, depriving most middle-
class people of their way of life.
Well known is that the United States is far from exemplary when
it comes to such environmental matters. Of 22 countries that include
Pakistan, Sweden, and Australia, the United States in 2002 had the larg-
est ecological footprint and its ecological de“
cit was the highest. In
fact, it was 13 times the average for the group. A study of the resource
ows of 27 megacities with populations exceeding 10 million in 2010
ranked New York City as the highest in total energy consumption, wa-
ter use, and solid waste disposal. Los Angeles ranked “
As regards
the ecological footprints of US cities, researchers for the Global Foot-
print Network put those of Seattle, Washington, DC, and Minneapo-
lis above that of New York City. Using global hectares consumed per
capita as its measure, all of the former metropolitan areas ranked over
the US average, while New York City ranked below it. A more detailed
analysis for San Francisco found that the three biggest contributors to
its consumption ecological footprint were food and beverages, trans-
port, and restaurants and hotels.
Big cities have large ecological footprints. At the same time, they are
less environmentally destructive than smaller cities while cities over-
all are less environmentally destructive than suburbs and rural settle-
ments. (See table 3.2.) The total household carbon footprint of large
cities is 80 percent of the large suburbs. While cities have extensive
ecological footprints, then, they are also more ef“
cient users of energy,
a key element of environmental sustainability. This assessment “
additional support in data on energy use in cities. For 2007, greenhouse
gas emission for the United States was estimated to be 23.6 metric tons
of carbon dioxide equivalence per capita. For cities, this number was
lower: 21.5 for Denver, 18.3 for Minneapolis, 13.7 for Seattle, and 10.5
for New York City.
Cities might be environmentally suspect, but they
are less so than other forms of human settlement.
Table 3.2
Carbon Footprints by Settlement Type
Settlement Type
Total Household Carbon Footprint
Large cities
size cities
Small cities
Rural remote areas
Small suburbs
size suburbs
Large suburbs
Source: Christopher Jones and Daniel M. Kammen, Spatial
Distributions of U.S. Household Carbon Footprints Reveal
Suburbanization Undermines Greenhouse Gas Bene“
ts of
Urban Population Density,Ž
Environmental Science & Technol-
48, no. 12 (2013):895…
902. See Table 1, p. 899.
Undeniable is that cities are environmentally disruptive even if
not as destructive as they were during the period of industrialization
and before extensive environmental regulations. When humans are
brought together in such large and dense human settlements, non-
renewable resources are consumed, land is absorbed, and ecosystems
are displaced, disturbed, and, at times, decimated. That cities might
be less environmentally destructive than other forms of human settle-
ment and that they might have great potential to be sustainable is piv-
otal to this environmental contradiction.
Quest for Sustainability
Even though much evidence points to the environmental destructive-
ness of cities, it is generally claimed that cities are our most sustain-
able settlement option. The argument travels along three paths: den-
sity, technology, and the inherent superiority of cities over their main
form to establish a basis on which to pursue policies that reduce energy
use and minimize the impacts that cities have on ecological systems.
Transportation is another critical element. Because of their density„
the concentration of travelers and the proximity of destinations„
can support subways, buses, light rail, and trolleys and services such as
taxis, commuter vans, and automobile-
sharing. Since 2000, Camden
(NJ), Charlotte (NC), Houston, Little Rock, Tacoma, and Tampa among
others have added light rail or street car systems to their transportation
options. This reduces automobile usage. People travel more ef“
less fuel is used, and less land has to be devoted to parking lots and ga-
rages. Mass transit also reduces greenhouse gas emissions, although au-
tomobile usage still predominates in all US cities except for New York.
And, because destinations are closer together, people are more likely to
walk or even bike, thereby shifting to renewable energy sources. Con-
sequently, many city governments in the United States have passed
laws to discourage an overabundance of parking spaces, considered re-
ducing automobile access to the central business district by assessing
tolls for doing so, and encouraged greater bicycle use and automobile
Buildings are also major energy users and the form they take in
dense, urban settings holds out another possibility for increasing
sustainability. Buildings consume 71 percent of the nations electric
power and 39 percent of all power, and create 39 percent of the nations
CO2 emissions.Ž
Apartment buildings use less energy per house-
hold than single-
family, detached houses or garden apartments. They
share exterior walls, thus diminishing energy loss, and have less ex-
terior surface per occupant than detached, single-
family homes. Tall
ce buildings have similar environmental qualities. Not only are
they already relatively energy-
cient when compared to of“
ce parks
(where the buildings are low-
rise and separated from each other), but
they occupy less land per worker. And, the larger size of of“
ce tow-
ers and apartment buildings in cities compared to suburbs means
that they house more activities per acre. These buildings can be made
even more energy-
cient and sustainable through recycling of waste
during construction, the use of low-
energy materials such as wood,
green roofs that reduce heat absorption and capture rain water, gray
water systems that recirculate water rather than simply disposing of it,
sensitive exterior walls, regulated interior lighting systems, air
recycling, and shared heating arrangements. Both Seattle and Houston
have established initiatives to encourage sustainable building projects,
with Houston focusing on their energy ef“
ciency in order to coun-
teract the heavy use of air conditioning. Berkeley (CA), among many
other cities, has a program to enable homeowners to convert to solar
Many of these sustainable building technologies are made “
nancially feasible because of the large scale of buildings; converting a
boiler to cleaner fuels in an apartment building has an impact across
a greater number of people than converting furnaces in single-
detached houses.
To state the obvious, dense cities also use less land than less dense
places. Generally, cities do not encroach as extensively on farms, wood-
lands, and prairies as, for example, sprawling suburbs. Leaving wood-
lands, nearby farms, meadows, and streams unencumbered with devel-
opment allows animals, birds, and plants to thrive with all the bene“
of carbon sequestration, absorption
of stormwater, and protection of
biodiversity. And while dense cities are more likely to set aside land for
parks to be used for human recreation, rather than left unspoiled by
human use, even these recreational areas have positive environmental
ts. In a number of major cities such as Philadelphia or St. Louis,
the major parks are large enough to support not just humans but sig-
cant numbers of animals, birds, and insects not to mention plant
life. Many cities have begun to design green spaces to control storm-
water runoff, have daylighted streams (that is, restored streams to their
natural state above ground), encouraged the use of permeable surfaces,
softened their waterfronts, and developed protections for wild animals
and aquatic creatures as well as local plant life. Philadelphia is a good
example of these latter efforts, having embarked on a citywide storm-
water management plan.
A citys contribution to lessening land absorption has much to do
with urban form; that is, the way buildings and structures are arranged
in a city. This encompasses not just compactness but also the juxtapo-
sition of different types of land-
using activities. The argument is that
sustainability rests on how cities are spatially organized. Simply being
dense is insuf“
cient. Much as a building bene“
ts from being prop-
erly oriented in terms of sun and wind, a city bene“
ts environmen-
tally when it is sited to minimize its impact on ecologically sensitive
areas and when the different activities it contains are arranged so as to
minimize movement between them. One comparative analysis of ur-
ban form indicated that 5.25 tons of carbon emissions were generated
annually by each household at average suburban densities whereas at
average urban densities each household generated 1.29 tons. Moreover,
the energy consumed by the average urban household was one-
half of
that consumed by the average suburban household.
This concern with compact urban form is most apparent when
governments establish growth boundaries around their cities. These
boundaries constrict the spread of development in order to preserve
farmland and wildlife areas and achieve economies of scale in infra-
structure use through higher densities. Essentially, land-
use regula-
tions are used to block or severely curtail development on the citys
urban fringe, thereby directing it inward to already built-
up areas and
encouraging, as an additional environmental bene“
t, the adaptive re-
use and upgrading of existing buildings and structures. Portland (OR)
is the countrys prime example of a growth boundary.
Two of this arguments central concerns are mixed-
use areas and
oriented developments. The “
rst is a reaction to the segregation
of land uses that was championed by early twentieth-
century city plan-
ning. In response to the chaos of the industrial city that led to homes
being built adjacent to noisy and polluting factories and factories en-
croaching on emerging of“
ce districts, the early city planners argued
for and achieved a separation of land uses. Residential, commercial,
and industrial activities would occupy different parts of the city. This
minimized the undesirable impacts (known as negative externalities)
of one land use on another. The noise of a metal fabrication factory
would be too far away from residential areas to disturb anyones sleep
and the smells of a poultry processing plant would not drift into a re-
tail district. But while this protected people from noise, smoke, and
the fumes of idling trucks and locomotives and, as a consequence, pre-
served their property values, it also maximized the amount of travel
among and between these activities and places. Doctors of“
ces, hard-
ware stores, movie theaters, and homes were all in their distinct and
separate places. People no longer went a few streets away to work or
walked mere blocks to the grocery store. Now, they had to travel by bus
or automobile to do their daily tasks.
By the late twentieth century, large cities no longer harbored nox-
ious industries and the shipping that served them. Consequently,
many planners, developers, and elected of“
cials began to recognize the
value of mixing rather than separating land uses. Bringing retail, resi-
dences, and work spaces together came to be seen as the best way to en-
courage more lively public spaces. People would live close to their place
of employment, while restaurants, retail shops, specialty food stores,
cinemas, and clubs would be within walking distance of their homes.
Unlike the industrial city, the city would be organized around con-
sumption rather than production. Doing so would decrease automobile
travel (saving energy and diminishing pollution) and make life more
attractive simply by being more urban. Such mixed-
use areas bene“
greatly from substantial densities. When densities are low, stores can-
not remain open, public libraries are less viable, and restaurants are
vulnerable to “
nancial failure.
With high densities, they thrive.
This idea of mixed-
use areas rests on the energy-
saving bene“
ts of
mass transit. The two come together in the form of transit-
developments (TODs) that combine mixed-
use areas with mass tran-
sit stops.
The idea is that higher residential densities around subway
stops, light rail stations, or bus-
rapid transit stations will encourage
people to walk more (since mass transit is nearby) and provide the req-
uisite density to support the transit node. The mix of uses will decrease
the amount of travel for those who work close by, particularly when it
includes of“
ces and stores that provide jobs. Others will have to com-
mute to the central of“
ce area or to transit nodes where they are em-
ployed, but can do so using the mass transit available to them in their
neighborhood. With mixed uses, including a critical mass of housing,
even commuters will not have to drive to the stations. Over time, the
existence of these stations will spur even greater densities as businesses
and people locate to where life is more convenient and urban amenities
more accessible. Higher densities will attract developers and investors
as well. All of this is a considerable improvement over the sprawl of the
suburbs where all trips require an automobile.
The second path along which the argument for the inherent sus-
tainability of cities travels is that of technologies. Density enables a
variety of technologies to be deployed at a scale that saves energy, re-
duces land absorption, and minimizes environmental burdens. Mass
transit is more feasible, thermal heating systems can be shared, water
runoff can be controlled through green roofs and permeable surfaces,
street lighting can be regulated with sensing devices, and car-
arrangements can be made pro“
table. In addition, local governments
can promote bicycle and pedestrian alternatives and emphasize access
by proximity.Ž Cities also enable various energy-
saving building tech-
nologies to be widely instituted. These include gray water systems that
recycle the water from wash basins and clothes washers, glass curtain
walls on of“
ce buildings that include electronically controlled louvers
that modulate heat loss and absorption depending on the outside tem-
perature, and greater use of solar panels.
Waste recycling processes
minimize the use of land“ lls, while technologies for capturing the re-
usable material from construction and demolition further contribute
to sustainability.
Local governments are particularly important in this regard since
regulatory powers and sensitivity to broad social consequences, rather
than narrow pro“
tability, enable them to adopt emerging technologies
such as hybrid vehicles and solar power. They can test these innova-
tions and serve as an example for the private sector.
In addition, gov-
ernment regulations are essential for activities such as recycling and
for shifting travelers to mass transit by limiting the parking spaces in
ce districts. One of the most important of these technologies is mass
transit, either buses or subways or light rail, that are meant to encour-
age people to shift from the automobile to more energy-
cient transit
modes, thereby reducing air pollution. Governments are also central to
entertainment and jobs, the city has come to be seen as another varia-
tion on this merging of two worlds that began in the early twentieth
century with Ebenezer Howards garden cities.
In this instance, how-
ever, nature has been “
ltered through technology rather than left in its
ostensible original state or reimagined as well-
manicured lawns.
All forms of human settlement have the potential to be more sus-
tainable, but this potential seems greater for cities than for low-
suburbs. The idealŽ city is the sustainable city populated by individ-
uals and technologies that minimize energy use and discourage fur-
ther encroachment on the natural environment. Sustainability will
be achieved through density and through the potential for shared ac-
tivities and economies of scale that density promises. Moreover, gov-
ernments will play a central role in passing laws and subsidizing busi-
nesses and households to be environmentally responsible.
Key to the inclination to sustainability is the notion of sharing.
Consider the seemingly extreme claim that nowhere in human cul-
ture is the centrality of collaboration and sharing more obvious than
in the city.Ž
Despite the concentration of private wealth, and the self-
ishness that it implies, cities are considered places where people are lit-
erally compelled to share buses, sidewalks, taxis, and apartment houses
and continually brought into contact with each other in ways that en-
gender mutual recognition and even assistance. Constant interaction
serves as a basis for sharing and it enables goods and services, infra-
structure, and places to be heavily used, thereby avoiding the environ-
mental costs of individual ownership and use.
While heightening densities to decrease land absorption, expanding
mass transit use, and recycling waste and water can contribute to mak-
ing the city more sustainable, they have only a minor impact on re-
ducing its ecological footprint. More critical in importance is reducing
energy use by buildings and, at the top of the list, shifting to renewable
energy sources. Seattles reputation as a sustainable city rests on the
fact that 90 percent of its electricity comes from hydropower and the
remaining 10 percent is offset by composting, methane recapture, and
biodiesel fuels.
As for reducing a citys ecological footprint, the primary initiative in
this regard is making of“
ce towers, apartment buildings, retail stores,
and factories much more energy-
cient, including the creation of dis-
trict energy systems. What receives more publicity, though, is the local
sourcing of material ”
ows into the city, speci“
cally of food. Through
the use of farmers or greenŽ markets and public pressure to encourage
households and restaurants to buy fruit and vegetables, chicken and
meat, herbs, and “
sh from nearby producers, the intent is to reduce the
distance traveled by food as it enters the city.
The ecological footprint
can also be reduced by considering the geographical origins of the in-
puts to nonfood businesses (such as printing companies) and local gov-
ernment. In addition, local economic development agencies are work-
ing with planning agencies to set aside land for spatially integratedŽ
business clusters so as to minimize the reliance on transportation of
materials in and products out, similar to considerations involving the
movement of workers between their homes and their jobs.
A number of cities have earned a deserved reputation for efforts to
make themselves more sustainable.
(See table 3.3.) Most renowned in
the United States is Portland, Oregon. Not only does it have a famous
growth boundary meant to forestall sprawl by concentrating develop-
ment toward the center of the city, but in 2013 approximately one-
of its energy came from renewable sources. Second on a recent ranking
was San Francisco with 80 percent of its waste being recycled or com-
posted and over 700 buildings certi“
ed as green.Ž Other cities such as
Seattle, Austin, New York City, and Grand Rapids have embarked on nu-
merous efforts to increase recycling, reduce greenhouse gas emissions,
create more parkland and expand the tree coverage, provide bikeways,
and replace gas-
powered government trucks, vans, buses, and cars with
alternative fuel vehicles. These and other cities have also developed cli-
mate change plans to identify ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Table 3.3
Most Sustainable Cities in the United
States, 2013
San Francisco
Salt Lake City
Grand Rapids, MI
Source: John Light, Cities Leading the Way in Sustainabil-
ity,Ž posted 2013, accessed July 1. 2015, www
See also Elizabeth Svoboda, Americans 50 Greenest Cities,Ž
Popular Science
, posted 2008, accessed April7, 2016, www
and protect against rising sea levels, the increasing severity of storms,
and an intensifying heat island effect.
Despite these success stories,Ž it is dif“
cult to assess de“
the impact of efforts to make cities more ecologically viable and re-
duce their ecological footprints. Certainly these initiatives are admi-
rable and each, in their own way, moves cities closer to the loosely de-
ned state of sustainability. That similar activities might occur in the
suburbs, possibly not as ef“ ciently or with as much of an impact, is a
reminder that we live in a world of relatives rather than absolutes. It
should also remind us that only a minority of the countrys residents
live in the kind of large and dense cities„
New York, Chicago, San Fran-
cisco, Seattle„
on which this urban sustainability argument is based.
Consequently, the claim that If the future is going to be green, then it
must be more urbanŽ should be read skeptically.
Growth, Decline, Resilience
The quest for sustainability seemingly ignores the very problem that
it hopes to solve; that is, that the city is an often destructive intru-
sion and little can be accomplished short of shrinking the population,
dismantling the technologies on which the countrys standard of liv-
ing is based and to which many aspire, and shifting in a major way to
renewable energy. It would also require a return to settlement patterns
that have not existed for some time. Even after 100 or so years of en-
lightened concern about the impact of humans on the natural environ-
ment, humans continue to absorb that environment into the city in
ways that diminish animals, plants, “
sh, soils, insects, land forms, and
bodies of water. The justi“
cation is a hubristic rationale that sets the
material world in service to humans. Poorly recognized is both the in-
separability of human culture from nature and the interdependencies
without which human life would be impossible. Ignoring those inter-
dependencies is at the root of the citys destructiveness.
Yet, it has also been obvious to humans for centuries that these in-
terdependencies have to be respected if humans wish to live in certain
ways. Farmers, early on, discovered and then adapted to the need to re-
plenish the soils on which they grew their crops. City dwellers learned
quickly that one might want to separate privies from wells. Even before
the emergence of governmental regulations in the late nineteenth cen-
tury, city residents knew enough to modulate their relation to nature,
even if they were generally ignorant of the scienti“
c explanations for
their dif“
culties. The Industrial Revolution brought these destructive
tendencies into sharper focus and made their economic and health
consequences politically unavoidable. Since that time, efforts at mini-
mizing the environmental burden of cities and, more recently, at-
tempting to make them more sustainable have continued to multiply,
and with positive effects. No matter how sustainable cities become,
however, they can never be made sympathetic with nature. They are an
imposition and will continue to do damage.
The contradiction between environmental sustainability and de-
structiveness is exacerbated as cities increase in size and density and
as growth races ahead of the ability of local governments to mitigate
its negative consequences through public health regulations, land use
guidelines, and public infrastructures. That said, neither growing nor
declining cities have a monopoly on managing this tension. Growing
cities might absorb more land, encumber water and sewage systems and
roadways, and add pollutants to the air and water, but declining cities
produce contaminated and abandoned sites where manufacturing and
shipping once thrived. Although the former displace animal, “
sh, and
plant habitats, the latter often enable them to return. In Detroit, as
buildings were demolished and block after block was left empty, pheas-
ants, rabbits, hawks, and other wildlife reappeared along with native
The problem for governments in growing cities is one of keep-
ing pace with growth„
minimizing its environmental impact and re-
sponding with the necessary technologies for serving new residents.
Opportunities also exist for creating mixed-
use, transit-
oriented devel-
opments, encouraging greenŽ construction practices and buildings,
and mandating the use of native plants. For governments in declining
cities, the problem is one of reimagining the city as smaller and less
dense and treating this as an opportunity for becoming more sustain-
able. Soils can be remediated, woodlands can be reestablished, formerly
buried streams can be reopened, and land can be set aside to absorb
rainwater runoff.
Once sustainability has been achieved, and for it to endure, the city
has to be made resilient.
The state of sustainability has to be main-
tained and this requires city governments to respond and adapt to
more frequent and more severe storms, sea level rise brought about by
climate change, and unexpected events such as chemical factory ex-
plosions, earthquakes, and acts of terrorism. The ability to respond
to natural disasters is a persistent problem. New York City recovered
relatively quickly from the ”
ooding and damage of Hurricane Sandy
in 2012, but New Orleans has yet to do so from Hurricane Katrina in
2005. Then, there is the slow and unavoidable fact of climate change
with coastal cities such as Miami and Galveston highly vulnerable to
sea level rise and ignoring it at their peril. Speci“
c responses range
from disaster plans and building codes that protect homes from ”
ing to strengthened sea walls, back-
up power supplies, and neighbor-
hood evacuation procedures. Resilience points to the need to adapt to
the ever-
changing accommodations struck by humans, nature, and
The relation of this contradiction to wealth and poverty is not so
obvious. One might expect that cities with large, wealthy populations
and particularly a large middle-
class would produce more political sup-
port for protecting the environment while generating tax revenues suf-
cient to develop programs that encourage sustainability. This does,
in general, seem to be the case. The cities known for their sustainabil-
ity initiatives are places like Seattle, New York City, Portland (OR), and
Austin where housing prices are high, households are relatively af”
ent, and local government competent and engaged. At the same time,
in certain poor and shrinking cities„
Detroit and Cleveland come to
lacking these qualities„
local foundations, nonpro“
t advocacy
groups, and universities have mounted initiatives to address environ-
mental quality.
And in wealthy cities, particularly those that are grow-
ing rapidly, such as Phoenix and San Jose, local political and economic
elites often sacri“
ce environmental protection for growth. Moreover,
while local governments in cities with large poor populations are also
likely to have an anemic tax base with fewer resources to devote to
nonessential services„
the essential ones being police, “
re, and waste
they do have access to state and federal governmental
programs. In wealthier cities, having a strong tax base does not directly
translate into an array of programs and regulations directed at environ-
mental sustainability. These are, of course, political decisions.
This brings us to governance and the contribution that public ac-
tions make to life in the city. Politics does not affect economies and
environments from a position outside of them. Rather, political ar-
rangements are an integral part of their formation and thus of the con-
sequences that cities engender.
That political arrangements vacillate
between oligarchy and democracy is another contradiction in the life
of US cities.
Oligarchic, Democratic
Cities would seem to be ideal places for democracy to
ourish. Living in close proximity to each other, forced
to share services and roads and attend to public health,
and wishing to live harmoniously, residents are compelled
to negotiate differences regarding taxation and matters of
religion, ethnicity, national origin, and lifestyle. The need
to resolve the many and often unpredictable frictions that
cities engender encourages people to embrace democratic
practices that distribute rather than concentrate power,
legally guarantee individual and group rights, enable a
free press, allow for direct rule, and establish the basis for
mutual trust.
Added to this is the sense of mastery that
people experience as they successfully engage with strang-
ers. With its unpredictability and multiplicity, the city re-
wards those who are adept at meeting its challenges. In
turn, this enriches the ground on which democracy can
A politics of coexistence and tolerance has addi-
tional bene“
ts as well; it gives collective meaning to peo-
ples lives and instills the responsibilities of citizenship.
Those who live in cities have ample reasons to gravitate to
forms of governance in which they collectively in”
and jointly participate in the decisions that bear upon
their daily existence.
Because of their size and complexity, cities are also
cult to govern in a centralized fashion. Governing
becomes easier when residents add their knowledge and
support to common endeavors. The decentralization of
making and the delivery of public services allow
governments to adapt to the varied interests of residents,
show them respect, and foster civic awareness. Governments enhance
their legitimacy and stave off opposition by becoming accountable. In
contrast, policies that erode broad political support or disenfranchise
and disadvantage particular groups can be costly for elected of“
In such circumstances, mayors and city councils have to redirect re-
sources to rebuilding political support and, in the worst cases, quell
civil disturbances. From this perspective as well, the nature of cities
seems to encourage and bolster democratic practices.
Historically, democracy has been invigorated by the growth of large
cities. The story of cities,Ž one commentator has written, a bit too
glibly, is the story of democracy.Ž
Democratic, representative govern-
ments were strengthened when cities in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries were faced with widespread poverty, labor and
social unrest, and epidemics. These problems required more than the
paternalism of local elites and the ministrations of church-
based chari-
ties. To discipline the city, address the threats of disease and “
re, and
still dissent, reformers launched more open and democratic practices.
Progressive Era reform in the United States spawned numerous mech-
anisms meant to make government more accountable and accessible.
Such arrangements were part of efforts to mitigate the ills and burdens
of the industrial city.
Citizens were given the opportunity to in”
ence local governmental policy and, with that opportunity, a pathway
opened for addressing the less desirable consequences„
low wages, ex-
cessive hours, child labor„
of the capitalist enterprise. As the twenti-
eth century unfolded, governance mechanisms spread at the workplace
and in urban neighborhoods. By the twenty-
rst century, it was widely
accepted that citizens should be informed and involved not just at elec-
tions, but on a regular basis. Participatory democracy became a com-
mon practice of local governments.
Democracy, of course, is not an inevitable outcome of or precondi-
tion for urbanization. Cities have also prospered under emperors and
dictators. Moscow has grown across decades of nondemocratic rule.
During the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, through the collapse of the
Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and now under the authoritarian
leadership of Vladimir Putin„
from 1939 to 2017„
the city has gained
population and nearly tripled in size to 12.2 million residents. Wash-
ington, DC, a city that lacked self-
rule from its founding in 1790 until
1973, nonetheless continued to attract more and more people to live
and work there.
That said, many cities in the United States, a representative democ-
racy from its origins as a nation, have been governed against a back-
drop of concentrated power and in”
uence that deprives many of the
opportunity to participate in the decisions that affect their lives to-
gether. This I term
. Political machinesŽ were formed in the
late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in a number of large cities
to control elections, use service provision and government contracting
to reward supporters and amass wealth, and block democratic oppo-
sition. Such political arrangements took root in Kansas City, Boston,
Cincinnati, and New York among many other places. These machines
were headed by powerful individuals: Frank Hague in Jersey City (NJ),
James Michael Curley in Boston, William Tweed in New York City, and
George Cox in Cincinnati. By the late twentieth century, most of the
political machines had fallen to reformers. Unsurprisingly, reform was
not total. A well-
known exception was Major Richard J. Daley in Chi-
cago, who spanned the 1960s. Even in the early twenty-
rst century,
many local governments (for example, Atlanta and Houston) are still
run by coalitions of real estate “
rms, large property owners, and “
cial institutions that have joined professional politicians to direct gov-
ernmental resources and regulations to boosting the local economy.
These growth coalitions sit on the margins of the democratic process
with the concentration of in”
uence limiting and sti”
ing democracy
such that the needs and desires of the af”
uent and well-
connected take
precedence over those of the average citizen.
Generally, what we “
nd in US cities are democratic practices set
within oligarchic frameworks comprising economic, political, and cul-
tural elites. Free elections regularly occur, the press is allowed to speak,
and individual and group rights are protected by the courts, but the
big decisions of government regarding capital investments, tax policy,
schooling, and business incentives are mainly the purview of well-
organized and well-
funded interests. Even in the realm of electoral
politics where democracy is supposed to thrive, political parties and
those who make large donations to candidates have a disproportionate
uence on who runs for of“
ce and the decisions they make there.
Lobbyists for business interests, unions, nonpro“
t institutions (such as
universities), and advocacy groups, moreover, are central to the legis-
lative process. Elites, organized interests, and elected of“
cials tend to
dominate city governments, particularly as regards policies concerning
the local economy and such public services as policing. The in”
of elites is disproportionate to their numbers.
Democracy exists not only within and in relation to the local gov-
ernment but also outside of it in neighborhoods, religious associations,
grassroots political organizations, workplaces, and civic groups. People
assert their democratic rights using a multitude of venues, not just the
voting booth or meetings of the city council. In the realm of civil so-
ciety, they establish governance arrangements independent of, tangen-
tial to, and entangled with local governments, the logics of consumer
markets, and the strictures of wage-
salary employment.
a variety of channels, ordinary citizens strive to manage their lives and
their relations to others. They also hope to in”
uence governmental and
corporate decisions and, if unsuccessful, mobilize in opposition. Op-
position, though, is seldom satisfactory and victories are often limited.
In this chapter, I explore the ways in which cities allow and nur-
ture both undemocratic (oligarchic) and democratic practices. I do this
by focusing on governance rather than simply government. There is
more to local democracy than what happens within and in reaction to
governmental policies. Beyond the politics in which governments are
enmeshed are numerous publics that address a range of issues from en-
couraging dog walkers to clean up after their animals to providing rec-
reational activities for senior citizens and advocating for queer rights.
Even when local governments are undemocratic, democracy persists
and ”
ourishes in the myriad spaces of the city.
My concern is with how the residents of cities provide for their col-
lective needs and manage their relations with institutions and others
unlike themselves, doing so amidst the contradictory impulses of de-
mocracy and oligarchy. I begin with civil society„
and, speci“
based democracy„
and then address the democratic
practices of city governments, ending with a brief foray into the extra-
local politics of intergovernmental relations. Politics is not only a mat-
ter of elections, city council hearings, and mayoral proclamations nor
wholly con“
ned to what occurs within the citys boundaries. Rather,
the political activities that make a difference extend outside local gov-
ernment and beyond the city itself. And, although a tendency toward
oligarchy exists and persists in US cities, it is, like democracy, neither
so monolithic nor so entrenched as to be immutable.
Civic Realm
In cities, numerous opportunities exist for people to engage in demo-
cratic self-
governance and thereby create a civic realm that supports
their ways of life.
Many of these opportunities, if not the great major-
ity, stem from the needs and desires of residents to engage others in im-
proving their neighborhoods, forming recreational leagues, speaking
out on public issues, or simply coming together to worship and provide
mutual support. They also encompass the joining of political parties
and campaigning for candidates to public of“
ce. I will use the term
for the kinds of activities that occur outside, around, and
through legally mandated and formal governmental arrangements.
Under this rubric are voluntary organizations, neighborhood associa-
tions, advocacy groups, religious societies, political parties, and social
movements. To begin, I offer a very brief historical comment.
The “
rst European settlers in the United States did not arrive with
their local governments preformed and ready to set in place. In New
Amsterdam, governance was initially provided by an overseer ap-
pointed by a corporation, the Dutch West India Company, who ruled
until 1664 when the Dutch surrendered the colony to England and it
was renamed New York.
In other colonies, the settlers were governed
by the church elders around whom they had congregated and with
whom they had journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean. Later, in New
England, town-
wide meetings addressed common concerns and local
disagreements. The governing of trading posts by overseers and com-
munities by religious elders, however, hardly quali“
es as democratic
and, despite being rooted in the community of settlers, colonial gov-
ernance was usually only open to property-
owning men. For the most
part, decisions about whether or not to build a wharf, to assign “
for crops or for the grazing of animals, how much food to store for the
winter months, and whether to enlarge the forti“
cations were taken by
the settlements unelected leaders.
As these settlements grew in population, more attention had to be
given to where roads and buildings might be placed, how and where to
dispose of human waste, and whether and to whom to provide schools.
Later, as buildings were located closer and closer together and density
increased, issues of “
re and water quality became public matters. They
required more elaborate responses, initially taking the form of volun-
teer and subscription “
re companies. By the mid-
nineteenth century,
clear to the citys inhabitants was that more democratic and elaborate
local governance arrangements were required.
With the onset of in-
dustrialization, massive immigration to the cities from Europe, and
migration from the countryside, the need for more formal and public
responses to housing, water quality, sewage, and street paving become
unavoidable. During the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century,
various reforms were initiated to create local governments that could
regulate development, provide public services, and run democratic elec-
tions. From then until today, these governments have become larger
and more complex. Nevertheless, they remain, in qualitative terms,
much the same as they were a century ago.
That said, one of the most important transformations in governance
arrangements has involved grassrootsŽ organizations; that is, mostly
scale, usually neighborhood-
based activities, some of which are
linked to the local government (volunteer organizations that stage or-
ganized sports on public playing “
elds) and some that are not (tenant
associations in apartment buildings). In any city, much occurs politi-
cally that is not directly connected to or only tenuously linked to the
decisions made and policies passed by elected of“
cials. These activities
ow from fraternal and religious organizations, business and neighbor-
hood associations, labor unions, and advocacy groups involved with
such local issues as historic preservation and living wage laws and na-
tional issues as immigrant rights and abortion. The overarching pur-
pose of these governance arrangements is to bring democracy to every-
day life.
From the start, when villages and towns became big enough to be
thought of as having neighborhoods„
that is, as having residential ar-
eas distinct from each other„
their inhabitants formed organizations
that protected them from harm and reinforced their sense of belonging
to these particular places. Probably the earliest of these organizations
were the churches around which settlers and, later, immigrants clus-
tered. These were not solely places of worship. Rather, their ministers,
priests, and later rabbis and imams frequently became involved with
births, marriages, and deaths; passed judgment on the morality of pub-
lic and private actions; counseled newcomers; provided food and cloth-
ing to those in need; and joined the neighborhood to other parts of the
city and to the local government.
Religions gave rise to bene“
t societies like the Knights of Colum-
bus in the Catholic Church and Bnai Brith, a Jewish community ser-
vice organization. Similar organizations formed outside of a religious
context (for example, the Freemasons and the National Association of
Colored Womens Clubs) and became involved in community work by
providing free lunches to the homeless or helping single women to “
places to live. They sponsor sports leagues and hold charitable events.
In many of them, people are elected to of“
ce and members have a say
in how they are run.
Less spiritual but no less important for urban governance are labor
unions. Throughout their history, they have taken on community as
well as workplace concerns. In Milwaukee in the early twentieth cen-
tury, labor unions were strong and deeply engaged with life outside the
factory. Prior to the 1950s, Milwaukee was a working-
class city with
highly unionized machine shops, automotive supply plants, electrical
equipment manufacturers, and breweries. The unions were politically
active. They supported Socialists running for political of“
ce and or-
ganized immigrants to vote in municipal elections. When elected to
ce, Socialist and pro-
labor politicians pursued strict regulations on
private businesses, the provision of affordable housing, a debt-
free local
government, and an extensive network of parks and neighborhood so-
cial centers. They also championed such working-
class leisure activities
as bingo, gambling on games of chance, and pinball and resisted the ef-
forts of middle-
class reformers to ban or severely curtail them and the
taverns in which they took place. Unions supported the desegregation
of bowling leagues and generally favored racial egalitarianism. Civic
events such as parades were also a major part of the union presence
in Milwaukee. Labor unionism was social unionism.
In other cities,
labor unions defended workers in their jobs, pressured management for
higher wages and better working conditions, and engaged in the lives
of their members beyond the con“
nes of the workplace.
By the twenty-
rst century, the center of union activity had shifted
from manufacturing to public services, union membership had declined
cantly, and conservatives at the federal level and in state govern-
ments oppose labor organizing and suppress labor unions. Still, union
activity continues. Construction unions provide political support for
infrastructure and redevelopment projects, teacher unions engage in
local school policy, and municipal unions put their resources behind
wage legislation. In Baltimore, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, St.Louis, San
Diego, San Francisco, and numerous other cities, local coalitions in-
volving municipal labor unions have succeeded in passing ordinances
that mandate the upgrading of low-
wage jobs by paying employees an
income that will sustain a decent standard of living, an income usu-
ally well above the federal minimum wage. This living wage initiative
has functioned as a movement-
building tool that brings together labor,
community, and religious groups in ways that draw on and strengthen
Regrettably, unions have a dark side. Construction, police,
and “
re unions have historically resisted giving membership to women
and minorities and labor unions are notorious for their oligarchic ten-
dencies leading, in some instances, to corruption.
Their more bene“
cial activities are never as clear as when unions
join with local communities to advocate for public bene“
ts from large,
ostensibly private construction projects.
Most often negotiated with
developers, with local governments at times serving as intermediaries,
the results of these efforts are known as community bene“
ts agree-
ments (CBAs). Such agreements are meant to ensure that the residents
of the city most affected by redevelopment initiatives receive the ben-
ts from them. The best known of these agreements was signed in
Los Angeles in the early 2000s after unions, local residents, and hous-
ing groups organized to assure that a major commercial development
near the downtown would have suf“
cient local bene“
ts to overcome
the costs (for example, increased congestion) imposed on those living
nearby. The coalition negotiated with the developer for affordable hous-
ing, funding for parks, a living wageŽ agreement, and local hiring. It
intervened to do what the local government was not doing; to wit: as-
sure that residents were compensated for the disruption caused by a
major development initiative. Not to go unmentioned, such commu-
nity bene“
ts agreements can also be manipulated„
the process of de-
vising them undemocratic„
and insensitive to larger public concerns.
Business and resident associations have also been part of the gover-
nance of cities for decades. Since the early twentieth century, and in the
retail districts of neighborhoods and downtown areas, business owners
have come together to lobby for public improvements and advertise to
attract shoppers. Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade are ex-
amples. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce in 2015 had a staff
of 25 professionals and numerous committees to address community
and industry growth, government affairs, international business, and
leadership. Moreover, it paid close attention to and involved itself in
deliberations over downtown development.
Voluntary business groups are also ubiquitous. Their goal is usually
to preserve and enhance the viability of neighborhood retail districts.
They attempt to speak with one voice to the local government, while
watching over the district to assure that it is clean, crime-
free, and at-
tractive to shoppers and other patrons. This not only serves the busi-
nesses, but also stabilizes the neighborhood. As one example, the Old
Town Boutique District in Alexandria (VA) consists of the owners of
over 30 jewelry, food, clothing, wine, and home furnishing stores and
works with the local Chamber of Commerce to keep the district a de-
sirable place for residents and tourists. Across town, the Del Ray Busi-
ness Association undertakes similar activities for the commercial strip
of Mt. Vernon Avenue.
A more recent manifestation of such place-
based associations are
business improvement districts or BIDs. These are organizations of
commercial property owners located in a speci“
c area of the city. A
special tax on their property is used to fund improvements (such as
signage and street furniture), provide additional maintenance of side-
walks and plazas, and even offer security services.
Essentially, a BID is
a service-
providing body sanctioned by the local government that aug-
ments the public services already being provided. BIDs require munici-
pal legislation, are governed by boards, and coordinate their activities
with local governmental agencies. The Bryant Park BID in New York
City, to take one instance, oversees a major green space that is avail-
able for sitting, eating lunch, and socializing. The BID maintains this
park, provides outdoor furniture, programs activities such as night-
time movies or concerts, and works with the surrounding businesses
to keep the area clean and safe. To be clear, BIDs mainly serve property
owners and enhance their properties. The improvements that are pro-
vided, though, do serve a larger public. Yet, they function with little
resident input. Consequently, not only is public accountability an is-
sue, but their undemocratic nature as well. Still, and like Chambers of
Commerce and other associations, they are an integral part of urban
Harboring the potential for democracy and oligarchy are the home-
owner or resident associations that exist in neighborhood after neigh-
borhood across the cities of the country. These entities often form when
a neighborhood is threatened or falling apart. They are a product of the
twentieth century and came into existence as residents concerned
that their neighborhood might be severed by a highway, burdened with
a scrap yard, or invaded by people unlike them organized to protect
their homes and businesses. The prototypical examples are homeowner
associations that resist neighborhood change whether that change
takes the form of blight and a decline in property values, a changing
racial make-
up, or a government initiative that imposes an unwanted
land use (e.g., a waste transfer station) on their neighborhood.
Homeowner associations are also common in cities with apartment
buildings comprising owner-
occupied units. There, the residents pur-
chase their apartments, join in either condominium or cooperative ar-
rangements, and engage with management companies to oversee the
operation of the building, decide questions of maintenance and repair
and renovation, set common fees, and, for cooperatives, screen poten-
tial buyers and thus those who will become their neighbors. Counter-
parts can be found in rental apartment buildings where tenant asso-
ciations collaborate with management to assure that the appropriate
services are in place and the building is maintained, and in public
housing where tenant associations work with the local public housing
authority to assure a safe and healthy environment. These associations
(along with their buildings) are usually termed common-
interest de-
velopments (CIDs), a term that applies to all entities that regulate (or
govern) the use of private residential and related public spaces.
CIDs proliferated in the late twentieth century with the rise of sub-
urban, gated communities; that is, in popular terms, relatively large and
uent communities surrounded by walls or fencing and with gates
(sometimes with guards) to control who can enter. Many of the gated
communities, however, are actually occupied by middle-
income and
income renters and lack elaborate security provisions.
owners and renters band together to govern the use of common spaces,
maintain individual and shared spaces, and even regulate social behav-
ior (for example, whether front lawns can be used for social events).
The more af”
uent and larger gated communities also provide trash col-
lection, street lighting and maintenance, and security„
services that
are usually the responsibility of the local government. In addition to
paying local property taxes, homeowners and renters pay a yearly fee
for these privatized services.
The general intent is to maintain the character of the community
or apartment building, bolster the value of the property, and ensure
safety. In many ways, this is a contribution to local democracy. People
are organized into governing bodies that develop and oversee regula-
tions and make decisions regarding the upkeep of common spaces. The
emphasis on property values, though, can shift the focus away from
living togetherŽ and that on safety can make the community fearful.
As an anomalous example, in 2012 a member of a gated community
watch shot and killed a young, black man (Trayvon Martin) who
was walking through the complex. The resultant furor and acquittal of
the shooter led to a social movement, Black Lives Matter, whose pur-
pose is to publicize and resist anti-
black racism pervasive in the United
A quite signi“
cant contribution to neighborhood governance has
been made by the neighborhood associations that arose in the after-
math of World War II when many city governments embarked on high-
way programs to relieve traf“
c congestion, demolish blighted prop-
erties and slums, and build sports stadiums and convention centers.
Slum clearance directly affected low-
income (often African-
residents while highways, redevelopment projects, and new public fa-
cilities (such as convention centers) were frequently sited adjacent to
or overlapped with industrial districts and inner-
city neighborhoods.
These initiatives were almost always detrimental for the social relations
and homes of residents and businesses there.
Although such initiatives met little resistance in the early 1950s,
a few years later, residents and business owners organized to oppose
Marching in protest in front of city hall, linking arms to block
bulldozers from demolishing buildings, testifying at public hearings,
publicizing their concerns in newspapers, and cajoling elected of-
cials, they acted to protect their neighborhoods from being sacri-
ced to what planners and the government, but not they, considered
progress. Re
ment and highway initiatives displaced businesses
and forced residents to “
nd homes either in more expensive areas or
in areas that were becoming overcrowded. Most residents lived where
they did because they wanted to be close to people„
Italians, Puerto
of similar nationality and ethnicity. There, they were com-
fortable with stores, restaurants, and services that “
t their needs. Even
Americans and Puerto Ricans who faced discrimination in the
larger housing market and were forced to live in less desirable neigh-
borhoods did not want to cede what was positive about living with
each other. Their residents had social relations and memories that were
of value to them. Neighborhood associations acted to protect these at-
tachments and their supporters viewed such opposition as morally de-
fensible evenif practically infeasible, given the elite politics surround-
ing renewal efforts.
Probably the best known of these struggles are those described in
Jane Jacobs famous
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
. In it, she
defends “
grained and diverse neighborhoods like the West Village
in New York City, where she lived in the 1950s and 1960s. Jacobs en-
couraged residents of this and other neighborhoods to organize in op-
position to governmental incursions that would displace existing resi-
dents in order to build middle-
income apartment houses, widen streets
to accommodate automobiles, and bisect local parks with limited-
In New Haven, Mayor Richard Lee in the 1950s spoke of
his dream of a slumlessŽ city and turned to the federal government for
nancial and legal support to achieve that goal. One of his targets was
the African-
American Dixwell Avenue neighborhood, where the City
bought blighted properties, evicted tenants, and demolished build-
ings. In response, residents organized and attended city council meet-
ings to voice their opposition, publicly protested, and joined with the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to pressure elected of“
to take a less disruptive path to mitigating slums and improving the
neighborhood. Large-
scale clearance continued, even as the municipal
government built a new library, schools, and housing and engaged in
neighborhood beauti“
cation. Most of the new housing, however, was
beyond the “
nancial means of existing residents and, while many resi-
dents left voluntarily, many others were forced to leave.
Neighborhood resistance to disruptive governmental initiatives was
strengthened when then-
President Lyndon Johnson launched his War
on Poverty in the 1960s.
Federal legislation enabled poor neighbor-
hoods to set up Community Action Agencies to address a de“
cit of ed-
ucational, policing, health, and recreational services and to advocate
before local governments for greater attention to their needs. These
agencies organized local residents, engaged in neighborhood planning,
and even provided a platform for political activities. With the cessa-
tion of direct federal “
nancing in the 1980s, many of these agencies
endured in another form. Some received funding from the local gov-
ernment to continue operations. In Philadelphia, the City distributed
small grants to volunteer associations so that they could monitor their
neighborhoods and work with the city to provide services and upgrade
their surroundings. Others became nonpro“
t Community Develop-
ment Corporations (CDCs) and took on the construction of affordable
housing, operating such businesses as supermarkets, and providing
day care and job counseling. Another federal program, Neighborhood
Housing Services (NHS), created a similar form of community-
These placed-
based organizations are found throughout cities in
the United States, particularly in low-
income neighborhoods. One of
the most famous is the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI)
in the Roxbury area of Boston.
DSNI was established by residents in
1984 when almost one-
third of the land area was either vacant or oc-
cupied by abandoned buildings, arson was common, and residents
suffered from high levels of poverty and unemployment. The intent
was to take control through bottom-
up participatory planning coupled
with such activities as organizing sidewalk improvements, providing
day care for the children of working families, constructing affordable
housing, and mounting voter participation drives to increase their po-
litical in”
uence at City Hall. By 2015, DSNI had built over 400 housing
units, renovated nearly 500 homes, and rehabilitated over 1,300 vacant
lots while growing to 4,000 members.
Less deserving of praise are those neighborhood and homeowner as-
sociations that have blocked new groups„
people unlike their mem-
bers„from taking up residence. In almost all cases, these have been
white, working-
class neighborhoods whose residents have felt threat-
ened by the encroachment of African-
In Detroit during the 1950s and 1960s, white homeowners resisted
the in”
ux of black families; an activity one scholar termed
sive localism
. Approximately 200 such associations formed with vari-
ous labels„civic, protective, improvement, homeowners„to assure
that neighborhoods would remain white. Large numbers of African-
Americans were migrating from the South to the Northern cities and
cant racial change was underway. Homeowners were fearful that
their way of life would be trampled and their property values dimin-
ished. They monitored the sale of homes to black families, pressured lo-
cal elected of“
cials to withdraw support from civil rights organizations
and support restrictive covenants that limited sales to white families,
and attempted to intimidate real estate agents who were engaged in
these sales. When these efforts failed, they picketed the properties of
black families, threw rocks and garbage at the newly occupied homes,
and destroyed fences and lawns. In a number of instances, their activi-
ties escalated to arson and physical harm. Moreover, it was rare for the
police to protect African-
American households. And, while many black
families were discouraged from even contemplating a move into a
white neighborhood, others made the effort. Many eventually moved
out of defended neighborhoods because of concern for their families
safety [while] others remained in their houses despite the harassment,
and waited for the violence to abate.Ž
These associations have not been con“
ned to low-
income and mi-
nority neighborhoods opposing physical and social disruption or
class neighborhoods resisting racial integration. Nor are they
only organized to resist threats. They also exist in many af”
uent neigh-
borhoods where their members beautify the neighborhood by plant-
ing ”
owers and trees, organize events at playgrounds, lobby for historic
designation, and work with municipal agencies to improve services„
all done to maintain the neighborhoods character and property val-
ues. In Philadelphia, the af”
uent Society Hill neighborhood is watched
over by the Society Hill Civic Association that works with developers
to ensure that new construction on vacant sites and the rehabilitation
of existing buildings “
t with the neighborhoods architectural style. It
also advises the city government on requests for zoning variances and
addresses parking issues. In upscale Nob Hill in San Francisco, the Nob
Hill Association and the Nob Hill Foundation are dedicated to preserv-
ing and improving the neighborhood. If threats arise, these neighbor-
hood associations„
already well-
organized and well-
to resist them.
Neighborhood governance extends well beyond these various orga-
nizations and associations. It also occurs spontaneously and infor-
mally. This is apparent in shrinking cities like Detroit where the city
scally strapped„
is withdrawing public services from
and community centers. The civil rights movement of the 1950s and
1960s involved marches in Selma, Alabama, and huge rallies in Wash-
ington, DC. Rosa Parks, a civil rights activist, refused to cede her seat to
a white man in Montgomery on December 1, 1955, and the subsequent
bus boycott and court cases resulted in the US Supreme Court declar-
ing such segregation unconstitutional. The movement to protest social
and economic inequality in 2011„
Occupy Wall Street„
began in Zuc-
cotti Park in New York City and spread to Boston, Lincoln (NE), Seattle,
Milwaukee, Chicago, and Salt Lake City. Black Lives Matter began in
Cities offer a fertile environment for grassroots movements to ”
They contained these and numerous voluntary associations, some
focused on members (for example, rod and gun clubs, veterans orga-
nizations, ethnic lending organizations, softball leagues) and others
oriented to a larger community as with gay health clinics, shelters for
victims of domestic abuse, and youth drop-
in centers. Together, these
various organizations and associations represent an important layer of
governance in which people gather to give meaning to their lives and,
in the process, govern communities.
Democratic practices are everywhere in cities. Democracy thrives
where numerous opportunities exist for people to help others, come
together to address concerns about which they feel strongly, and en-
gage in activities that enable them to live well together. Many of these
efforts are connected in some way to the local government (as with
governmental funding that ”
ows to neighborhood associations), but
Table 4.1
Selected Advocacy Groups in Seattle
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
Amnesty International
Audobon Society
Committee Against Rape and Abuse
Earth Save
Food Not Bombs
Gray Panthers
Jobs and Justice
Lifelong AIDS Alliance
Northwest Environmental Watch
Planned Parenthood
Sierra Club
Statewide Poverty Action Network
Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
Source: Seattle Activism website, accessed February 15,
2017, www
are beyond the direct control of elected of“
cials and governmental bu-
reaucrats. Others are wholly independent, like a bowling league or a
local historical society. A few (for example, anti-
immigrant groups) are
driven by fear and intolerance.
Local Government
Only the most informal of these various associations escape the
shadow of government. Nonpro“
t organizations have to abide by tax
regulations that limit their political activities and stipulate how they
can use their revenues. Book groups convene in the public library and
soccer leagues use municipal playing “
elds. Neighborhood associations
and business improvement districts receive public funds to support
their services. Many organizations, as with volunteer associations that
provide counseling to refugees, work with governmental agencies such
as housing authorities and health clinics to meet the needs of their
clients. These organizations are deeply enmeshed in civil society, but
the boundary between civil society and government is blurred. That
between the government and the economy is no less fuzzy and along
this frontier is where we discover the relations that nurture the citys
oligarchic tendencies. To this extent, much of what needs to be said
about the oligarchic and democratic tendencies of local government
revolves around its relationship with businesses and its commitment to
economic growth.
Few observers would deny that US cities create the conditions for
concentrating power and political in”
not just wealth. Con-
fronted with various demands to ensure economic growth, protect the
environment, attract new residents, and deliver a range of public ser-
vices to residents and even tourists, local governments are organized to
attract economic investment and, as part of doing so, solidify political
control and constrict access to governmental decision-
making. Yet, lo-
cal governments and the of“
cials who run them cannot summarily dis-
miss legal requirements to hold open elections and allow public scru-
tiny or abandon claims to legitimacy. A democratic impulse exists, but
in most cities it struggles to maintain itself in the face of a tendency to
narrow political access, serve the interests of the business sector, and
respond to organized constituencies.
Local governments command
not just funding but also laws, regulations, and jobs„
have the capacity to generate numerous business opportunities, hire
workers to manage computerized databases and trash removal services,
and respond favorably to the demands of various groups. These condi-
tions work against the grain of democratic practices and enable people
to pursue power, prestige, and pro“
Of course, elected of“
cials cannot disregard the need to be reelected,
or elected in the “
rst place. Neither can they ignore the need to make
public services responsive to their constituencies in order to be seen as
legitimate. To serve these ends, and since the late nineteenth century,
political parties have established a presence in the many communi-
ties that compose the city, usually doing so at the neighborhood level.
These activities reached their full development with the rise of politi-
cal machines, one of whose purposes was to gather enough votes that
the machine could win elections. In order to assure this, the machine
established neighborhood-
based or precinct-
based organizations, often
with clubhouses, that not only connected residents with jobs (most fre-
quently in government) but also provided them with food on holidays,
among other favors. The precinct captain made it his job to ensure that
whatever bene“
ts the local government had available were dispersed to
those who voted for the machines candidates.
In addition, political
machines often protected immigrants and Catholics from Protestant
nativists whose intolerance often denied the newly arrived residents
jobs, decent housing, and legal protections. Hardly democratically
run organizations, they also fostered political engagement (albeit lim-
ited) and offered numerous supports for managing life in the citys
Political machines are much less prevalent in the twenty-
rst cen-
tury than they were 100 or so years ago, although a number of them
(for example, in Chicago, Albany, Philadelphia) survived into the post…
World War II era. In Chicago, Richard J. Daley effectively controlled
the local government from the mid-
1950s to the mid-
1970s through
the use of his mayoral powers and his position as head of the Cook
County political machine. He was able to mobilize voters, centralize
power, and reward supporters to govern effectively at the margins of
democracy. Those mayors who replaced him, with the exception of
Harold Washington (1983…
1987) who attempted to openŽ government
to its citizens, were no less dedicated the needs of economic elites. Po-
litical machines, in the terminology of political scientists, evolved into
growth machines.
Tellingly, in 1989, Richard M. Daley, the former
mayors son, was elected mayor and he ruled the city as tightly as his
father but with less of the taint of political corruption and (white) eth-
nic favoritism. He served “
ve terms until 2011.
That mayors in a number of cities have stayed in of“
ce for long
periods of time is a testament to their ability to mobilize their support-
ers, satisfy powerful groups, and sti”
e opposition. Their extended ten-
ures also increase the potential for democratic practices to be muf”
As one example, Mayor Michael Bloomberg (2002…
2014), during his
second term in of“
ce, managed to change the citys charter to allow
him to run for a third term, which he won. In Boston, Thomas Menino
served from 1993 to 2014 and in Providence (RI) Vincent Cianci Jr. held
the mayors of“
ce from 1975…
1984 and then, again, from 1991…
Other cities have had more frequent turnover with Albuquerque resi-
dents electing nine different mayors between 1974 and 2015. Long ten-
ures do not automatically lead to the strengthening of oligarchic prac-
tices, and might even generate stability and allow long-
term projects
(for example, a park system or an overhaul of the police department)
to be carried out, but they also have the potential to do otherwise, and
often do.
Even if long mayoral tenures do not inevitably foster graft and cor-
ruption, they seem as if they would do so simply to maintain a steady
stream of political support to remain in of“
ce. Such tenure is also likely
to breed a sense of privilege and invulnerability. Mayor Richard J. Daley
was constantly accused of illegalities occurring within his adminis-
tration and the county political machine that he headed. The former
mayor of Harrisburg, who served in of“
ce for 28 years, was indicted in
2015 on charges of diverting public funds to purchase museum arti-
facts for his personal use. Other mayors and elected of“
cials have been
charged and convicted even when they have served for only one or
two terms. Camden, New Jersey, witnessed three mayors sent to jail
between 1981 and 2000. And, it is not just elected of“
cials who behave
inappropriately. One hears frequently of public employees who take
city vehicles for private use, steal from their departments, and reach
into public funds for personal purchases. Agencies such as the traf“
enforcement and the buildings department are particularly prone to
corruption. Of course, we lack the evidence to know how prevalent cor-
ruption is and we cannot say that big cities are more prone to it than
small towns. Corruption poisons democracy by making citizens cyni-
cal, and undermines the transparency that makes democracy work.
City governments also have numerous mechanisms to make the
political process, and the government, more democratic, particularly
when they decentralize service delivery to the neighborhood level.
Fire departments establish stations throughout the city and police de-
partments divide the city into precincts, each with its own precinct
house. Elementary schools are almost always neighborhood-
based and
recreational facilities (for example, playgrounds, swimming pools) are
similarly dispersed. By doing so, the managers of these services expose
themselves to the concerns of the areas residents. Police precincts have
community liaison of“
cers and elementary schools have parent-
associations that raise funds for extracurricular activities. A number of
cities have even established of“
cial bodies to coordinate neighborhood
service delivery, thereby matching, for example, after-
school programs
for teens with the availability of space in recreational centers. New York
City in 1975 divided the city into 59 community districts and funded
volunteer community boards (with small staffs) in each of them.
These community boards review zoning applications and watch over
service delivery to ensure that the concerns of residents are being ad-
dressed. In Nashville, the city uses its 35 council districts as service
districts. Looking more broadly, cities have numerous boards and com-
missions on which citizens can sit. Austin, Texas, in 2015 listed 73 such
entities including the Historic Landmarks Commission, the Library
Commission, the Human Rights Task Force, the Design Commission,
and the Airport Advisory Commission.
Public services, however, are not„
in a straight-
forward technocratic
simply delivered in response to citizen needs and demands.
These are political decisions mediated by organized interests, civic as-
sociations, and municipal unions. Take transportation as an example.
Transportation Alternatives in New York City, a voluntary organiza-
tion, has been quite in”
uential in working with the city government to
provide bike lanes, strengthen traf“
c laws that protect bikers, and pro-
vide accommodations for bike parking. It has a greater voice in these
matters than the average citizen. The Olmsted Parks Conservancy in
Buffalo (NY) has more of an effect on park policy than adjacent home-
owners could separately. Police, “
re, sanitation, and teachers unions
can in”
uence the allocation of public funds for new facilities and deci-
sions about how jobs are organized, thus affecting the quality of ser-
vice delivery. Bus drivers can engage in work slow-
downs or threaten
to strike, thereby bringing pressure on elected of“
cials to meet their
demands but also disrupting the lives of bus riders. They can also advo-
cate for more frequent service. Construction unions are a strong lobby
when it comes to infrastructure investment such as bridges and water
tunnels and large development projects. The actions of these unions
serve the interests of their members and, at the same time, often im-
prove services for all users, for example when teachers unions call for
smaller class sizes and more funding for libraries. The point is not that
unions and organized interests are undemocratic elements of gover-
nance, but rather that they are part of the mix of oligarchic and demo-
cratic tendencies.
Where cities do tend to become oligarchic is in relationship to gov-
ernment contracts and the public incentives used to encourage capital
investment, whether the relocation of a professional sports team to the
city or the development of a former waterfront industrial site for apart-
ment buildings and retail stores. This shift from a managerial to an en-
trepreneurial style of governance begins with the resources that local
governments have at their disposal.
City governments are signi“
organizations with large budgets, big labor forces, and many different
services from dog licensing to express buses and water puri“
They also have innumerable laws and regulations that have to be moni-
tored and enforced and that require information-
gathering technolo-
gies and legal venues such as courts to adjudicate them. In addition,
city governments are often deeply involved in fostering economic de-
velopment and constructing such infrastructure as water tunnels and
international airports. Every year they advertise for and give out large
numbers of contracts for school supplies, gravel, printers, asphalt, of-
ce space, and police vans among the many items that a city govern-
ment needs to function.
City governments have an abundance of procurement
to distribute. While the granting of contracts has to conform to legal
limitations designed to prevent their being given to friends and ac-
quaintances for political reasons, the size of many of these contracts
favors certain businesses and not others. And, once a business has per-
formed well and established relations with an agency, it is likely to be
well positioned to have the contract extended and to be granted addi-
tional contracts. Graft and corruption are not the issue here, but rather
performance and comfort with “
rms that have met the contractual re-
quirements. This makes it dif“
cult for new “
rms to successfully bid for
business. Local governments recognize this and many have developed
guidelines that compensate small and minority and women-
rms for any disadvantages they might face. Numerous cities have set-
aside programs to assure that these “ rms are able to compete, often al-
locating a percentage of contracts to them or using a scoring system to
minimize bias against small and minority businesses. These efforts are
minor compared with the overall tendency to maintain good relation-
ships with large businesses, particularly when it comes to privatizing
such services as trash collection. It is common to hear of politically
connected businesses landing big contracts. Whether political connec-
tions were the reason is not always clear.
While large contracts for supplies or services are one part of the
concentration of in”
uence, even more central to governance are the
many opportunities that cities create, and local governments manage,
for large-
scale infrastructural and development projects.
Through its
zoning and land use regulations, city governments create opportuni-
ties for constructing of“
ce buildings, apartment towers, retail malls,
and factories. Real estate developers depend on local governments to
modify zoning regulations to allow for greater density and thereby
make existing buildings candidates for replacement and newer and
larger buildings “
nancially feasible. Or, the government might decide
that a derelict or underutilized part of town should be developed with
a large, mixed-
use project and, subsequently, solicit bids from develop-
ers. Once again, the city government is generating opportunities and,
most importantly, almost always subsidizing them by reducing the
taxes that developers have to pay, providing construction loans at less
than the prevailing interest rate charged by commercial banks, extend-
ing city services (for example, transit connections or sewers) to the site,
and even assembling the site itself through the use of eminent domain.
Just by extending sewer and water services, light rail lines, or bus ser-
vice, city governments create investment opportunities. And when the
local government decides to build an international airport, a new sub-
way line, or a civic center or mount a climate change initiative focused
on building infrastructure, the bene“
ts for businesses are signi“
Not all “
rms can take advantage of these opportunities. The big de-
velopers, banks, insurance companies, construction “
rms, real estate
brokers, and property owners all stand to pro“
t. The small ones and
those without political access do not. Elected of“
cials are committed to
growth and, for them, this means new construction whether it is of“
buildings or waterfront promenades. Since large projects are what gar-
ner the most attention and ostensibly attract other investors, thereby
enhancing future prospects for growth, the larger the project the bet-
ter. To the extent that the local government is a source of business prof-
its, it is unsurprising that representatives of these “
rms are often politi-
cally connected, donate to the campaign funds of politicians running
for of“
ce, and participate in various cultural activities (for example,
buying tickets for a bene“
t dinner or sitting on the board of a museum)
to signal their civic engagement. Public presence and personal connec-
tions are very much a part of this dynamic.
This dominance of large-
scale public investment by a small group
of property owners, developers, and investors is obvious as regards
convention centers, a key component of the tourist-
oriented develop-
ment strategies of most US cities. These centers inevitably operate at a
cit with the local and/or state governments paying for the bonds
used to build them and providing public funds to close the gap be-
tween operating costs and operating revenues. Those involved in their
construction unions, real estate lawyers, trash haulers,
material suppliers„
t. Nearby hotels can prosper. Those who own
the property on which the center was built or who own adjacent prop-
erty also do well. Residents pay. Moreover, the decision to construct or
expand such centers is usually controlled by a small group of down-
town property owners and investors. In St. Louis, decisions regarding
where to locate a new convention center, whether to expand an ex-
isting one, and where to build a new sports stadium were all “
through Civic Progress, a powerful business association whose goal was
to protect and enhance their investments. Civic Progress was critical
for organizing public support, obtaining state governmental funding,
and assembling private “
nancing. With large amounts of public funds
at stake, it was not the voters who decided. This is typical.
Control over development becomes even more concentrated when
a city is dependent on a single industry or when groups coalesce to
push a speci“
c vision for what will make the city prosperous. Las Vegas
is a good example of the former.
The citys economy is dominated
by casino gaming and casino corporations, hotel owners, restaurateurs,
airlines, and other service-
providers whose livelihood depends on a
robust tourist sector. Since the industry is highly regulated and the
tourist industry itself requires public infrastructure from well-
roads to large airports, those in the industry are politically involved
in protecting and enhancing their investments. They have lobbied for
improvements to the citys airport, the expansion of the convention
center, and the upgrading of Fremont Street where the casinos were
rst established in the 1950s.
San Diego is another city where elite groups and institutions have
come together around a shared agenda. There, the Chamber of Com-
merce; the University of California, San Diego; major businesses such
as General Dynamics/Convair; and the Scripps Clinic and Research
Foundation, among others, have combined forces to build on the pres-
ence of military installations to become a center for defense-
research and development. Joining them was the Citys Economic De-
velopment Corporation. Together, they have established a cluster of sci-
ence and technology “
rms that has added a third pillar to the regions
economy of military installations and tourism. The city government,
one of the many participants in this endeavor, provided land, extended
business subsidies, and facilitated major redevelopment projects. The
local economy was transformed in ways that favored educated labor. It
was not done democratically.
Politicians are well aware of the economic development function
of local government, particularly those who want to make a career of
public of“
ce. The path to in”
uence is not solely one of proposing and
supporting legislation that re”
ects the values of various constituencies.
It is more “
grained than that; it entails being aware of the many ser-
vices and opportunities that government can deliver. Elected of“
can decide to construct new high schools or not and do so in certain
neighborhoods and not others. They can vote in favor of subsidies for
a new baseball stadium or not. They can work with advocates for a liv-
ing wage to pass supportive legislation or they can listen to business
lobbyists and vote against the legislation on the grounds that it will
make local businesses uncompetitive and cause them to leave. Depend-
ing on what positions they take, they can build a constituency that
will ensure their reelection. Moreover, if it is done strategically, they
can gain in in”
uence by mediating between opportunities and those
who want them. In many big cities, elected of“
cials have authorized
bond issues to construct stadiums for professional baseball or football
teams in deals that directed all of the bene“
ts to the teams owners
and all the costs to the citys residents.
In other cities, mayors have
made different decisions. The Mayor of Boston in 2015 withdrew his
support from a private business group that was developing a bid for the
summer Olympics. He did so in part because of the “
nancial liabilities
that would likely fall on the City government and its taxpayers, but he
was also responding to opposition on the part of residents.
Once in
ce, elected of“
cials can concentrate in”
uence and limit democracy,
or expand it.
One of the forces that constricts democracy is the ongoing support
for initiatives that either privatize public services or turn the citys man-
agement of public services over to experts.
Privatization is based on
the premise that governments lack the discipline of price signals gener-
ated by markets and are burdened by bureaucracy and interest-
politics. Consequently, they are unable to deliver services ef“
and effectively. Trash collection, animal control, water provision,and
even public education would thus bene“
t from being managed and
delivered by for-
t “
rms, or at least nonpro“
t “
rms that have to
earn more than they spend. Public services would be isolated from
politics. While the public sector would retain an oversight function,
decisions about how to use labor and technology and who would be
served would be left to the “ rms themselves, not to the government.
Charter schools are a good example. These for-
t and nonpro“
t en-
tities are meant to compete with public schools and with each other for
students by providing the best educational services at the best price.
Trash collection is another service that is often privatized, with public
sector workers no longer doing this job and the city government no
longer directly responsible for buying trucks and operating land“
lls. By
itself, privatization is not necessarily oligarchic, removing what mustŽ
be public from democratic deliberation. It might actually reduce costs
for the government and improve performance. Nonetheless, it erects
another barrier between citizens and those who provide essential ser-
vices. Once privatized, these services frequently fall outside public de-
liberation and are accountable only to the pressure of consumer choice.
Privatization is a one-
way street along which public services are
transferred to the private sector, but the reverse also occurs. City gov-
ernments can municipalizeŽ services previously provided by privately
owned public utilities. Libraries in the United States were once private
and now are mostly public. More contemporaneously, local govern-
ments can establish power plants as Sacramento has done with its elec-
trical service. They can build city-
owned telecommunication networks
as did Alameda, California. They can also retain control over real estate
that they own by leasing rather than selling it to developers, thus using
it as a revenue-
generating asset. At least one city (Harrisburg) owns a
professional sports team„
minor league baseball„
and other cities have
owned teams: professional football for Green Bay and minor league
baseball for Rochester and Syracuse in New York and Appleton in Wis-
consin. Such initiatives counteract the trend toward privatization.
City governments also deploy complex technologies that shift
making to experts. Computerized real property databases,
crime reporting systems, public school student records, and zoning
sions are only a few of the various systems that are adopted. These
technologies require expertise in civil engineering, curriculum devel-
opment, public health, historic preservation, election and contract
law, telecommunications, and plant biology. The current fascination
with big dataŽ and smart citiesŽ is an extension of what has been
a century-
long imposition of expert systems onto local governments.
The intent has been to use an array of data collection procedures such
as sensing devices at bridges and tunnels, accounting practices, and the
tracking of calls to complaint lines to monitor public service delivery
and public needs in real time. The collected information can then be
assessed by experts and decisions made as to where and when to al-
locate resources. If burglaries are increasing in one police precinct, po-
lice personnel are shifted there. If a storm has destroyed trees in one
neighborhood, blocking streets, then crews need to be sent immedi-
ately to remove the debris. The underlying idea is that service delivery
is a matter best handled by technocrats.
The complexity and arcane
knowledge embedded in these technologies discourages widespread
and active participation. Instead, residents become consumersŽ who
(in isolation from each other) express their concerns by calling com-
plaint lines. Democracy is narrowed rather than broadened.
This does not mean that local governments ignore the need to be
and be seen as democratic. As mentioned earlier, city governments,
almost without exception, have numerous procedures in place to en-
able citizens to comment on and contribute to governmental decisions.
Public hearings are held on a variety of issues, citizen commissions
are appointed, city council meetings are open to the public, reporters
coverŽ local government and its many agencies, review boards are cre-
ated, elected of“
cials make public pronouncements, and legally bind-
ing regulations require that changes to zoning and land use regulations
and infrastructure projects go through formal, citizen reviews. Elected
cials have neighborhood of“
ces to provide services to their constit-
uents. During elections, current of“
holders have to justify publicly
their positions. Despite all of these efforts, and on the big decisions, ac-
cess is limited to those with political or economic in”
Intergovernmental Relations
To re”
ect on politics and governance only as they occur within a citys
boundaries leaves unattended the multitude of ways that both play out
across the political landscape. The governance of a city is more than
the internal affairs of local government taxation and services, elite co-
alitions, neighborhood-
based organizations, municipal unions, and
fraternal groups. It also spans geographically across political jurisdic-
tions and authorities encompassing not only the many municipalities
that constitute the metropolitan area, but also relations between the
local government, its state government, and the federal government.
In some instances, it even extends globally when elected of“
cials and
local corporations forge ties with their counterparts in other countries
to encourage trade relations or jointly develop city-
based responses to
climate change.
These forms of governance, as they drift further and
further away from the daily lives of the citys residents and the places
of the city itself, become less open to democratic engagement.
The history of intergovernmental relations in the United States is
one where local governments were initially the most developed. Not
until the twentieth century did the state and federal government take
on signi“
cant responsibilities beyond, for the federal government, mili-
tary defense and international relations. By the mid-
average municipal government, then, approximately 40 percent of its
revenues originate from outside the city. With these transfers come
limitations on how these funds can be used; federal and state goals are
meant to override local objectives. Of course, local governments can
always refuse the funding. At times, higher levels of government re-
quire local governments to offer services such as screening children
for a disease, but fail to provide funding to do so. These are known
as unfunded mandates and further constrict the autonomy of local
That said, residents rely mainly on locally elected of“
cials to engage
with state and federal governments. Larger cities even establish of“
in the state capital or in Washington, DC, where staff can monitor leg-
islation, act as liaisons with relevant governmental agencies, and lobby
legislators for various programs. City residents also have access to state
and federal representatives, all of whom provide constituent services,
and can vote to elect to or oust them from of“
ce. Of particular concern
for any city government is the state legislature. City governments need
to obtain its approval for any new taxes or for programs not granted to
it in its charter. According to the famous court case written by Judge
John Dillon in 1872, municipal corporations (cities) are subordinate to
state governments; that is, they derive their powers from state legisla-
tion. Judge Dillon was concerned that city governments would stray
beyond their public functions and take on private-
sector activities.
Consequently, if municipal governments wish to institute a new tax on
automobiles entering the central business district to decrease conges-
tion, a practice known as congestion pricing, or set up a public author-
Table 4.2
Intergovernmental Transfers for Selected
Large Cities, 2006
Percentage of Total Revenues
San Antonio
Los Angeles
Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012
. Calculated
from Table 457, accessed April 14, 2016, www
ity to undertake a large redevelopment project, they must receive state
governmental approval. The problem many large cities face is that state
legislatures are no longer dominated by city representatives as they
were in the early twentieth century. Rather, suburban representatives
are more numerous and often disinclined to favor city interests. The ef-
fect is to limit the options available to city governments for managing
their fates.
A similar type of relationship, absent the constitutional dependency,
occurs with the federal government. Since the 1930s, a period of rapid
federal government expansion triggered by a Depression and World
WarII, the federal government has launched a large number and wide
variety of programs to address the concerns of the countrys people and
places. It has extended its purview beyond national defense, central
banking, and trade policy to subsidizing businesses, funding policing
technologies, passing environmental laws, and regulating mortgage mar-
kets. Many of these programs affect cities when they subsidize school
construction or fund the highways that make sprawl more likely.
What city governments hope to do by approaching Congress and
federal agencies either directly or through their representatives is to
uence how legislation is written and funding allocated. The govern-
ment of New Orleans, for example, is quite interested in the plans of
the US Army Corps of Engineers regarding the levees that channel the
Mississippi River and affect the vulnerability of the city to ”
Boston, in the 1990s, approached the federal government for funding
that would allow it to take down an unsightly elevated highway (the
Central Artery) and build a tunnel in its place, a project known as the
Big Dig that eventually cost $14.6 billion. New York City in the 1990s
used federal highway funding to demolish an outmoded and unsightly
elevated highway and replace it with a tree-
lined boulevard. San Fran-
cisco, Milwaukee, and Portland (OR) also removed limited-
access high-
ways from their waterfronts with federal assistance.
Lurking behind these city-
federal relations since the 1960s has been
a belief that the federal government has a responsibility to cities that
should manifest in a national urban policy.
The creation of the fed-
eral Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1965
was a partial recognition and response to this belief. Other efforts have
occurred to realize this ambition, but no policies have been passed that
privilege cities as a special constituency in federal politics. In fact, the
likelihood of a national settlement policy in the United States is min-
iscule given the restrictions on capital and residential mobility that
would be required. Nevertheless, a number of states„
New Jersey, Ore-
gon, Maryland„
have legislated statewide development policies.
primary intent is to utilize existing infrastructure, rather than build
anew, and to preserve farmland and the undeveloped areas of the state.
With the exception of Portland, Oregons growth boundary, these ef-
forts have had little success in encouraging more dense development
within and close to existing urban centers. Doing so would ostensibly
t the cities economically and politically and in this way enable
them to prosper. A robust federal-
level settlement policy would remove
such decisions from local control. The emergence of stronger state gov-
ernments and a federal government reaching down into municipalities
has strengthened city governments by providing additional funding;
it has also made them more dependent on other levels of government.
Less developed are relations among the many municipalities that
compose metropolitan areas. Given the functional interdependencies
that abound, a casual observer would imagine that elected of“
would want to speak with and coordinate activities with their counter-
parts in nearby places. Coordination, in fact, is fairly common around
regional issues such as mass transit, water supply, airports, and ports.
Louisville has a Regional Airport Authority, New Orleans has a Re-
gional Transit Authority, New York has a regional Port Authority, and
Detroit has a regional Convention Facility Authority.
Special purpose
districts, often crossing municipal boundaries, are another governance
mechanism for achieving economies of scale in the delivery of public
services. They are mainly used for water supply, sewage, ”
ood control,
and housing.
The Minneapolis-
St. Paul region is known for its met-
ropolitan tax-
base sharing program meant to discourage intergovern-
mental competition for relocating businesses that drains revenues from
local governments. A small number of metropolitan areas have con-
solidated city-
county governments, some of which are metropolitan
in scope: Nashville, Miami-
Dade County, Indianapolis, and Honolulu
among others. City governments in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and San
Francisco are coterminous with their county governments. And, New
York City comprises “
ve county governments, now treated as boroughs
of the city. In general, however, city governments are rarely involved
politically with their suburbs. This is due, in part, to a “
scal federalism
that makes local governments heavily reliant on revenues generated
within their jurisdictions by property and resident income taxes. Shar-
ing is discouraged.
City governments look outward to the world as well. Almost always
this is a matter of remaining economically competitive for trade, tour-
ism, and dominance in one or another sector of the economy such
as the visual arts, amateur sports, or “
nancial services. It also entails
the pursuit of foreign direct investment as when the local economic
development agency offers “
nancial and other incentives to a Ger-
man, Chinese, or English “
rm to locate in the city. Elected of“
are also enticed by international comparisons that rank their city in
terms of economic competitiveness, creativity, livability, and global in-
uence. For the larger cities, being globalŽ has a cachet that brands
them as places of opportunity. To be a global city is to be formidable
in the world of cities, but also to be compelled to vie incessantly for
attention by investors, tourists, and highly educated migrants. Conse-
quently, large cities advertise for tourists in international magazines,
development entities send trade missions to other countries, and gov-
ernments join various networks (such as the C40 Cities Climate Lead-
ership Group) to share ideas and become globally visible. These activi-
ties frequently occur beyond the reach of democratic procedures and
channels. They hardly ever build on the many connections that less
educated and recent immigrants have with the country that they left.
What matters is inward investment and “
nding trade partners for local
Unlike cities in countries where the central government is primarily
responsible for collecting taxes and redistributing it to localities, thus
enabling a certain equity in revenue distribution, American cities are
encouraged to compete against each other for af”
uent residents, thriv-
ing businesses, outside investors, and global prominence. This compe-
tition favors the inclusion in local governance of economic and cul-
tural elites who have the connections and incentives to think and act
beyond the citys boundaries. In this context, having a national and
even global image is a resource. Being able to compete against other
municipalities for state funding and programs and against other cities
for federal assistance is viewed as desirable and spurred by the need to
maintain a robust tax base. In external relations, participation by citi-
zens is marginalized.
Living in close proximity creates consequences for others. Certain of
these consequences are welcomed, as when a much-
needed supermar-
ket opens in a neighborhood or when street musicians decide to per-
form for an admiring audience. Others are less acceptable as when a
nightclub keeps nearby residents awake or when the managers of an
apartment building pile the sidewalk with trash. Procedures must be
developed to manage these con”
icts in ways that enable the citys
residents to feel that their concerns matter and are being heeded. In
response, democratic practices emerge at the grassroots level and lo-
cal governments are formed to address citywide issues of road man-
agement, water provision, and public schooling. Newspapers, radio and
television programs, and local magazines bring these issues to public
attention, further encouraging democracy to prevail.
Within civil society, many of these activities are open to the involve-
ment of numerous individuals and groups. Even then, a neighborhood-
based association that does not stay in contact with and listen to the
concerns of the residents will quickly lose legitimacy. Civil society can
also be oligarchic. Local governments face a similar dilemma of how
to balance the imperatives of large-
scale organizational dynamics with
the need to be accountable. But large, city governments„
and all for-
mal organizations„
harbor a tendency to concentrate in”
uence among
a small group of individuals. The business opportunities that these
governments have to dispense, the political opportunities for becom-
ing in”
uential, and the personal bene“
ts of elective of“
ce make them
susceptible to nondemocratic practices. The journey begins with the
need for representatives and ends with elite coalitions that gather onto
themselves the pro“
ts of government: zoning that creates real estate
investment opportunities and contracts for building a new sewer line,
to name just two such opportunities. The expertise ostensibly needed
to manage technologies and the complexities of intergovernmental re-
lations further reinforce this tendency. Oligarchy is in tension with the
participatory mechanisms that local governments also support. Under
pressure from citizen groups and the scrutiny of local media, govern-
ing elites attempt to balance the appearance and substance of democ-
racy with interests often cast as bene“
cial for the city but which, when
stripped of their celebratory rhetoric, serve only a few.
The story is not the same across all cities. Some are highly controlled
by a small group of elites, while others (albeit too few) have nurtured
progressive groups„
strongly committed to democratic practices„
are active in both social and political life, even to the point of plac-
ing like-
minded people on city councils and in the mayors of“
ce. San
Francisco is one such city where, in the 1980s, progressives were able to
restrict downtown growth, elect gay activists to public of“
ce, develop
policies to aid the homeless, and even elect a liberal mayor. Progressive
movements have thrived (brie”
y) in Boston and Chicago, Santa Mon-
ica, Santa Cruz, and Burlington (VT). For those committed to demo-
cratic governments and just cities, maintaining positions of power has
always been dif“
cult. Even when successful at shaping city policy, they
have had to contend with relentless pressure from commercial property
owners, developers, bankers, local elites, and newspapers (the growth
coalition) for public funds to be invested in downtown development
and only later, once growth has been established, to attend to neigh-
borhoods and less advantaged groups.
When governance spreads beyond the city, it becomes more and
more con“
ned to representatives and experts who mediate between the
local government and state and federal governments. That the elected
cials of cities mostly ignore relations with municipalities within the
metropolitan area speaks more to the laws under which they operate
than to any rational understanding of the interdependencies in which
these cities are embedded. Yet, urban governance requires that elected
cials and various publics interact with each other and engage with
entities outside the city, including agencies and legislators from supra-
levels of government. Governance happens both within and beyond
the citys boundaries. As it is extended geographically and organiza-
tionally, participatory democracy is increasingly displaced by elite-
mediated and expert-
based politics.
Commentators on urban governance are fond of quoting the fa-
mous German historical and legal scholar Max Weber. In writing about
the city, Weber reminded his readers of the German expression 
luft frei
Ž (city air makes men free).
He used the phrase to note how
the formation of cities weakened feudal relationships by encouraging
commerce beyond the citys walls and increasing anonymity, thereby
enabling people to do other than work the land or act as servants to the
king. My interest, however, is less in the city as a place where people
can be free as individuals than as a place where people become more
connected to and respectful of each other through various forms of
collective governance. That cities have representative governments
as part of this governance array does not preclude deeply democratic
practices. And, nongovernmental democratic practices can thrive even
when the local government falls under the control of local political
and economic elites who treat it as a source of business pro“
ts and a
tool for enhancing their political ambitions.
Cities enable both democracy and oligarchy. Seemingly opposites,
these qualities exist simultaneously, interdependently, and inseparably.
Elites take control of the major investment and policy decisions made
by local governments, while citizens exert in”
uence during elections
and via a multitude of organizations that foster civic democracy and
elevate participation above representation. Despite their efforts, the
residents of the city cannot escape the consequences of decisions and
actions over which they have little in”
Given the political culture of the United States, democracy and oli-
garchy are not separate conditions occupying different spheres in the
citys governance, but are intertwined. A city that is fully democratic is
a dream, a utopia useful for imagining a better world, but still a utopia
and unrealizable. It is similar with tolerance and intolerance, the topic
of the next chapter. A tolerant city devoid of animosities, disrespect,
and ill treatment is an ideal, possible only in our imagination. None-
theless, it is a worthy goal to which to aspire. Like poverty and wealth,
degradation and sustainability, and oligarchy and democracy, intoler-
ance and tolerance are ever-
Intolerant, Tolerant
Faced with isolation or even persecution, people often
ee small towns and make their way to the big city. Once
there, they hope to become anonymous or, at the least,
escape unwanted scrutiny. Ideally, they would meet like-
minded people with whom they might live and mutual
support would follow. Being gay in a rural community
where religious values condemn homosexuality or a Mus-
lim refugee in a place populated almost wholly by nativ-
ist Christians can be psychologically uncomfortable and
even dangerous. From this perspective, a big and socially
diverse city looks to be a refuge.
Of the many reasons that people relocate to cities,
one is the desire to be free from humiliation as they ride
the bus, shop at the local supermarket, attend a concert
in the park, walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood,
and carry out their tasks at work. With cities, we associate
tolerance. The expectation is that differences in religious
beliefs, nationality, sexual orientation, ethnicity, political
liation, race, lifestyle, and regional origin will be, for
the most part, accepted or, at least, ignored. Those who
are different will be treated according to criteria that ap-
ply equally to all. As the philosopher Michael Walzer has
written, Toleration make differences possible; difference
makes toleration necessary.Ž
The differences that cities support bring the values and
norms of diverse groups into contact. However, if that
engagement is poorly negotiated, intolerance results.
fact, acts of intolerance are ubiquitous. In almost any US
city, we “
nd areas segregated by race, ethnicity, and na-
tionality. African-
Americans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans in partic-
ular often encounter barriers to renting apartments or buying homes
wherever they chose. In many neighborhoods, these groups are unwel-
comed, regardless of whether they can afford to live there or not. Even
worse, hate crimes against queers, African-
Americans, and people from
the Middle East are all too common, happening precisely because of
where they come from and regardless of any objective threat that they
Moreover, these are the very same people who experience dis-
crimination by banks and insurance companies and in workplaces and
retail stores. Not too long ago, women were denied home mortgages
unless their husband or another male cosigned the loan and, in 2015,
just after the US Supreme Court legalized same-
sex marriages across the
county, a debate ensued as to whether certain Christian store owners„
opposed to such marriages on religious grounds„
could deny services
to same-
sex couples.
At the same time, groups cohere by choice. In or-
der to bene“
t from being with others like themselves, they establish a
physical separation from other people. These arrangements constitute
a form of voluntary social and geographical segregation that protects
the group identities that are highly valued in a multicultural society
like the United States. Not to be condemned, such segregation can also
breed intolerance. Within cities, tolerance and intolerance coexist.
I think of tolerance and intolerance as political acts that signal a
willingness, or not, to allow others into the public realm.
People dif-
ferent from each other come into contact and are faced with deciding
how to behave toward those who are other.Ž Intolerant acts often have
their roots in prejudice that, if deeply felt, slips into discrimination ex-
pressed in individual and collective (even institutionalized) laws and
behavior that deprive others of rights and opportunities. A government
intolerant toward Mexican or Syrian immigrants will de“
ne them as
inferior, out-
place, and without political rights, thereby denying
them citizenship. By doing so, governments and the groups that sup-
port such policy preserve a speci“
c and somewhat narrow understand-
ing of the countrys identity and engage in the constant imagining of
the nation and its cities. Governments and groups tolerant of others
contribute to more inclusive cities. And while tolerance has its limits,
acknowledging those limits is integral to knowing where tolerance
stops and intolerance begins. Politics is a matter of creating and de-
limiting publics and thus of indicating who belongs and who matters
to the larger community. Tolerance and intolerance are two of its most
powerful mechanisms.
Although the city has the capacity to teach its residents about tol-
erance,Ž it also creates innumerable situations where intolerance, for
some, seems to be the only option and„
at times„
a seeming necessity.
The city puts people with diverse religious beliefs and sexual orienta-
tions in close proximity, thereby forcing them into situations where
they must compete for opportunities, confront (and often fear) en-
croachment by those unlike themselves, and judge each other harshly.
Yet, the city functions best when con”
ict is minimized and people
of various social standings, origins, and lifestyles are allowed to live
unhampered by marginalization, humiliation, or violence. Tolerance
and intolerance exist side-
side. As a small example, consider that in
many cities same-
sex couples feel uncomfortable holding hands in pub-
lic. Doing so makes their sexual preferences and lifestyle conspicuous
and them, they believe, an object of verbal harassment or worse.
many areas of San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York, this
is not a problem. More at ease on the streets,Ž queer people there are
mostly left to be themselves. Yet, they also know that to stray into cer-
tain neighborhoods„
even in these cities„
might put them at risk and
a morally charged event (for example, a gay elementary school teacher
accused of child molestation) could make public expressions of their
sexual orientation ill-
In this chapter, we consider how the city enables people„
many of
them strangers to each other„
to live together both harmoniously and
inharmoniously, asking them to negotiate the contradictory impulses
of tolerance and intolerance. I begin with the basic idea that political
acts of this kind are rooted in the social diversity of the city. Toler-
ance and intolerance are a response to the other,Ž whether to strang-
ers, people of a different ethnicity or sexual orientation, or those with
whom we simply disagree. After commenting on tolerance, the chapter
then turns to different forms of intolerance with a focus on margin-
alization and violence. I end with a discussion of urbanity, a way of
living that distinguishes life in the city from life in small towns and
rural areas.
Diversity and Tolerance
Consider the many types of social engagements that exist within a city.
In the early twentieth century, sociologists contrasted the city with vil-
lages and rural areas in terms of the mix of what they termed primary
and secondary relationships.
Primary relationships are those that
characterize families and close friends; they involve people of whom
we have long histories and extensive knowledge. They are siblings or
cousins or friends as far back as elementary school. Secondary
relationships are those that occur when retail clerks serve customers
who are unknown to them. The clerks have little knowledge about the
customer and no emotional attachment. The families of these custom-
ers and how they passed their teenage years is a mystery. Neverthe-
less, this does not preclude a transaction as the customer purchases a
loaf of bread or pays a fare upon boarding the bus. Nor does it stop
people from giving directions to a confused tourist. By de“
nition, a
city, in contrast to a rural community, has a much higher percentage
of secondary relationships. Another way to say this is that a city con-
tains a greater proportion of strangers. In villages, few strangers ap-
pear; whereas in cities, the streets, shops, bus stations, and theaters are
lled with them. Encountering someone we know in the citys central
park, at a street festival, or in a downtown department store comes as
a surprise.
Unlike a small village where many people are related by blood or
marriage and, as long-
term acquaintances, are familiar with each
other, in cities many of the people one encounters are unfamiliar. If,
as well, they are perceptively different in skin color, language, or dress
„or considered radically different in ways that one or another group
nds offensive„
then tolerance is likely to be weakened. Because the
signs of difference and the relationships that they evoke are malleable
and often socially ascribed, tolerance and intolerance appear in diver-
gent forms with differences sparking a variety of reactions. Certain
ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, reli-
gion„are triggers for intolerance, despite numerous efforts to counter-
act these tendencies. Tolerance, then, requires sympathy for the diverse
otherŽ and thus the capacity to extend feelings, qualities, and vis-
ceral statesŽ across divisions: it requires artful experimentation with
the social movements that draw individuals into togetherness.Ž
That said, cities are saturated with a variety of relationships: im-
mediate family, relatives, friends, acquaintances, outsiders, neighbors,
foreigners, colleagues, and strangers are all present. Such designations
ect how familiar we are with others, the obligations we might have
to them (compare parents to business associates), and the amount of
time we spend in their presence.
We might work most of the day with
a colleague, but have no interaction with her outside of the of“
ce. We
might know very little about a person, but in certain situations (for
example, a parent struggling to move two children and a baby carriage
onto an escalator) offer our assistance. The point is that these dissimi-
lar relationships have implications for tolerance and intolerance. We
are more likely to be tolerant of those with whom we have personal
obligations, with whom we are familiar, and with whom we spend a
good deal of our day. In primary relationships, tolerance is expected
and intolerance an anomaly.
Of these various relations, two„
strangers and neighbors„
are cen-
tral to understanding tolerance and intolerance in the city. To be a
stranger is to be both anonymous and a curiosity and this status has
positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, anonymity
confers a certain protection from the judgment of others as the anony-
mous person is less likely to be pulled into a web of social norms em-
braced by people familiar to each other. Seemingly on the outside and
beyond the prevailing social rules, the person is a stranger. Of course,
this does not mean that these rules can be violated with impunity.
At the same time, the stranger is a curiosity who might well engen-
der trepidation. The actions and the consequences of an alien group
detached from shared norms are unpredictable and, because of this,
potentially disconcerting. What impacts will Arab newcomers have on
the shops in the neighborhood, the schools, or how people use the lo-
cal park?
Despite such concerns, urban residents are to a great extent tolerant
and even welcoming. Numerous cities have organizations whose pur-
pose is to help strangers (often foreigners) adapt to the city. In Stam-
ford (CT), Neighbors Link Stamford provides advice on schools, hous-
ing, and employment to immigrants; International Neighbors in Ann
Arbor (MI) holds cultural exchanges and other social events to wel-
come women; and Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative in Den-
ver assists immigrants and refugees. In 2015, the mayor of Pittsburgh
announced a set of initiatives meant to foster diversity and aid new-
comers from foreign lands. His proposals included Welcoming Hubs
at community centers and multilingual, employee-
rights support. And,
in Dayton, Ohio, the Welcome Dayton Plan pulls together job training,
housing assistance, and business services and has established commu-
nity centers in immigrant communities and improved public services
to these groups.
A useful and interesting distinction is between strangers and aliens.
Strangers are people whom we do not personally know but whose out-
ward characteristics (for example, how they dress, their physical fea-
tures) enable us to place them as belonging in the city or a neighbor-
hood. In contrast, aliens are people whose outward characteristics
perplex us„they are not from here. They are dressed in ways that seem
outlandish, act out of the ordinary,Ž or are visually menacing. Aliens
are less easy to read than strangers. It might be a group of Hare Krish-
nas or a leather-
clad, tattoo-
covered, heavily-
pierced biker gang that
shows up in downtown Boise, Idaho. Or, it might be Sikhs with their
turbans and saris whose traditional garb makes them seem out of place.
To be one of the “
rst Somalian refugees in majority-
white Omaha is to
be an alien.
Seldom do we come into contact with strangers and aliens at home
or at the synagogue. Rather, we encounter them in the public spaces of
the city. It is on the sidewalks, in the parks, and at movie theaters and
street festivals where we are likely to meet disparate people and ob-
serve behaviors that make us uncomfortable. It is almost only in public
spaces that people physically meet the otherŽ whom they fear, resent,
or condemn or who cause them to feel ill-
ease. Of course, these oth-
ers are also encountered on television and the internet, in magazines
and newspapers, and at the movies, but from a safer distance. Tolerance
and intolerance occur in public.
Diverse public spaces also have the potential to make people more
accepting of others. Jane Addams, the Progressive Era reformer, be-
lieved that by encountering differences, peoples sympathies were en-
larged. Over time, diverse experiences make us more accepting. Public
open to all for casual conversations, spontaneous group ac-
tivities, and even protest„
are central to democracy, itself a key aspect
of tolerance.
Without places to deliberate together or to march for a
cause, democracy is weakened and, with it, an openness to the opin-
ions and presence of diverse others. Yet, it was in public spaces that
civil rights marchers were heckled, spat upon, and even assaulted and,
even more luridly, where nearly one-
third of the mass shootings oc-
curred in the United States in 2015.
To simply divide the city into public and private spaces is to ”
the variety of spaces that constitute the city and in which tolerance
and intolerance occur. Of major importance are parochial or semipub-
lic spaces„
airports, restaurants, shopping malls, and health clubs„
which the private and the public overlap and the distinction between
the two is blurred.
University campuses are often this type of space.
New York University, for example, is not isolated from the city,Ž in
its own enclave, but intertwined with it. Campus buildings are inter-
spersed with restaurants, apartment houses, pharmacies, and coffee
shops. Through its spaces on a daily basis pass people who have noth-
ing to do with the university. Students and nonstudents mingle on the
sidewalks and in Washington Square Park, which sits at the symbolic
center of this urban campus. The campus is a parochial space where a
person is as likely to encounter a nonstudent as a student. It is a cam-
pus of many strangers and even aliens.
Most important for our discussion of tolerance and intolerance are
the places we term neighborhoods. Neighbors are people who live to-
gether in an area of the city generally recognized as distinct. They tell
people that they live in Over-
Rhine (Cincinnati), the Garden Dis-
trict (New Orleans), or the Shepherd (Oklahoma City) neighborhood
and the reference is obvious. Real estate agents, planners in the citys
planning department, and dispatchers at the citys central post of-
ce all recognize these places. Because neighbors share a place, more-
over, they also share an identity, whether it is personally adopted or
conferred on them by outsiders. Other people in the neighborhood
are familiar and look as if they belong, even if little more is known
about them. A sense of community„
a sense that neighbors should be
acknowledged, respected, and given assistance if in need„
also exists.
Neighbors are decent folkŽ and the inclination for most people is that
they deserve to be acknowledged and given assistance if in need.
As spatial identities coalesce, they also give rise to a feeling that the
neighborhood has to be protected from unwanted change, whether in-
volving an in”
ux of dissimilar people or the imposition of a locally-
unwanted land use such as a bus maintenance facility. In extreme
cases, this defensive localism becomes violent as existing residents
organize to discourage gentri“
ers from moving in or minorities from
buying or renting homes there.
Intolerance is the result.
This shared identity can also take a more tolerant form with neigh-
bors coming together in communities of mutual support, helping
someone simply because the person lives nearby. The elderly couple
next door needs the snow shoveled from their sidewalk; the man across
the hallway asks you to pick up any packages delivered to his door
when he is on vacation. When Ida Mae Brandon Gladley moved from
Mississippi to Chicago in 1938, her next-
door neighbor came over to
introduce herself. They shared a bottle of wine that the neighbor had
brought and advice as to how to behave differently in the North than
in the South.
The status of neighbor is socially positioned between the alien and
the family member. The attraction of neighborhoods for those con-
cerned about cities is that it provides an intermediate realm between
the public and the private such that people can “
nd security and
shared identity as well as have a presence among strangers. A relatively
homogenous neighborhood can be a place of tolerance for the group
and a source of social support. Neighbors are people who connect with
those they only partially know and, when offering assistance and be-
ing perceived so by others, provide examples of neighborliness to be
emulated. Neighbors can also be irritating and disruptive, encouraging
avoidance or even public condemnation.
Of particular importance is the tendency of people to live in a neigh-
borhood with people like themselves. Numerous neighborhoods are
named for the group that has (or had once) congregated there: Greek-
town (Detroit), the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, Chinatown in
Washington, DC, and Koreatown in Los Angeles are just a few of in-
numerable examples. Voluntary segregation provides distance from
diverse others and contributes to a citywide tolerance even as it has
the potential to exacerbate a more local intolerance. Yet, because few
neighborhoods are never wholly homogenous, these residents are also
constantly thrown together with people unlike themselves. They in-
teract as patients at a local health clinic, customers at a neighborhood
sandwich shop, strangers passing on the sidewalk, and participants at
a rally against rising neighborhood crime, none of which necessarily
forces them to acknowledge the ways in which they disagree or are dif-
ferent. The counter-
person who serves you a sandwich at a diner might
look Turkish and gay, but that has very little to do with enjoying your
lunch and paying your bill. This is all quite unpredictable, though,
and not readily generalizable. Whether the police of“
cer who stopped
you while you were driving because you were supposedly speeding is a
Hindu likely is unimportant, but race might be important if the of“
is white and you are a young, African-
American male.
Consider the diversity of just one neighborhood: Frogtown (from
the German, Froschburg) in St. Paul. Today, it is known as a Hmong
and Vietnamese neighborhood, but also living there are Somali, Mexi-
cans, Chinese, and Laotians. Forty percent of the population is Asian
with one-
quarter African-
American and another one-
quarter white.
Andersonville in Chicago was originally settled by Swedes and is still
known for its Scandinavian origins, but is now a mixture of Swedish,
Korean, Lebanese, and Mexican households and has a sizable queer
Implicit here is that ethnicity is a powerful basis on
which groups cluster together.
One of the best-
known of these neighborhood distinctions has its
origins in the revolt against middle-
class values and way of life cen-
tered on a striving for economic prosperity and social respectability. As
embodied by writers, artists, intellectuals, political radicals, and femi-
nists in the early twentieth century, this alternative to bourgeois ideals
came to be known as bohemianism. In the United States, it led to the
transformation of Greenwich Village in New York City from a proper
class community to a haven where bohemians gathered to live
and socialize in artist studios, taverns, and the salons of wealthy pa-
trons. Rebelling against what they viewed as a stultifying, middle-
culture, they nonetheless were symbiotically connected to it. Yet, liv-
ing with the middle class would be to sell outŽ and risk disapproval
from their peers. In response, they sought out places with like-
and like-
acting people. After World War II, North Beach in San Fran-
cisco and Venice Beach in Los Angeles joined Greenwich Village as
places hospitable to and tolerant of a bohemian lifestyle. In the 1960s,
beatsŽ and hippiesŽ took up similar residence in places like Haight-
Ashbury in San Francisco.
For anyone black who sought admission, bohemia offered scant
hospitality,Ž however.
In New York City, black intellectuals, writers,
artists, and political activists were found not in Greenwich Village
but in Harlem. There, in the 1920s, black culture thrived to the point
that the nightclubs where jazz was performed and places where poetry
was read became destinations for white people„
racial tourists„
downtown. This northern section of Manhattan became a commu-
nity and safe haven for black men and women immersed in the bo-
hemian life. Their presence created synergies that led to the Harlem
Renaissance that crystallized a speci“
c black urban culture of literary
and artistic accomplishment and, for women, sexual freedom. Out of
it emerged a racial consciousness that produced new forms of poetry,
novels, and paintings that reimagined the black experience in America
and elevated jazz to popular status in a certain segment of the white
population. Black artists became part of a group linked by ethnic
pride, political activities, and a shared cultural lineage.Ž The intoler-
ance these individuals might have faced living elsewhere was absent.
Beginning in the early twentieth century, bohemian neighborhoods
also provided safety, security, and social support for queer individu-
als. Large cities freed gays and lesbians from mainstream constraints
and offered the possibility of surmounting loneliness.Ž Queers created
space for themselves in Park Slope in Brooklyn, the Castro district in
San Francisco, Northampton (MA), Jamaica Plain in Boston, and Oak
Lawn in Dallas among other places. Initially, they did so covertly but,
later, made their presence publicly visible with bars, bookstores, and
health clinics. If not tolerance, they wanted indifference; they wanted
to live unbothered and outside the shadows. These places increasingly
became known as queer spaces where holding hands or kissing in pub-
lic was acceptable. Gays and lesbians also became politically active.
They staged gay pride parades, established political organizations, and
ran for of“
ce on platforms that championed issues directly related to
the needs of the gay and lesbian community. Their numbers and pres-
ence gave these neighborhoods not just a public identity, but collective
strength as well. Outside of them, the tolerance they enjoyed dimin-
ished. This has decreasingly been the case as the larger population has
become more accepting. As just one example, and as mentioned ear-
lier, in 2015 the Supreme Court legalized same-
sex marriages across all
states and localities.
The contemporary version of the bohemian neighborhood is the
hipsterŽ neighborhood. Many of the hipsters and artists attracted to
these neighborhoods are young, single, and close followers (if not set-
ters) of the latest trends and fashions. They congregate in places like
Silver Lake (Los Angeles), the Pearl District (Portland, OR), and Wicker
Park (Chicago). Hipsters, though, are hardly ”
eeing intolerance. Rather,
from an urban perspective, the issue is one of gentri“
cation; that is,
the invasion of working-
class neighborhoods by a more af”
uent group
in search of affordable housing and work spaces. The subsequent rise
of property values, changeover in retail activities, and transforma-
tion of the neighborhoods image often engender con”
ict between the
newcomers and existing residents around street life, the use of public
spaces, housing costs, retailing, and neighborhood politics. Intolerance
arises in the con”
icts that ensue as the neighborhood is transformed
and existing residents feel unwelcome or, worse, are displaced.
Moving away from neighborhoods and further complicating our un-
derstanding of aliens, strangers, and neighbors is that each individual
and group has more than one quality that differentiates it from oth-
ers. A person is not solely Jewish or solely lesbian. Identity has multiple
facets. Similarly for groups. They, too, cannot be characterized in terms
of a single quality such as class or age. To characterize people as Puerto
Rican, evangelicals, bisexual, or liberals tells us very little about their
place in the city. Moreover, the qualities that we use to distinguish peo-
ple are themselves often divisible. One is Italian and, within that cate-
gory, possibly Sicilian or Milanese or Neapolitan. Jews are not just Jews,
but orthodox or liberal, professionals or business owners, from Canada
or from Israel, assimilated or “
ercely separatist. Tolerance is a matter not
only of identifying one or another quality to accept,Ž but of accepting
people for who they are as complex human beings. This requires the
inclination to allow for others what one would allow for oneself„
possibility of living a full life. Tolerance rests on equanimity.
In effect, the qualities on which intolerance often turns are imputed
and ascribed rather than inherent to individuals and groups. At play
are nationality and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, religion, race, oc-
cupation, lifestyle (for example, bohemianism), class, and even politi-
cal af“
liation as when a self-
proclaimed, Jewish socialist displays politi-
cal lawn signs in a devoutly Christian and conservative neighborhood.
And while, over time, the qualities that draw attention have shifted, a
number have endured as sources of difference: race, ethnicity, religion,
and nationality come immediately to mind. Consider religion. Roger
Williams, who founded Providence (RI), was expelled from the Mas-
sachusetts Colony in 1635 because of his criticism of the Church of
England and the King. Today, Muslims who were once near-
(at least politically), have become an object of governmental and public
anxiety after the destruction of the World Trade Center in Manhattan
in 2001 by Islamic terrorists and the rise of religion-
based terrorism in
Europe, Asia, Africa, and the United States.
Religion is particularly important. Throughout the countrys cities
and over the decades, diverse religions have been more or less toler-
ated and the national government, despite its Christian origins, has at-
tempted to remain independent of any one religion. The First Amend-
ment to the US Constitution states that Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free expres-
sion thereof.Ž Religious tolerance seems established. In 2015, Indianap-
olis had nine mosques, seven synagogues, and 45 different Christian
denominations including 197 Baptist churches, 44 Catholic churches,
37 Lutheran congregations, nine Episcopalian churches, 78 nondenom-
inational bodies, and one interdenominational group.
All of these re-
ligions coexist more or less peacefully.
As a generalization, cities of the United States are relatively tolerant
places. People of very different nationalities, religions, and sexual prac-
tices manage to live together without overt and sustained con”
ict. Yet,
tolerance is not equally present in all cities, nor equally experienced by
all groups. Some cities seem more so than others. A 2012 study created
a composite measure of tolerance using the incidences of hate crimes;
the diversity of the residents as indicated by the presence of same-
couples, percent white, and percent African-
American; and the states
rank on tolerance. It found that the most tolerant places were Durham
(NC), Honolulu, and San Francisco. (See table 5.1.) This does not mean
that prejudiced people are absent from these places, that discrimina-
tion does not occur, or that police violence is nonexistent (as the pres-
ence of Baltimore on the list, a city with serious racial issues, attests).
Within each of these cities, intolerance is certainly possible. Then,
there is Trenton, a city with many poor, racial minority households.
Their presence is less an indicator of the opportunities available to
them there than of the lack of opportunities to advance and thus, by
implication, of discrimination. That acknowledged, the study points to
a background of tolerance not to the lack of intolerance.
In its ideals, the national culture is one that works against prejudices
being acted on and discrimination becoming public. Support for toler-
ance comes from such laws as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair
Housing Act of 1968, and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
This legislation prohibits and punishes discrimination against African-
Americans, the disabled, and women whether that discrimination oc-
curs in the workplace or through lending practices, university admis-
sions, or government procurement policies. The law also designates
hate crimes that trigger more punitive responses than a normal assault
or act of vandalism.
Tolerance, though, is experienced in many different ways and these
differences are also enabled by how cities work. One of its forms is in-
difference; that is, an attitude that accepts the sharing of public space
with others unlike oneself, but that neither validates nor rebukes their
presence. This is also known as civil inattention, a ritual regard for the
other person.Ž
The presence of diverse others does not engender a re-
sponse one way or another. People unlike ones self are simply ignored.
Table 5.1
Most Tolerant Cities in the United
San Francisco
Source: Americas Most Tolerant Cities from San Francisco
to New York,Ž
Daily Beast
, accessed August 14, 2015, www
Such indifference is a weak basis on which to build common bonds
and alliances in the face of intolerance. It is neither one nor the other,
and yet not to be wholly dismissed.
Ideally, tolerance would extend beyond indifference to provide pro-
tection and assistance to those outside ones group. People would come
together to advocate for immigrant rights, as they did in many cities in
2006. Then, thousands of people rallied in San Diego, Atlanta, Dallas,
Columbus (OH), and Los Angeles to protest proposed Congressional
legislation that would have added to the penalties on illegal immigrants
and treated undocumented immigrants and those who helped them as
In a related vein, over 200 state and local governments have
passed laws, issued executive orders, and supported nonbinding resolu-
tions limiting the extent to which municipal government employees
and agencies can assist the federal government on immigration mat-
ters. Called sanctuary laws, they have two objectives: “
rst, to prevent
immigrants from being deported to countries where they will become
victims of violence and, second, to keep municipal governments sepa-
rate from national immigration policies that harm city residents. There
are even sanctuary cities.
Making the city safer and„
as a consequence„
more tolerant at a
much smaller scale are the security cameras and well-
lit and widely
visible waiting areas deployed to make bus stops and subway platforms
safer for women in the evening, thereby recognizing a gender differ-
ence salient to city life.
As another example, citizens might pressure
their elected of“
cials to establish a commission on religious tolerance
or speak out against Arab pro“
lingŽ by the police. Going even fur-
ther, tolerance can be and has been extended to offering assistance to
groups who might otherwise be treated intolerantly; for example, dedi-
cating public funds to combat housing discrimination or to support
gay health clinics. These actions project tolerance beyond indifference.
Tolerance is also “
ltered through the multitude of occupations and
professions in which people are involved and the need for businesses
to engage with customers and suppliers and strive to be pro“
Retailers must accept potential buyers from many different worlds if
they wish to maximize sales. They will not survive if they turn away
customers. Even ethnic businesses„
a Salvadoran restaurant, a Rus-
sian nightclub, a college preparatory “
rm serving Korean high school
that cluster in ethnic neighborhoods, are unlikely to dis-
criminate even as they strive to occupy a market niche. Ethnic neigh-
borhoods are never saturated with one group or immune from outsid-
ers. Commerce seemingly encourages indifference if not a strong strain
of tolerance.
An interesting variation on this argument has to do with port cities.
Places like San Francisco, New York City, and New Orleans are suppos-
edly more tolerant, in part because, as major ports, they attract sea-
farers, businesspeople, and travelers from around the world. Trade re-
quires interaction with strangers and thus acceptance into the city of
large numbers of outsiders who are only passing through or using the
city as a temporary place of business or work. San Francisco is a good
illustration of this: a natural experiment in the consequences of toler-
ating deviance.Ž
From the late nineteenth through to the twenty-
century, it has been a port-
call for ships from Asia, various countries
in South America, and US cities extending as far as the East Coast. The
Gold Rush of 1849 attracted people from around the world including
sailors from Massachusetts who were abandoning the waning whaling
industry. The citys residents understood that these strangers were es-
sential to the citys economy even as they often quarantined them in
certain areas and treated them shabbily. The conditions were thus set
for San Francisco to attract bohemians in the 1950s and hippies in the
1970s. By the 1980s, the city had become a haven for gay men and
eventually a center of political activism around gay rights. Today, hip-
sters are equally as prevalent.
Tolerance, though, is more than a by-
product of commerce. It stems
from the interdependencies that a city creates among its residents.
People cannot provide for themselves and are dependent on others
for medical care, food, transportation, entertainment, and informa-
tion. Even if one withdraws into an ethnic enclave, buying only from
ethnic businesses, attending the ethnic-
based church or mosque,
greeting only fellow ethnics on the sidewalks, speaking only the native
language, and watching ethnic television, any attempt to ride public
transportation or interact with a public agency (the post of“
ce) or non-
t organization (say, for visa services or help with a dif“
cult land-
lord) is going to lead into a maelstrom of differences. Deciding not to
come into contact with people unlike ones self is dif“
cult to do in a
city, whether it entails purchasing a ticket from a bus driver, having
dental work done, or signing a contract with a business owner to de-
liver cloth so that your workers can produce womens blouses. And al-
though businesses, occupations, and professions have been known to
discriminate, with cabdrivers refusing to pick up African-
or technology “
rms hiring only men in executive positions, these are
tions. There is no escaping the citys interdependencies and thus
the need for at least a modicum of tolerance toward others.
Before shifting the emphasis to intolerance, we need to acknowledge
the way in which the citys spatial form contributes to tolerance. With
similar people living together in the same neighborhoods, shopping in
the same retail districts, and even working in the same industries, they
are unlikely to come into frequent contact with those different from
them. And with these groupings widely distributed across the city, peo-
ple are not confronted on a daily basis with situations that might trig-
ger intolerance. The citys residents might be densely packed together,
but they are also segregated from each other in numerous ways. They
are not just occupying different neighborhoods; bus and subway lines
often serve distinct parts of the city and keep groups apart even as
they connect them. The commuter rail line coming in from the af”
ent suburbs has a much different ridership than bus lines connecting
rent, immigrant neighborhoods to the downtown core. Although
people might mingle in the downtown, at professional sporting events,
and at parades, they are, on the whole, more or less isolated from di-
verse others at work and at home where most people spend most of
their time. This protects their differences but also enhances a tolerance
that is less than ideal. Nevertheless, the social diversity of cities and the
dependence that people have on each other in their daily lives brings
people together and makes it important that differences be treated
with respect.
Although tolerance seemingly characterizes US cities (more or lessand
for some groups more than others), intolerance lurks in the back-
ground, mostly unexpressed, but emerging in isolated and episodic
instances. Every so often, it erupts in sustained and violent ways. In-
tolerance takes a number of forms ranging from deliberate indiffer-
ence to marginalization and even oppression, with African-
queers, Muslims, and recent immigrants disproportionately targeted.
Too frequently, intolerance escalates to violence manifested in riots
and hate crimes. When it becomes systemic, groups are stigmatized
and segregated.
One way in which intolerance is manifested is through ignoring a
group that wishes to be publicly recognized; that is, by being actively
indifferent as to their presence and distinctiveness. Much of daily life
is a matter of disregarding the fact that you are surrounded by people
who are unlike you, believe things that you consider wrong-
and behave in ways that you “
nd inappropriate. These others speak
a foreign language, socialize in front of their homes rather than in
the backyard, have large families, are isolationist on foreign policy,
or smoke cigarettes. To the extent that these differences do not affect
how you live with and interact with them, they are of no concern. But
this form of distancing from and avoidance of others„
an attitude of
live and let liveŽ
is not itself tolerance. In its ideal form, tolerance
requires that we acknowledge differences and do so non-
The acknowledgment does not have to be public, as when the govern-
ment allows a Korean neighborhood to have bilingual street signs, but
it should involve the acceptance of such differences as part of what it is
to be human. Differences need to be acknowledged without prejudice;
that is, without morally devaluing them.
Indifference, then, has a Janus-
like quality„
some times acting as
the basis for tolerance, other times breeding intolerance. Its dark side
can be subtle as when a public school system has no course in its cur-
riculum on the history of a group whose presence in the city is large
and increasing. Or, it might manifest in a less subtle way when school
administrators ignore the language problems faced by the children of
immigrants and fail to hire teachers who speak their language or offer
courses that might improve their English, or, when the police depart-
ment rejects the request of a growing immigrant community for a liai-
son so that the police will have a better understanding of that commu-
nitys needs and culture. An early example involves the New York City
government in the late nineteenth century. It attempted to enforce
standards of behavior in Central Park by prohibiting political activi-
ties along with swimming, “
shing, playing musical instruments, and
posting notices or parading for civic or military purposes.Ž Here was
a clear expression of intolerance toward working-
class and immigrant
leisure activities and an example of middle-
class indifference. More re-
cently, public housing authorities have attempted to eliminate certain
forms of lower-
class behavior such as impromptu social gatherings in
public spaces, thereby imposing more acceptable, middle-
class norms.
More blatant examples of indifference appear as acts that marginal-
ize people, a second form of intolerance. They include denying parade
permits for groups, passing laws that prohibit the homeless from occu-
pying public spaces, and slating for development a site (for example, an
American or native American burial ground) that a group be-
lieves is worth memorializing and protecting. In both Boston and New
York City, the organizers of the St. Patricks Day Parade have denied
permission to gay and lesbian Irish individuals to march as an identi“
able group. The mayor of Birmingham in 2008 rejected a request by
the Central Alabama Pride to hold a march as part of a gay and lesbian
pride celebration. More recently, at least 21 cities have passed laws pro-
hibiting the sharing of food with the homeless in public spaces and
numerous cities have banned sleeping or begging there as well.
marginalization might be less formalized in law when a group new to a
neighborhood is discouraged by long-
term residents from using a pub-
lic park for activities„
music and dance, picnicking, sports„
they “
Marginalization also manifests around claims to being an Ameri-
can.Ž This mainly involves immigrants, but has also been extended to
political activists. The prevailing cultural norm seems to be that new-
comers should make every attempt to assimilate into American culture
and that no efforts (for example, accommodating foreign language in
public schools) should be mounted that hinder that assimilation. Peo-
ple are expected to adopt English as their primary language (particu-
larly in public), pursue citizenship, and embrace patriotism. The goal is
a nation of AmericansŽ different from the nations of France, Bolivia,
Syria, or Thailand. These expectations are not unique to the United
States. Yet, many people identify as Irish-
American or Cuban-
and wish to hold onto their cultural heritage. They continue to speak
the language of their birth, dress in ways that express their national
origins, celebrate festivals special to them, and (for some) engage in
Christian religious practices.
As one example, a number of cities„
Hazelton (PA) and Green Bay
(WI)„have passed laws declaring that English is the of“
cial language
of the municipal government, thereby forbidding government employ-
ees from speaking to residents in another language (for example, when
they apply for a marriage license) or from making governmental doc-
uments available in a language other than English. As one supporter
of such laws noted, Government must encourage immigrants to join
mainstream society and not live in linguistic isolation.Ž Although this
might be admirable in one sense, it ignores the challenges of adapting
to a new country and sends a message that immigrants are unwanted.
For this reason, the mayor of Nashville in 2007 vetoed such a bill, de-
claring that it would make the city less safe, less friendly, and less
Third, intolerance is often experienced as violence and can come
from government or from individual
s or groups in the form of hate
crimes. Of the former, consider police violence against African-
Americans. In the “
rst seven months of 2015, 197 black people (pre-
dominately male) were killed by the police with blacks three times
more likely to die in this way than whites. One-
third of these killings
occurred in the 100 largest cities of the country with Chicago, New
York, and Los Angeles having the highest numbers of these deaths.
Tulsa (OK), Hialeah (FL), and North Las Vegas are particularly danger-
ous cities for blacks. Racial pro“
ling, in which police of“
cers assume
certain behaviors on the basis of racial characteristics (for example,
skin color, dress, even location), is a contributing factor. Critics argue
that the police have an implicit bias that views young, black males as
potential criminals.
All such incidents are tragic, but one that reverberated further
than most occurred in Ferguson (MO) on August 9, 2014. That day,
Michael Brown, a black teenager, was walking with a friend along a
city street. The owner of a nearby convenience store had just called the
police about a robbery and the police went in search of the suspect.
Brown was killed when, as he was walking away, a police of“
cer shot
him. In response, the black community held a candle-
light vigil, but
not too many hours passed before outrage erupted into violent protest.
Angered, in part, by what they believed to be racist treatment by the
police, some of the protesters took to vandalism and looting; others
engaged in peaceful demonstrations. The police responded with force
including the use of tear gas and the city government had to declare a
state of emergency. This went on for over a week. For the black commu-
nity, it was another in too many instances where a black man had been
wrongfully shot by the police.
Police violence is hardly a recent occurrence. During the late 1960s
in Philadelphia, the police commissioner spoke publicly of his dislike of
both political demonstrators and African-
American civil rights protest-
ers. In one instance, in August 1970, and after skirmishes between the
police and black youth, the police raided the of“
ces of the radical Black
Panther Party, one of a number of militant groups active in the city.
The raid was intended as a preemptive tactic to cripple the organization
and block its Peoples Revolutionary Convention scheduled for later
that year. Gun“
re was exchanged and, after the police used tear gas to
empty the building, the Panthers were taken outside, stripped naked,
and searched„
a photograph of which was published in the local news-
paper. Public condemnation of the police department followed.
For the most part, the 1960s were a particularly violent time with
the police and members of the black community clashing repeatedly
and violently. The countrys major cities experienced riots with almost
all of them triggered by a police incident. In Detroit, the precipitat-
ing factor was a police raid of an after-
hours social club where illegal
drinking and gambling was underway. The police arrested 82 patrons
and rumors of police violence quickly spread throughout the black
community. Within hours a crowd had gathered, looting began, and
the situation spun out of control. At the end, 43 people were killed,
33 of them black. In 1967, riots were particularly numerous with over
30 cities having such disturbances and approximately 90 people killed,
over 2,000 injured, and another 11,000 people arrested. The great plu-
rality of those arrested, killed, and injured were black.
Americans are not the only ethnic minority that has faced
violent acts of intolerance. A particularly notorious episode occurred
in Los Angeles in June of 1943„
the Zoot Suit Riots.
For months, the
tensions between servicemen stationed in the city and young Mexican-
American males had been escalating. Mexican-
American young men
had taken to wearing broad-
shoulder jackets and balloon-
leg trousers as
a public statement of identity. Doing so de“
ed a wartime ban on using
wool for clothing. More to the point, their attire was a rebellion against
the dominant culture and how Mexican-
Americans were being treated
in the United States. The soldiers and sailors viewed the Zoot-
Suiters as
unpatriotic. One night a group of servicemen chartered cabs and went
to the Mexican-
American neighborhood. There, they beat and stripped
the youths and burnt the suits. Thousands of military personnel were
involved with the police arresting nearly 600 Mexican-
Americans, but
few of the soldiers and sailors. The riots ended only with the interces-
sion of military of“
cials. And while a citizens investigatory commis-
sion noted that racism was one of the causes of the riots, the then-
mayor blamed the insurrection on juvenile delinquents.
The psychological damage caused by systemic discrimination and
intolerance has consequences that spill out in ways that further dimin-
ish urban life. In the early 1990s, Jonathan Coleman, a journalist, went
to Milwaukee (Wisconsin) to learn more about black-
white relations.
One of the people he interviewed was Maron Alexander. As Coleman
tells it, Alexander
was tired of hearing about the Iranians or Koreans or whoever owned the corner
store. He got tired of it because some of these stores had been owned by black fam-
ilies but often a familys children had no interest in carrying on. So the stores would
get sold, and it wouldnt be long before someone was throwing a brick through
one of the windows, angry as hell that what money they had was being given to a
foreigner, to someone they believed had an easier go of things than they did. It all
got jumbled up, and the anger often got misdirected, and there was no easy way
to untangle it.Ž
Violence against and by minorities is not the only consequence of
racial intolerance. Intolerance can also be opportunistic as when in-
dividuals or small groups set out to harm those who they “
nd to be
threatening or unacceptable. When such behavior is motivated by a
bias against individuals because they belong to a speci“
c group, it is
considered a hate crime. In chapter 4, discussing neighborhood gov-
ernance, I mentioned how white residents in Detroit attempted to pre-
vent African-
American families from moving into their neighborhoods
by picketing the house, throwing stones at the new occupants, and
blocking the moving vans. Or, to take a more contemporary example:
children in public schools who are different are often singled out by
their classmates for bullying.
Hate crimes include physical assault, systematic harassment, graf-
ti, property damage, and threatening behavior. And, although hate
crimes are uncommon relative to all crimes, they nonetheless persist in
their occurrence. Consider just a few, brief examples. In 2014 in Albu-
querque, a man made an anti-
Semitic threat against the Jewish owner
of a delicatessen. Two years earlier in Atlanta, three men attacked a gay
man with a tire iron as he was leaving a grocery store. That same year
in Compton (CA) two men assaulted a 17-
old African-
male with a metal pipe. Two women in Cleveland in 2009 af“
xed a toy
camel, hung by a noose, on the door of a tenant of Arab descent in an
attempt at intimidation. In Jackson (MS), a city with a long history of
racially motivated violence,Ž seven white teens in 2011 selected a black
man at random and ran over him with a truck. During the attack,
which led to the mans death, one of them shouted white power.Ž
Like most intolerance, the incidence of hate crimes varies from
one city to the next. Using an index created by combining an anti-
bullying score, the existence (or not) of anti-
discrimination laws, and
the presence (or not) of a human rights commission, 24/7 Wall Street
created a list of the worst cities for lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgendered
(LBGT) rights. Leading the list was Southaven (MI) followed by Ir-
ving, Lubbock, and Mesquite in Texas, and Great Falls (Montana). Ala-
bama was well represented with three cities„
Tuscaloosa, Huntsville,
in the top ten, but it failed to dethrone Texas with four
cities (add Laredo to the list above).
In these cities, hate crimes against
queer people are more likely.
The homeless are particularly vulnerable to attack. Between 1999
and 2010, there were 1,184 documented acts of violence against home-
less people by non-
homeless individuals and another 353 such events
in the subsequent three years. Approximately one-
half of these inci-
dences were beatings and nearly 4 out of 10 were assaults with a deadly
weapon. In the earlier, eleven-
year period, these acts resulted in 312
deaths. Here is a vulnerable population: stigmatized and ostracized,
lacking the protection of shelter, and clustered in cities.
Muslims have also been the target of hate crimes. Since the foreign
terrorist attacks in the United States in September 2001, the number of
such crimes has increased “
In 2015, an estimated 260 hate
crimes were committed against them. Muslims have also been sub-
ject to public abuse and derision. One of the most infamous incidents
occurred in Dearborn (MI), a city where approximately one-
third of
the 97,000 residents is Muslim. Muslims there have periodically faced
Muslim demonstrations. In 2011, several dozen people gathered
to condemn the Muslim presence in America. They were met by over
protesters. In 2014, the same group returned to demon-
strate outside of a mosque. It claimed that the city was being run ac-
cording to Sharia law. Anti-
Muslim sentiment, generally, has been on
the rise and protests against the construction of mosques have oc-
curred across the country. In Phoenix in 2015, armed protesters gath-
ered to denounce Islam with the organizer of the protest [calling] it
a patriotic sign of resistance against what he deemed the tyranny of
Islam in America.Ž
The anti-
Muslim activities of the 2000s were very much a conse-
quence of the 2001 terrorist attacks widely viewed as a threat to na-
tional security. With the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the
rise of radical Taliban and Islamic State (ISIS) groups in the Middle East
and Africa, attitudes toward Muslims shifted against them. Religious
intolerance was further fueled by a terrorist attack in Paris in Novem-
ber 2015 that killed 130 people and injured nearly 400 others, another
such event in Brussels in March 2016 that left over 30 people dead and
300 injured, and a Syrian refugee crisis that seemed to portend an inva-
sion of terrorists. (Home-
bred terrorism is also part of this story.) Po-
litical rhetoric during the 2015…
2016 Presidential primary campaign,
particularly on the Republican side, contained much public vili“
of Muslims that fueled an increase in anti-
Muslim protests, acts of in-
timidation, and violence. One of the Republican candidates, Donald
Trump, who was later elected President, called for the deportation of
all Syrians from the country, the cessation of all Muslim emigration,
and even the assassination of the relatives and families of terrorists.
One poll indicated that 47 percent of all Americans believed that Is-
lamic values are antithetical to the American way of life and noted
seated anxiety stemming from violent events as well as heated
political rhetoric.Ž
Similar concerns arose during the Second World War. Then, Ameri-
cans of German descent were viewed with suspicion and those of Japa-
nese heritage were interned in camps for the duration of the con”
Prior to that, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (repealed in 1943) pro-
hibited immigration from China. A fear of Communism led to the per-
secution of political radicals just after the “
rst and second world wars.
One can understand the anxiety that people might have toward
others different from themselves. And, while the resultant intolerance
is not always triggered by living in a city, it is exacerbated there: the
fear becomes more visceral through the nearness of strangers. When
such groups demonstrate for their rights in the downtown where peo-
ple shop or take up residence in a neighborhood or become employed
in the “
rm where one works, the potential for intolerance rises. Prox-
imity, and the inability to avoid it, despite segregation of homes, occu-
pations, and industries, enables intolerance to thrive.
Intolerance, of course, does not always result in violence. It is of-
ten less physically intimidating even if harmful. No less oppressive and
extending beyond the government, this fourth form of intolerance is
rooted in structural injustice.
Consider, for example, the many ways
in which groups limit access by other groups to private and public re-
sources and opportunities, the most pervasive being discrimination in
jobs and housing. Certain groups are denied opportunities so that oth-
ers can live well.
People are not randomly distributed across labor markets but are
rather clustered in industries and occupations with many of those in-
dustries and occupations characterized by ethnic, racial, and immi-
grant divisions.
Since the development of city police departments,
many have been dominated by one or another group. In Boston in the
twentieth century, the Irish had a monopoly on the police force
and in cities like Philadelphia and Phoenix until the 1970s police of“
cers were almost always white. City “
re departments have had a similar
history, as have public school teachers. White “
ghters in New York
City in 2012 organized to protest a court mandate to assure that quali-
fying tests were designed and scored in such a way as to give minori-
ties an equal opportunity to join the “
re department. (The department
was then 89 percent white when the city was approximately 44 percent
white.) One “
ghter said: I feel that Im being discriminated against
because I am Caucasian.Ž
In more recent times, Mexicans have become the majority of back-
house restaurant workers in Los Angeles, Hassidic Jews dominate
the diamond and photographic supply industries in New York City,
and Korean women predominate in nail salons. Such ethnic or racial
dominance blocks other groups from taking these jobs or entering
these industries. The barriers are both symbolic and self-
icted (as
when a person assumes that they will be uncomfortable or unwanted)
and also formalized in tests and actively produced through outright
discrimination (as when a job applicant is simply turned away be-
cause she does not “
t the pro“
le of a businesss workforce or its retail
As regards occupations, groups develop ethnic niches that margin-
alize non-
ethnic groups through a combination of intolerance toward
others (for example, biased examinations or workplace harassment)
and hiring practices that operate on the basis of social ties. Histori-
cally, the unionized construction trades have resisted the inclusion
of African-
Americans and women. In Milwaukee in 2000, 93 percent
ofthe steel metal workers, 92 percent of electricians, and 88 percent of
carpenters were Caucasian. During the two previous decades, African-
Americans made hardly any impact numerically among electricians,
carpenters, plumbers, or brick masons. More generally, and switching
to the national level, 98 percent of all speech language pathologists and
92 percent of all dieticians and nutritionists were white in 2014. Asian
presence was highest in software developers (32 percent), African-
Americans in home health aides (36 percent) and barbers (36percent),
and Hispanics in drywall installers (62 percent) and agricultural grad-
ers and sorters (54 percent). Not all of this concentration is voluntary
and not all is attributable to discrimination. Intolerance, though, has
to be acknowledged as it works its way through education, social rela-
tions, and hiring practices.
Despite a host of anti-
discrimination laws, intolerance is ever-
in city housing markets. At one time in the countrys history, women
were not allowed to obtain a home mortgage without having a man
cosign the loan. African-
Americans have been blocked from buying
homes by restrictive covenants placed on deeds, denial of mortgages by
banks, and real estate agents who steer them away from white neigh-
borhoods. They are also less likely to live near white households. The
typical African-
American household in 2010 lived in a neighborhood
that was 35 percent white, whereas the typical white household lived
in a neighborhood that was 75 percent white. In other words, whites
live in neighborhoods with low minority participation.Ž Hispanics are
discriminated against in homeownership and rental markets as well.
Residential segregation is a principal organizational featureŽ of Ameri-
can cities with the consequences of discrimination„
involuntary segre-
gation and isolation„
visible in the urban landscape.
Contributing to racial residential segregation through to the 1970s
was the practice of redliningŽ that began in the 1940s and still lin-
gers. In pushing the housing industry to move to long-
term, amor-
tized mortgages so that more people could afford to become home-
owners, the federal government also required banks to adhere to
systematic appraisal and leading practices, especially when dealing
with government-
backed mortgages. This included taking into account
the changing racial composition of the neighborhoods where loans
were being considered. Neighborhoods where African-
Americans lived
and were increasing in number were considered to be of high risk of de-
terioration and thus to pose a high probability that home values would
fall and the borrowers would default on their loans. Maps were drawn
to help bankers assess these conditions with red lines used to outline
the neighborhoods most at risk. Consequently, few government-
mortgages were given to African-
Americans in cities. They were forced
to either take on risky “
nancing or remain renters. In St. Louis, “
times as many of these government-
backed mortgages went to house-
holds in the suburbs (where whites were relocating) as went to those
in the city where blacks were con“ ned. Racial segregation deepened.
Racial segregation peaked some time in the 1960s and 1970s and has
declined since then, though only slightly. As measured by the percent-
age of the nonwhite population that would have to move for an area to
be integrated (that is, to match the proportion in the larger population),
Americans are still highly segregated from whites. In cities like
Detroit and Milwaukee, nearly 8 out of 10 households would have to
change neighborhoods to create a geographical balance. This is less the
case for Hispanics and Asians. In Los Angeles and New York City, just
over 6 out of every 10 Hispanic households would have to move and in
Houston and Boston almost 5 out of every 10 Asian households would
need to relocate. These cities are the most segregated as regards minori-
ties. (See table 5.2.) Despite the improvement since the 1970s, discrimi-
nation against these groups in the housing market continues.
Admittedly, other factors compel minorities to live in segregated set-
tings. The discrimination that they suffer in public schools and labor
markets produces incomes that limit their housing choices. In addi-
tion, they can face discrimination when they visit a rental of“
ce, work
with a real estate agent to “
nd a home, approach a bank to purchase
a mortgage, or even, after renting an apartment or home, have dif“
culty convincing the landlord to provide agreed-
upon services or do
needed maintenance. This kind of discrimination„
rooted in prejudice
and intolerance not just for minorities but also for the disabled, immi-
grants, queer individuals, and people of different religious beliefs„
present in most city housing markets. In 2013, a real estate company
in Philadelphia settled a lawsuit alleging that it had steered African-
American, but not white, prospects to high crime neighborhoods. The
Seattle Of“
ce of Civil Rights in 2015 “
led a discrimination complaint
against a rental property owner who asked African-
American and His-
panic inquirers about their criminal records, while same-
sex couples
were given fewer applications and brochures and were showed fewer
available units than heterosexual couples. And in Richmond (VA), a
rental company settled a case alleging that it had discriminated against
disabled tenants with wheelchairs by requiring a higher security de-
posit and proof of $100,000 in liability insurance. Despite an array of
fair housing legislation and advocacy organizations defending open
housing laws, such actions persist. They also continue to be sought out
and punished.
Involuntary segregation denies these groups access to
good homes, denies their children access to better schools, and denies
the family a better location relative to work opportunities, health care,
dry cleaners, and policing.
Table 5.2
Metropolitan Areas with Highest Levels of Racial Segregation, 2010
White SegregationIndexIndex
Hispanic- White Segregation IndexIndex
Los Angeles
New York City
New York City
Newark, NJ
Newark, NJ
Salinas, CA
Oxnard, CA
St. Louis
Santa Ana, CA
Suffolk, NY
Note: The table uses the Index of Dissimilarity. It measures the distribution of two groups
across the Census tracts of a metropolitan area in comparison to the distribution of those
groups in the metropolitan area as a whole.
Source: John R. Logan and Brian J. Stults, The Persistence of Segregation in the
Metropolis: New Findings from the 2010 Census,Ž US2010 Project (New York: Russell
The fact is that cities are characterized by the sorting of households,
services, and amenities into different types of neighborhoods. This sort-
ing is mainly driven by class or income differences, but race (African-
American, Hispanic, Asian) and immigrant status are consequential as
well, with African-
American households particularly burdened. Hous-
ing quality and cost, the presence of good elementary schools and ac-
cessible and quality retail and personal services, the quality of local
parks and playgrounds, and even the provision of public services such
as street maintenance and trash collection are all more or less aligned.
Food prices are often higher in poor, segregated neighborhoods and ac-
cess to fresh fruits and vegetables is limited. It is not only the family in
which one is born that is crucial to ones future life, but also the neigh-
borhood in which one lives. In a country where educational credentials
are frequently the pathway to a good job and subsequent advancement,
the quality of the local neighborhood school can make a signi“
difference. And, schools are not the only issue. Access to employment
and business opportunities is also related to where one lives with more
uent neighborhoods better connected than poorer ones.
For certain groups, the accessibility of resources and opportunities is
also blocked in private businesses such as banks where people of color
or women are denied loans for starting up businesses, public schools
where expectations about performance and the lack of compensatory
support result in immigrant and minority children being deprived of
educational resources, and in local politics when certain groups are
prevented from holding elected of“
ce due to the organization of elec-
toral districts. African-
Americans in cities have for decades complained
of being snubbed by taxi drivers who fear picking them up or being
denied service at a fancy restaurant or a posh shop.
Competition for resources and opportunities not only threatens
the livelihood of already-
disadvantaged groups, it also engenders even
more insecurity about living well. The resultant tension can easily
erupt in marginalization, exploitation, and even violence of one group
against another. Within cities, groups cannot avoid this competition.
Neighborhoods are constantly changing as residents move about in
search of better (or less or more expensive) places to live. People are
displaced by gentri“
cation and reluctant (and sad) to move. Business
and jobs appear and disappear, thereby disrupting employment and
making peoples lives more precarious. Moreover, to the extent that
the capitalist economy favors ”
exibility over stability and prefers labor
to be unorganized, peoples lives are made uncertain.
Many at the
low end of the educational and social spectrums are forced to work
, contingent jobs in order to survive. Local taxes are constantly
being adjusted and proposed, public services are being reallocated
across neighborhoods and groups, and electoral in”
uence is constantly
shifting. For groups to remain passive in the face of such conditions is
to be diminished. If the group does not protect its gains, those gains
will be eroded. The city fosters competition and that competition, in
turn, is a breeding ground for intolerance.
One of the consequences of intolerance is its diminution of the urban-
ity that makes cities vibrant. Urbanity is a quality of public together-
ness and its essence is that people can act together, without the com-
pulsion to be the same.Ž
The idea of urbanity is meant to capture
what it feels like to live among people different from ones self„exist-
ing within a dense environment of strangers and an entanglement of
incomparable activities. Where urbanity reigns, people feel comfort-
able among unknown others and act without anxiety. They welcome
the many differences that the city presents to them. In such an en-
vironment, tolerance is nurtured and intolerance sti”
ed. An ideal ur-
banity is inclusive and free from the class-
based and gender divisions
that characterized it until the mid-
too geographically distant from these places to take advantage of them.
Moreover, such encounters with others are ephemeral: people make
contact only for a brief moment and usually only visually. Any con-
tacts they have are centered on leisure and consumption, not politics
or workplace concerns. Critics fret about turning the city, or at least
parts of it, into a theme park. Intolerance and the citys general gritti-
ness are conveniently hidden. As one urban observer has commented,
Such pseudo-
city culture offers scenes of city life, not the city itself.
The City Lite is safe, orderly, and simpli“
Intolerance dampens and can even destroy urbanity. It discourages
people from mingling in public. The result is that only people similar
to each other gather there. With differences erased, one could just as
well be in a small town or village where mystery and serendipity are
absent. There, one does not have to re”
ect on the diversity of people
and how they live. Certainly, socially homogeneous places (whether an
ethnic enclave or gay neighborhood) have value: they nurture group
solidarity and provide a respite from the city. But, they enhance ur-
banity only indirectly and might even sti”
e it. What is most bother-
some is when intolerance discourages particular people from enjoying
the citys urbanity. In many cities, for example, the police and business
associations act to prevent the homeless and teenagers from lingering
in places meant for tourists or shoppers. Where intolerance reigns, the
ts of proximity are diminished and the awareness of diverse oth-
ers is sti”
ed. Such a city becomes divided and these divisions inhibit
interaction, complicate the citys interdependencies, and make it more
cult to govern.
Few US cities have become so intolerant that urbanity has dis-
appeared. The exceptions have all been related to racial divides and
were mostly true of cities in the South in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries, during what is known as the Jim Crow era.
slavery abolished, the oppression of African-
Americans took other
forms: forced residential segregation, separate waiting areas at bus sta-
tions, public restrooms and drinking fountains for whites only, sepa-
rate lunch counters, and distinct seating areas in movie theaters. Less
formalized practices included paternalistic greetings„
of black
men and the expectation that whites and blacks would not share the
same sidewalk (blacks being the ones who had to step aside). These were
all aspects of an intolerance that denied urbanity to all of the residents
of these Southern cities. Of course, we should worry less about what ef-
fect this had on the city than about its implications for the quality of
life and opportunities of those against whom intolerance was directed.
A city with a reputation for intolerance will be less desirable to
those being marginalized, those who value tolerance, and businesses
that depend on having an inclusive public image and serve a diverse
mix of consumers and clients. Civic leaders in Atlanta, Georgia, in the
1960s launched a promotional campaign to counter that citys image as
a Southern city inhospitable to African-
Americans. Its slogan became
The City Too Busy to Hate,Ž a slogan that alluded to racial divisions as
well as to aspirations to be the commercial center of the New South.
The citys elite recognized that intolerance could repel both households
and investors and that if the city were to grow, it would have to attract
both. Tolerance thus became part of a publicity campaign: tolerance of
racial diversity was good for Atlanta. What civic elites wanted to avoid
was the reputation that had attached to Birmingham, Alabama, during
the civil rights movement of the 1960s when the police used dogs and
re hoses on African-
Americans to keep them from marching for ra-
cial justice. More recently, cities (Houston) and states (North Carolina)
have been widely criticized for passing laws that deny to transgendered
individuals the use of public bathrooms of their choice.
Protest has
come not just from advocacy groups but also from businesses (for ex-
ample, hotels) fearful of losing customers, performers who cancel con-
certs in protest, and businesses and professional associations unwilling
to be associated with intolerance.
Similar issues arise in cities that have been the destination for large
numbers of refugees and immigrants. Civic leaders in Tucson, Omaha,
San Diego, and Dayton have struggled with their presence. As aliens,
these new people challenge the dominant groups capacity for toler-
ance and pose numerous issues involving the delivery of public services
(such as public education), the identity of the community, and how
people behave in public spaces. Throughout the history of US cities,
new groups have transformed housing, neighborhood retail areas, and
playgrounds in ways that older groups did not anticipate. Houses are
painted in oddŽ colors and front yards are used for food gardens or
to repair automobiles whereas before these yards had been merely or-
namental. Parks become gathering places for extended family picnics
or impromptu soccer games. Congregating on sidewalks is a way to es-
cape crowded apartments. The citys urbanity is being rede“
ned and,
in the process, a previous groups way of life and way of using the city
is threatened.
A classic example comes from the early post-
World War II era when
city governments were intent on demolishing slums and replacing
them with new private and public housing. In Boston, Italians gathered
on the stoops of their homes, their children played in the streets, and
the women hung their laundry on the “
re escapes to dry. Elected of-
cials and planners viewed these behaviors as indicators of disorder.
Such uses of public space were associated with slums, not with urban-
ity. Civic leaders feared that images of these slums would come to rep-
resent the city among investors and middle-
class households and dis-
courage the former from starting businesses and the latter from taking
up residence there. On the basis of expert assessments and elite prefer-
ences for middle-
class living, local leaders embraced a narrow and il-
liberal understanding of urbanity.
In its multiple forms, then, intolerance not only is detrimental to ur-
a de“
ning characteristic of cities„
but also has the potential to
e commerce (thereby undermining the generation of wealth) and,
by extension, to undermine the conditions for growth. As compared
to such divided and con”
ridden cities as Belfast during the three
decades of con”
ict between loyalists and Irish nationalist that began
in the late 1960s; Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Ramallah beset for years by
violence perpetrated by the Israeli military and militants and Palestin-
ian insurgents; or Johannesburg under the white apartheid regime that
repressed blacks from 1949 to 1994, tolerance is much more common
in cities of the United States than intolerance. And, yet, to acknowl-
edge the obvious, the United States is quite violent when it comes to
gun violence with 354 mass shootings in 2015 that led to the deaths of
462people and the wounding of 1,314 others.
This is intolerance at
its most reprehensible.
The city nurtures both tolerance and intolerance: either can take root
and ”
and both do. In the United States, however, tolerance
seems to predominate. Still, certain cities are less accepting of strang-
ers and aliens than others and the history of the country is “
lled with
examples of enduring bouts of intolerance when immigrants, African-
Americans, gays and lesbians, and political dissenters from the left of
the ideological spectrum and the right (but more often from the left),
have been marginalized and persecuted. Even today, not too many
days pass before another instance of intolerance or another hate crime
makes its way onto the local and national news. And, a kind of petty
intolerance always seems to operate as people encounter those who are
different and, in response, because of fear, ignorance, or sheer insensi-
tivity, treat them with disrespect.
The mix of tolerance and intolerance in any one city, of course, is
not solely due to the way cities work and are organized. Cities are not
isolated from regional histories and national laws, political rhetoric,
and various initiatives from English onlyŽ legislation to restrictions
on immigrant voting rights. An immigrant backlash in the United
an event common throughout the countrys history„
is cer-
tainly behind the intolerance currently experienced by Mexicans in
Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix and Muslims throughout the coun-
try. And the national rise of a radical conservative movement known
as the Tea Party in the early twenty-
rst century has contributed to the
marginalization of various groups. This has included attempts to use
voter identi“
cation and registration laws to deny minorities and im-
migrants the right to vote, harassment of women visiting health clinics
for abortions, and efforts (ultimately unsuccessful) to prevent same-
couples from being legally married. And, in 2015, Americans were still
debating whether displaying the Confederate ”
ag on the grounds of
the South Carolina State House in Columbia was an affront to African-
Americans whose ancestors had been held in slavery„
a symbol of
hate and of the racial order that once characterized the South„
reminder of the distinctive history of this region„
an object of cultural
Nonetheless, a culture of tolerance persists, even if not all elected
cials, sports personalities, media pundits, corporate executives,or
heads of foundations speak and act within its bounds. Expounding
to a wide audience, whether on television or through social media,
a person runs the risk of harsh criticism from the media and others
if he or she expresses views considered intolerant. Public claims that
Americans are inferior or that those who cross the Mexican
border illegally are mostly criminals are widely condemned.
ing these cultural tendencies, national, state, and local governments
have numerous laws and bodies concerned with hate speech, tolerance
for sexual preference, discrimination on the basis of age, and gender
distinctions in employment decisions. In the United States, and cur-
rently, intolerance, and inequality for that matter, are generally viewed
as inappropriate if not outright unacceptable.
Finally, we should remember that tolerance and intolerance are not
two separate things, but rather mutually entwined. The most obvious
relationship is when intolerance gives rise to tolerance. When in June
2015 nine African-
American worshipers were gunned down in church
in Charleston, South Carolina, by a domestic, white terrorist, numerous
people came together in support of and in solidarity with the victims
and the group that they represented.
In almost every instance, those
who committed such acts have been punished and the group that has
been harmed has been offered support and even a public apology. To
this extent, intolerance engenders and brings tolerance to the surface.
It gives a meaning to tolerance which it would not otherwise have.
The more dif“
cult relationship to grasp is that between tolerance
and the appearance of intolerance. Acts of tolerance recognize the sta-
tus of a group when that status is being contested. Those who believe
that the lifestyles of queer individuals undermine Christian values and
might even to be a threat to children are appalled when government
leaders grant parade permits to them or allow them to marry. Public
endorsement is an affront to them and might even exacerbate intoler-
ance by hardening their attitudes. Doing so publicly, however, declares
that such people deserve respect. In this sense, it is intolerance that
is being challenged. Yet, tolerance can also engender a backlash when
groups “
nd tolerance so antithetical to their values that they react in
anger. Like tolerance, intolerance draws meaning from its opposite. We
know what intolerance is because of a national backdrop of tolerance.
Cities provide the conditions for both. This is another one of those
contradictions that gives to the city its unsettled character and ampli-
es the moral challenges of living in such diverse places.
Cities represent neither a triumphant resolution of lifes
needs and desires nor the erasure of the many disagree-
ments and con”
icts endemic to living together. My claim,
a claim that is not widely embraced, underlies the argu-
ment of this book. The intent, though, is not to deny the
city. Neither a contrarian call for a return to a rural ex-
istence nor a celebration of the bene“
ts and blessings of
suburbia lurks within these pages. Rather, the book repre-
sents my attempt to elaborate a critical and admiring per-
spective that stops short of idolatry. To do so, I took up the
theme of contradictions.
Cities nurture the interplay of four contradictory forces:
(1) the amassing and concentration of wealth and the deep-
ening of poverty, (2) the destruction of ecosystems and
the promise of sustainability, (3) the rewards of oligarchy
and the seeming necessity for democratic practices and
institutions, and (4) the pull toward intolerance coupled
with the fostering of its opposite, tolerance. The height-
ened articulation of these forces is what de“
nes cities. And
although these contradictions have roots that extend to
regions, nations, and the world itself, cities are the mecha-
nism by which they are concentrated and given presence.
These contradictions are not immutable; they are both
unstable and susceptible to change. Intolerance and oli-
garchy, for example, are always under pressure to give way
to tolerance and democracy, environmental destruction
to sustainability, extreme wealth to equality. Nothing is “
xed. Inter-
twined, these contradictory impulses vary in their intensity across the
countrys cities.
Consider their instability. The balance between the oppositionscon-
tained within these contradictions is constantly shifting. Today, city
governments are committed to the recycling of solid waste, a concern
for sustainability that was essentially absent in the mid-
century; despite decades of peaceful Muslim presence, intolerance
against people of this faith is on the rise; and income inequality (rela-
tively muted for the postwar decades) is once again ascendant. At the
same time, we “
nd many differences from one city to the next. With
its heavy reliance on automobile usage, air conditioning, and sprawl,
Phoenix is energy-
hungry, while Boston makes more ef“
cient use of its
land, relies to a greater extent on mass transit, and has a more temper-
ate climate including (due to climate change) a decreasing potential for
cold winters and thus lessening energy demand for winter heating.
Chicago contains households of great af”
uence and neighborhoods of
enduring poverty, while the residents of cities like Burlington (VT) live
their lives more like each other, the extremes of income and wealth not
so far apart. Depending on where they take root, the contradictions of
urban life ebb and ”
ow in intensity.
The four contradictions are also interconnected; they in”
each other in myriad ways. With its concentration of wealthy families,
corporations, and philanthropies, New York City generates public and
private resources to fund educational programs for disadvantaged chil-
dren, the reclamation of its coastline, support services for immigrants,
and advocacy organizations that champion affordable housing. Oligar-
chic growth coalitionsŽ abate taxes on the real estate of the wealthy
and direct public subsidies and expertise to the redevelopment of rail
yards for corporate of“
ce buildings. A culture of tolerance attracts peo-
ple of varied backgrounds and nationalities whose divergent lifestyles
create enclaves of young, white professionals and immigrant neighbor-
hoods with robust economies that offer numerous opportunities for
making a living. Boston, Chicago, and Seattle could be described in
similar terms. By contrast, in once-
vibrant cities where heavy manu-
facturing had been dominant„
places like Buffalo, Gary, Detroit, and
contaminated soils, housing blight, and crumbling in-
frastructure discourage reinvestment, repel the middle class, and keep
these cities poor. The fragility of working- class neighborhoods often
engenders intolerance of racialized others. The contradictions are intri-
cately interconnected: not four, separate dynamics„
a tangled rather
than a woven fabric.
Clearly, though, this is only one way to characterize cities. Alter-
natively, we could accept these contradictions, but interpret them as
solely societal in nature and indifferent to how people are distributed
across the land. This would cast doubt on the assertion that cities am-
plify their in”
uence. And, it would have the effect of not just absolving
the city of any complicity but also of easily leading, as it has done, to
the dissolution of the notion of the city as a distinct form of human
settlement. Or, we could reject altogether the approach I have taken
and reduce the contradictions to the status of social problems that hu-
man ingenuity will eventually„
and sooner rather than later„
I am by no means declaring that my interpretation (one I share with
others) constitutes the truth„
that it somehow accesses and represents
the reality of cities, appearances aside„
and that all other perspectives
are either ideological feints, myopic, or uninformed. The city is not one
but many things. And, it is different things to different people. I hap-
pen to prefer this point of view: it explains much of what attracts and
perplexes me about cities.
The task for the reader is to decide what to think about this argu-
ment; that is, to read critically and consider whether what I have pro-
posed makes sense and resonates with prior experiences and current
knowledge. One way to do this is to re”
ect on why this perspective
should matter. Of what use to me,Ž the reader might ask, is this way
of thinking about the city? Does it matter that I think of cities as nur-
turing contradictions?Ž This is a fair question and my response consti-
tutes almost all of this “
nal chapter.
The premise of my argument is that only a hermit, someone living
totally off the gridŽ and isolated from others in a remote place, escapes
the city and its in”
uences. Everyone else is affected by the conditions
emanating from these four contradictions. For city residents, and in
their daily lives, the contradictions are even more palpable. The contra-
dictions are signi“
cant also because they de“
ne the moral sphere that
we all inhabit and establish the conditions under which we jointhe
civic realm as political beings. To this extent, they deeply affect how
we experience the city and live with others. I will conclude on this
theme of living with others.Ž Before doing so, however, we need to
y re”
ect on the many ways we sense and know the city around us.
First up is the question posed above: how does thinking about the city
as a Petri dish of contradictions matter?
Living amid Contradictions
To anyone living in the city, it is important whether wealth is distrib-
uted to a few leaving many others behind, whether the environment
is being degraded or sustained, whether governance is controlled by
a small group or spread across numerous publics, and whether those
who are different in some meaningful way are treated with tolerance
or intolerance. And because the conditions generated by these contra-
dictions are unavoidable and consequential, where people live has a
tremendous effect on how they navigate the dangers and opportuni-
ties that are posed. Consider the implications of these contradictions in
practical, everyday terms.
When the wealthy dominate in housing markets, for example, the
remaining households of the city are adversely affected. In the early
rst century, both San Francisco and New York attracted a
group of very af”
uent people. Driven by technology “
rms and venture
capital funds in the San Francisco Bay area and by the stability of prop-
erty values and the wealth generated in the “
nancial services sector in
New York City, hyper-
rich households were willing to pay whatever was
required to purchase a property.
Many were plutocrats from Russia,
Saudi Arabia, and other countries with volatile economies or unstable
political regimes looking to place large sums of money where it could
be safe. In Manhattan, developers responded by building high-
rise, res-
idential buildings on prime real estate with apartments selling at un-
precedented and exorbitant prices ranging into the tens of millions of
dollars and up to $100 million for penthouse status. These apartments
were meant to be lived in for only a few weeks each year.
By bidding up the prices for housing, wealthy individuals in both
cities also pulled up prices for middle-
class and working-
class house-
holds. With little available land for expanding the supply of middle-
income and affordable housing, sale prices and rents escalated. De-
velopers who might have once focused on middle-
income housing
turned their energies and capital to higher-
end units that could yield
much greater pro“
ts. This raised the costs of owning and renting in
a major portion of the market. And while housing in out-
places and low-
income communities was hardly touched by this phe-
nomenon, these places were increasingly susceptible to gentri“
For the middle-
class and in communities adjacent to prime real estate
areas such as Central Park South in Manhattan and South of Market
in San Francisco, anyone looking to buy or rent faced a highly competi-
tive market and the prospects of paying more for housing than they
would have had to pay in the absence of demand exerted by the hyper-
wealthy. Rising prices in the citys core forced many households to pay
more or live in less attractive or less accessible areas of the city.
In cities where wealth is more evenly distributed, housing prices
seem to be less volatile and developers less inclined to abandon the
middle of the market for its top tier. Residents who do not count their
wealth in the millions of dollars “
nd homes to be more affordable. To
the extent that housing is a big part of the wealth of middle-
class and
class households, these households are also able to take advan-
tage of their investment. Additionally, and extending our gaze beyond
the housing market, in cities where the gap between the wealthy and
others is less, social cohesion is higher, life expectancies are longer, and
people are more trusting of each other and consequently more tolerant.
Similar comments can be made about the contradiction between
environmental degradation and sustainability. It matters whether one
lives in a greenŽ city like Portland, Oregon, or a toxicŽ city such as
eld in California.
Where the political commitment to sustain-
ability has been weak, fewer restrictions have been placed on growth,
the building of highways, and industry. As a result, soils have been
made toxic, air polluted, noise levels left unabated, and ecosystems
threatened. Residents in these cities are more likely to suffer from re-
spiratory ailments and skin rashes. Their childrens development is of-
ten stunted and the lives of all made less pleasant. For those who live
next to commercial airports, industrial districts, or major highways; in
neighborhoods with bus depots, trash transfer stations, waste recyclers,
or low-
end manufacturing “
rms; and in poorly heated homes where
gas stoves and space heaters are used to stay warm; the health con-
sequences are harmful and unavoidable. Less degraded, less harmful
places exist, but moving to them is “
nancially prohibitive for those
struggling to live decently. And while af”
uent households can avoid
environmental ills by locating in places less burdened by water pollu-
tion and toxic sites, they are not as able to escape the ” ooding of roads
due to more severe rainstorms or the heat island effect exacerbated by
climate change.
Most big city governments attempt to dampen if not eliminate these
spatial disparities and make the whole city healthier; af”
uent cities
such as Seattle do quite well in this regard. Environmental degradation
is particularly acute in shrinking cities where government resources are
severely curtailed and many residents suffer their consequences. A par-
ticularly striking example occurred in Flint, Michigan, in 2014, a city
whose job and population loss and blighted housing market had given
it prominent status as a city in decline. Unable to fund its water system,
the city government attempted to save money by reducing the use of
corrosive agents. As a consequence, lead began leaching into the
water from aging service lines. Moreover, the city government failed
to counteract the rise of fecal coliform bacteria. The water became un-
drinkable: this in a city where the median household income was less
than half of that of the state and where 40 percent of the residents were
poor by governmental standards. Most alarming, it was months before
the residents were warned, thus exposing them (and their children) to
serious illnesses.
The quality of environmental health in any city has a great deal to
do with the capacity of government„
federal, state, local„
to develop
and enforce regulations on industry, transportation, and, more gener-
ally, growth and to mount programs and policies that protect and en-
hance the environment. Where government is captured by local elites
and developers and a growth coalition privileges unrestrained invest-
ment, environmental regulations are more likely to be sacri“
ced. Proj-
ects proposed by major businesses and investors are favored with legal
exceptions, creative “
nancing, and relaxed rules. Residents in these
cities are thus triply burdened: by disparities in wealth, environmen-
tally generated public health issues, and a government indifferent to
their protestations.
How, though, is life different in a city where oligarchy reigns versus
one where democratic practices are the rule rather than the exception?
No city in the United States, I would suggest, is so dominated by one
group such that its interests extend into the home or severely restrict
daily life. We do not live in a totalitarian society. Whereas blacks in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in the
South, had to contend with widely held norms that denied them access
to public restrooms, seats on a public bus, or voting rights, such op-
pressive controls are now prohibited by law. Cities, today, are less likely
to be ruled by those with discriminatory intentions than by political
coalitions intent on shaping the city around a vision of growth and
development that favors middle-
and upper-
class values or pursues con-
trol over the city government as a way of expanding personal fortunes.
The impact of oligarchic governance is thus more indirect than di-
rect. Residents of such cities “
nd it dif“
cult to resist (and are often only
cursorily consulted) when decisions are made regarding subsidies to de-
velopers, large infrastructure projects such as light-
rail lines, and shifts
in tax policy that favor corporate interests. The city might look better
in economic development brochures and lifestyle magazines and many
residents of the city might well take advantage of the new shopping ar-
eas, waterfront parks, or transit options, but these projects are realized
at a cost to democracy. Moreover, they represent a channeling of gov-
ernment resources„
time, revenues, land„
into things that bene“
t the
uent and the powerful rather than the disadvantaged. Schools, li-
braries, health clinics, and neighborhood playgrounds languish, while
professional sports franchises enjoy government-
subsidized arenas and
developers pro“
t from leasing government-
subsidized, glass-
clad of“
towers to corporate tenants. All cities are faced with a need to boost
their tax bases, but some pursue this more aggressively than others and
do so absent any signi“
cant distribution of the bene“
ts to neighbor-
hoods and less favored groups.
In cities where an oligarchic group is “
xated on the private bene“
of public largess, corruption is often one of the outcomes. This seems
to be a common problem in shrinking cities„
Detroit and Camden
(NJ) are two examples„
where the absence of growth and thus op-
portunities for wealth-
generation lure morally challenged people into
government and elected of“
cials into illegal activities.
to sell goods or provide services to the local government are directed
to favored businesses or those willing to pay to play.Ž Elections are
tightly controlled so as to deny voice to various groups and to create
city councils where dissent is sti”
ed. Street cleaning, playground main-
tenance, school upgrading, and trash removal occur more frequently
in neighborhoods that support the regime than those that do not. For
the poor, racial minorities, and immigrants, the differences between
what their neighborhoods receive and the services enjoyed by more fa-
vored neighborhoods exacerbate the disparities in the quality of their
daily lives.
That the former are being treated unequally is clear. What
they can do about it is less obvious. In short, the balance of oligarchy
and democracy matters.
One sees this most clearly in the case of policing and the black com-
munity. The absence of citizen police review boards and other mecha-
nisms for democratic engagement with police departments is one fac-
tor in the antagonistic relationship between African-
Americans and
the police. One would expect that a government more open to demo-
cratic input and oversight would engender greater sensitivity on the
part of the police and greater understanding of policing practices on
the part of the community, thereby reducing the potential for violent
confrontations. Not only a matter of the culture of police departments,
it is also one of the democratic sensibilities of the local government
and the extent to which various agencies are accountable to residents.
Where accountability is lacking, disadvantaged groups suffer.
Turning to the last of the contradictions, the daily balance or im-
balance of tolerance and intolerance is probably the easiest to grasp„
such acts are often quite public. Hate crimes against transsexuals are
reported in the local newspaper and on local television news, a church
congregation provides food and shelter for refugee families, mosques
are vandalized, elected of“
cials propose the deportation of undocu-
mented workers, and white residents join their black neighbors for a
nighttime vigil to protest the police harassment of black youth. A city
council might vote to prohibit transgendered individuals from choos-
ing which public bathrooms to use or subway riders might come to
the defense of a Muslim being harassed. At the same time, intolerance
and tolerance occur in less public ways. African-
Americans, disabled
individuals, and single mothers and their children face discrimination
in the rental housing market, while gay couples intending to marry are
denied venues or wedding services. These acts, whether seen by many
or few, are real and consequential.
Tolerance seems to be more pronounced in af”
uent and dense cities.
There, people with a discretionary income and a love for the city feel
comfortable exploring distant neighborhoods. Lesbian organizations
are less likely to encounter resistance when attempting to open a com-
munity center or hold an event in the local park. Taxi drivers might be
more likely to pick up African-
Americans since their passengers are less
likely to be headed to poor and dangerous areas of the city. For many
groups, the difference between living in a tolerant city as opposed to
one with an undercurrent of intolerance has direct, near-
and personal effects. In many subtle and not-
subtle ways, the con-
tradictions nurtured by cities in”
uence the conditions under which
people carry on their daily lives as well as their long-
term prospects
for health, prosperity, safety, and happiness. Cities where inequalities
are prominent are more than cities where some people have fewer re-
sources and opportunities than others, poorer access to public and pri-
vate services, and less of a likelihood for upward mobility. They are also
cities where people are less healthy, both physically and mentally, and
less satis“
ed with their lives. It can hardly be denied that sources of
social stress, poor social networks, low self- esteem, high rates of depres-
sion, anxiety, insecurity, the loss of a sense of controlŽ have a funda-
mental impact on how city life is experienced.
Negotiating the Moral Landscape
One of the most important of these consequences involves the moral
choices compelled by these contradictions and thus the way in which
residents occupy the city as political beings. This is the second part of
my response to the question of why it matters that we think of the city
in terms of contradictions.
Human ful“
llment does not rest solely on the knowledge we ac-
quire, the skills we learn, the goods and services we purchase, or the
scope and depth of our intimate relationships. It also entails the join-
ing of political communities in which people depend on each other
for support.
Such communities can take various forms: the board of a
cooperative apartment building, a safety committee at work, neighbor-
hood associations, religious elders, a city council, or a regional plan-
ning body. They function as forums where we deliberate with others in
order to make a world that sustains and nurtures those who occupy it.
Widely recognized is that, as members of a political community,
people have rights and responsibilities attendant to that membership.
Consider the various rights conferred on citizens of the United States:
the right to a fair trial if accused of a crime, the right to choose which
job to take of those that are available, the right to live in whatever
neighborhood one can afford, and the right to marry a person of the
same sex. These rights, and others, belong to us as citizens of the na-
tion and contribute to our well-
being in a variety of ways. Yet, I am less
interested in rights than I am with responsibilities. Rights, particularly
citizenship rights, imply a relationship between a government and its
citizens as individuals; responsibilities, by contrast, focus attention
on our relatedness to others. These responsibilities extend beyond the
obligation to treat other people with civility as we go about our daily
tasks. They include the obligations we have to acknowledge and act
appropriately as regards the unjust, undemocratic, and indecent condi-
tions created by the contradictions that infuse the city.
When unbalanced in favor of wealth, environmental destruction,
oligarchy, and intolerance, the residents and users of the city are con-
fronted with stark choices. The “
rst is whether to recognize and act on
injustice or to withdraw from our responsibilities to others.
It is easy
to complain about people struggling on the brink of destitution, groups
using the local government to create wealth for themselves alone, and
ecological settings being permanently destroyed, but then do noth-
ing. People wishing to avoid these conditions can isolate themselves in
ent neighborhoods and sanitized downtowns. Of course, there are
moral costs„
to indifference and withdrawal. Doing so places
the individual outside the political community. She is no longer acting
responsibly: in a strict sense, no longer due the support and rights that
membership confers. Public cynicism, for this is what it is, weakens
democratic practices and discourages joining with others to act.
If a person does accept political responsibility, then they are con-
fronted with a second set of choices. These involve answering the ques-
tion of what should be done?Ž In cities where no contradictions ex-
ist or where the contradictions are aligned to minimize injustice, these
questions are less compelling. There, the need for many people to be re-
sponsible is not as pronounced. We have none of the former cities in the
United States and too few of the latter. Rather, most urban dwellers are
confronted with the consequences of these oppositions on a daily basis.
The issue at hand is structural injustice; that is, the systemic social
processes that situate groups of people within conditions of dominance
and deprivation, while enabling other groups to access a wide range of
opportunities and resources that enhance their lives.
These processes
are self-
perpetuating and enduring and, while they change over time,
they do so ever so slowly. In addition, it is dif“
cult for people who are
disadvantaged to move into advantaged groups; that is, to be upwardly
mobile. Most importantly for this discussion, blame for these injustices
cannot be easily attributable to one or another group. The responsibil-
ity for the processes that maintain poverty and deprive cities of much-
needed investment is distributed among numerous individuals, groups,
organizations, and institutions. To this extent, it is unclear whether
blaming one person or a particular corporation is worth doing. What is
required instead are collective efforts to resist injustice on a number of
fronts simultaneously, a point to which I will return below.
Structural injustice, then, involves groups rather than single indi-
viduals and takes various forms: as exploitation, marginalization,
ness, cultural imperialism, and violence.
It is manifested
in the enduring poverty of black households, the political disenfran-
chisement of immigrants and minorities, the steering of the poor and
minorities to the worst neighborhoods, and the violence directed at
gay and transgendered individuals. These activities and conditions are
deeply implicated in the very nature of American society; they are not
anomalies. A prime example in the United States involves the uninter-
rupted marginalization of Native Americans and African-
These groups have been subjugated and deprived for centuries. Their
members have been enslaved, lynched, and murdered and, for Native
Americans, slaughtered, forced off their lands, and con“
ned to reserva-
tions. Today, both groups remain deprived and marginalized„
less so for African-
Americans. This is a national embarrassment.
What is to be done? How is a person living in a city to act? What are
the moral and political responsibilities appropriate to structural injus-
tice? Civility should be a minimum. One should go through the day
allowing others„
with the exceptions of muggers, thieves, and other
disruptors of the social peace„
to be themselves. Even better would
be sympathetic encounters that promote sociability and cohesion by
bridging and effacing differences.Ž Such encounters would ignite the
potential for publics.Ž But then what? Do no harmŽ comes immediately
to mind. Do not act in ways that perpetuate the injustices of the citys
contradictions: pay your workers a living wage, treat others with re-
spect, welcome immigrants, recycle. Respect is key; neither individuals
nor institutions should humiliate people and injure their self-
This is still not enough. Political responsibility requires that we heed
the various forms of injustice and speak out or act so as to make oth-
ers aware, shame institutions to behave appropriately, and join like-
minded people to form publics that support justice, democracy, and
respect for others. Because the city is a collective experience, we should
act with others. Our responsibilities are not unique to each of us as
individuals, but rather held in common. In the face of contradictions,
the rule should be to resist indifference, act decently, and share respon-
sibility and do so, as often as possible, with as many people from as
many different backgrounds as possible.
Important here is to recognize that some people and institutions
bear more of the responsibility and have a greater capacity to respond
to injustice than others.
Hedge funds, commercial banks, and the fed-
eral government with its af”
friendly and corporation-
friendly in-
come tax policies, are more complicit in the imbalance of wealth than
are newly arrived immigrants from Mexico. Similarly, the fair housing
commissions of local governments have more tools to respond to dis-
crimination in rental markets than a local church congregation. And,
a large property management company can achieve greater energy
savings in its apartment buildings than a few tenants acting alone.
Government is particularly well- positioned to join with publics in ad-
dressing injustice; it “
gures centrally in the distribution of wealth and
poverty, environmental sustainability, the nurturing (or not) of democ-
racy, and constraints on intolerance.
On a household basis, the af”
uent have more money to devote to
causes, better access to elected of“
cials, and a greater capacity to create
organizations to advocate for gun control than a working-
class house-
hold with three children and both parents working full-
time, and hop-
ing, maybe this year, to replace the washer/dryer. Add to this the fact
that people are entangled in multiple webs of support, obligation, and
meaning. This makes it dif“ cult to decide what to do. Although a per-
son might favor the reduction of air pollution, he might also need to
drive to work in order to stave off poverty. As another example of such
fraught choices, the city council might favor transparency in its de-
liberations but be pressured by a major employer to provide a special
tax break without announcing it to the public. At the same time, these
entanglements present numerous opportunities for acting responsibly
with others. The city demands that we act responsibly: it just does not
tell us how to do so.
My objective is not to set out an agenda for what a moral person
should do as a political actor. The values of justice, democracy, and
respect are thin and provide little practical guidance. In reality, and as
regards the choices that need to be made, the possibilities are endless
and depend so much on the speci“
cities of any unjust act or deplorable
condition. What is important is that a person, a household, a church
group, a local government, or a business association in some way re-
sists the structural injustices emanating from the citys contradictions.
Given the prevalence of injustice, doing no harm is only a beginning.
After that, so much can be done: contributing to nonpro“
t organiza-
tions providing services to recently arrived refugees, supporting can-
didates for of“
ce who recognize the needs of less advantaged people,
joining a protest march, showing respect for those with different re-
ligions and lifestyles, donating time at a soup kitchen, writing a blog
about a misuse of eminent domain, boycotting a business that exploits
undocumented immigrants, organizing the clean-
up of a vacant lot.
One of the important reasons why this perspective on the city mat-
ters involves moral responsibilities. The citys contradictions must be
seen through a moral lens and not viewed simply as phenomena that
solely impact the functional requirements of daily life. Moreover, their
effects are not temporary and cannot be waved away as anomalies.
Consequently, my whole approach has been one that rejects the no-
tion that the city is a self-
healing, magni“
cent human accomplishment
such that the problems it fosters are quickly addressed and eliminated.
The promise of progressŽ is not the foundation on which the argu-
ment rests. To believe in the inevitability and prevalence of progress
is to lose sight of the moral challenges that confront us in the pres-
ent moment. We begin to believe that the citys problems are ”
malfunctions. They are not. They are inherent in the way that cities in
multicultural, capitalist democracies function. They cannot be erased,
only endlessly negotiated, thus compelling constant attention from
morally responsible, politically engaged citizens.
Experiencing the City
This discussion of political and moral responsibilities points to an issue
not yet considered to any great extent. It concerns how we experience
and imagine the city. It should be obvious that I have presented the
city as a factual reality: describing its conditions and processes, setting
those conditions and processes within enduring contradictions, and
treating the reader, to some extent, as a distant observer. Of course,
we encounter the city in numerous other ways as well; for example,
through the press of bodies on a crowded bus, the sudden jolt we re-
ceive when accidentally stepping off the sidewalk curb, and the pierc-
ing sounds of a siren as an ambulance passes on the street. The city
is not simply real in a material sense and outside of us: the homes we
live in, the workplaces some go to each day, the buses we ride, or the
stream that runs through the neighborhood shopping district. It is ad-
ditionally an emotional and sensory experience and, to this extent, has
imaginative presence. It appears on television, in newspapers and mov-
ies, as part of discussions with neighbors, and in the world we con-
stantly construct and reconstruct in our minds. Such perceptions are
critical to how we act. The city is both a city of fact and a city of feeling
and this has a great deal to do with what elected of“
cials and social
scientists tell us and how we respond to their declarations.
Certainly the city has a physical presence. It is there in its build-
ings, taxicabs, and traf“
c signals and viscerally experienced through
sight, hearing, smell, feeling, and taste. The skyline, viewed always
from afar, symbolizes the contemporary city and de“
nes its center of
commercial activity. The buses that travel the streets make a distinc-
tive sound, while the beeping of signals for pedestrian crossings, the
honking of automobile horns, and the noises of bouncing basketballs
and squeaking playground swings bring the city to us. We smell it: the
smells of the citys trash removal vehicles, the inviting aromas ema-
nating from the exhaust vent of the hamburger joint down the street,
the odd chemical odor from a manufacturing plant, and the dampness
that riders bring to a bus on a rainy day. And then there are the many
ways that we feel the city: the hardness of concrete pavement, the jos-
tling of bodies at a busy intersection, and the physical effort required
to push open the revolving doors of large retail stores. Taste, too, is part
of the urban experience. The hot dog purchased from a street cart and
eaten in a rush while walking back to work, much like the coffee sipped
earlier in the day along the same route, have a different taste than if
consumed at home.
The city and the body are joined in particular ways and this has a
great deal to do with what the city means to people.
Driving over a
pothole or stepping in a puddle at a poorly drained crosswalk register
the city quite physically. The body responds and our understanding is
slightly modi“
ed. Much has been written about how dissimi-
lar people„
diverse bodies„
experience the city. The sense of fear that
women often have when waiting at a bus shelter alone late at night,
the concerns of transgendered individuals when walking in unfamiliar
neighborhoods, the dif“
culties encountered by the physically disabled
when negotiating their way at a crowded bus stop, and the problems
faced by the in“
rm when crossing busy streets or descending the stairs
to the subway all attest to the bodily experiences of the city.
I do not mean to suggest that such experiences are peculiar to cities
and, by implication, absent in small towns and country settings. We
encounter these latter places through our senses as well, as part of our
bodies. My point is rather that the city offers diverse experiences, not
the waft of a light breeze and the smell of meadow ”
owers but the mix
of truck exhaust, restaurant vents, and perspiring bodies. Neither do
I wish to perpetuate the urban-
rural trope that claims a clear and es-
sential distinction, although it has been argued that the city engenders
a particular psychological reaction that is calculating and defensive in
response to the rigorous schedules of commuter trains and retail stores,
the impersonal forces of the economy, and the incessant assault on our
Pertinent to my argument is the way in which the body is affected
by the balance of urban contradictions. In cities where intolerance for
Americans is pronounced, being black in the wrong place can
well lead to physical harm. Where a robust democracy reigns, people
are more likely to stage rallies for one or another cause, putting their
bodies in public spaces and using their gestures and voices to make
their concerns heard. Cities where the environment is a lesser priority
often have more sites with toxic soils, more industrial pollution of both
air and water, and ecosystems under greater threat. These conditions
are experienced, in the worst of cases, as lead poisoning from faulty
water systems, asthma from poor air quality, and mosquito-
borne dis-
eases from inadequate drainage. Cities with enduring and spatially
concentrated poverty often combine environmental problems with in-
tolerance toward the poor (and minorities), the latter con“
ned to sub-
par housing, low-
wage jobs, and unhealthy neighborhoods. In Detroit,
Camden (NJ), and East St. Louis, where the poor are concentrated and
local governments struggle to deliver quality public services, residents
are often further burdened by political corruption and mismanage-
ment and blocked from addressing the environmental conditions from
which they suffer.
We also experience the city through public media, such as neighbor-
hood and citywide newspapers, city magazines, local radio and televi-
sion stations, neighborhood blogs, and social media sites.
These me-
dia representations merge with our experiences and opinions to create
new understandings and give rise to new urban imaginaries. The city
exists both out-
there and through the media and what we experience
in this way is just as realŽ to us as when we walk to the corner store.
On television, we see a family displaced by an apartment “
re, corrupt
politicians being escorted from the courthouse, and a traf“
c accident
blocking access to a major highway along which commuters make their
way home. Citywide newspapers report on murders, upcoming elec-
tions, professional sports teams, and the opening of a new restaurant.
Neighborhood newspapers note community opposition to the taking
of a community garden for a luxury apartment building and outrage
at the shortened hours of a branch library. The neighborhood blogger
bemoans the people who fail to pick up after their dogs, while the old-
iesŽ radio station announces summer concerts in a nearby park. These
media shape the city in our minds. As one consequence, the bound-
aries between reality and what is imagined become blurred.
What a
city is and how we act within it are inseparable from the interpreta-
tions we share with others.
Social media have emerged as another technology mediating be-
tween people and the city. They play an increasing role in how peo-
ple manage their lives and how city governments interact with their
residents. Using a variety of web-
based platforms such as Twitter,
Facebook, and Foursquare, and able to easily access them with smart-
phones, people arrange to meet, hear about a pop-
upŽ event, praise
a restaurant or a tourist site they just visited, check on bus service, or
navigate a new neighborhood. City governments have adopted social
media tools to provide residents with up-
date information on public
meetings and school closings, collect feedback on service performance,
undertake surveys, and answer complaints.
Much like television and
newspapers, these social media are another way through which people
experience the city.
How we think about the city is also in” uenced by “
ctional accounts,
not just the descriptive reporting of events. (Academic writings are
an imperfect medium for conveying sensations and emotions.) Tele-
vision sitcoms depict a life in the city for a family or for a group of
friends. Movies imagine cities destroyed by one or another disaster„
devastating ”
ood, a rampaging “
re, a deadly disease, earthquake, space
aliens. Always lurking nearby the citys prosperity„
closer in Detroit
than Seattle„
are urban dystopias or, less dramatically, the drug gangs,
squalid homes, and bribery as portrayed in detective stories, police pro-
cedurals, and television shows about life on the streets.Ž
For readers,
the city appears in the memoirs of those who walk through its spaces,
stories of loneliness and the search for love, crime novels, and the his-
tories of immigrant families. These “
ctional depictions re”
ect the city
of fact back to us in ways that resonate:
From far away, they heard a rumbling that grew louder and louder until it reached
them and the subway came thundering over their heads and screeched and slowed
and came smashing to a stop. It exhaled and all the doors opened and the cold
white light from inside the cars was cast down from high up above and the inter-
com spoke.
Where the contradictions are most prominent, these stories become
more vivid. Political corruption, the plight of the poor and the work-
ing class, and ethnic intolerance are common themes in this “
Our understanding of what it means to live in the city and how we
should do so is “
ltered not just through various media but also through
our interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances. We engage
with others in a variety of ways and forums, sharing our experiences,
and discussing what they mean and what we should do about them. In
casual conversation, for example, we comment on the construction of
a small apartment building in the neighborhood and the potential for
cation, the local city councilpersons plan to upgrade the nearby
park, the mayors proposal to raise the property tax rate, and the acrid
smell emanating from a local factory. Our experiences combine with
what we have seen, read, or heard to produce a shared understanding.
We experience the city not as individuals but collectively. The city is
more than being stalled in a traf“
c jam or suffering through a garbage
strike. It is also collectively imagined. What we think and know is
mediated by our interactions and conversations with others and
by the television programs we watch, the newspapers we read, and the
radio talk-
shows to which we listen. The city is a collective experience,
not an individual one. Whether we prefer to live in a city or not, in this
neighborhood rather than that one, in a single-
family house or a rental
apartment are preferences we have with others because we experience
and talk about the city together.
These experiences fragment and divide residents, while also estab-
lishing the basis for association and self-
People with sim-
ilar interests come together as publics and pressure elected of“
cials to
respond to their concerns. They picket neighborhood businesses that
offer shoddy goods at exorbitant prices, organize a neighborhood crime
watch, or convince neighbors to clean up a stream bed cluttered with
old tires, bottles, and discarded shopping carts. Business leaders and
elected of“
cials also have an interest in sharing their knowledge and
concerns. Corporate executives want the city council to defeat a pro-
posed living wage law and, in order to convince council members to
vote against it, they send lobbyists to city hall. Elected of“
cials “
it useful to listen to their constituents, caucus with others from their
political party, and discuss plans for a new sports stadium with bank-
ers, architects, professional sports teams, and city planners. Even in the
most oligarchic of cities, the mayor and city council members have to
maintain their political standing and this requires the creation of com-
mon perspectives among supporters. None of this emerges automati-
cally from the facts of the city or occurs unmediated by the many ways
we know it. The city is always imagined and what people imagine is
always done with others.
At the same time, these perspectives are perpetually in ”
ux. People
and events are continually sending forth new information and modify-
ing what people believe the city to be. The city eludes any singular de-
piction, while attempts to “
x its meaning confront an obdurate reality.
This is not to say that we have no stable understandings or that the city
exists only in our minds. Rather it points to the interplay of facts on
the ground (such as a broken water main) and how we give meaning to
those facts as we go about our lives. If the water from the broken pipe
seeps into the basements of adjacent buildings, this becomes a mutual
concern of the buildings owners. The seepage itself„
the fact„
is open
to all kinds of interpretation involving the incompetence of the munic-
ipal water department, the age of the water mains, the importance of
carrying building insurance, and who will be responsible for the dam-
ages. For most people„
and not just in the instance of broken water
the city constantly, incessantly, casts up matters of collective
responsibility and creates reasons to act collectively, whether that ac-
tion takes the form of voicing complaints to the next-
door neighbor or
forming an organization. Our understanding of the city is imaginative,
experiential, and emotional through and through. Yet, an actual city,
in all of its physicality, exists independently and beyond these imagi-
naries. There is a real world. But because we can only know that world
through our senses, through media, and through our interactions with
others, it is not a world on which reasonable people all agree. As one
observer has written, all cities are palimpsests of... experiences and
real, diverse, and open to interpretation.
Living with Others
Clearly, urban dwellers do not negotiate their lives in the city alone.
They do so as social and political beings entangled with other peo-
ple. However, there is another way to think about the city as a collec-
tive phenomenon. Humans and their various associations„
clans, government agencies, business “
rms, charitable organizations,
churches, sport clubs„
are neither the sole makers and shapers of it nor
the sole mediators and victims of its contradictions. In fact, humans
are not wholly and only responsible for these contradictions. Rather,
the contradictions take form and thrive, or not, in a world that humans
share with built forms (such as of“
ce towers and dams); natures many
species of birds, mammals, “
sh, and reptiles along with ecological sys-
tems such as wetlands; and regulatory (zoning, traf“
c lights), infra-
structural (natural gas supply systems), and accounting (voter registra-
tion, dog licensing) technologies. The interaction among these various
things gives the city its presence; this is how the city is constituted.
The complex entanglements of people, buildings, technologies, and na-
ture stabilize and destabilize the citys contradictions, enabling them
to persist or not.
Consider some of the ways in which nonhuman things enter into
the contradictions we have been discussing. Poverty is a good example.
It is not merely a matter of insuf“
cient income. Poverty is perpetuated
by substandard homes in which the poor are forced to live and the
lesser quality and higher maintenance of the cars that they can afford
to purchase. The working poor were particularly harmed a few years
back by the home mortgage technologies that led in 2008 to an on-
slaught of foreclosures. Compared to more af”
uent households, poor
households are more likely to live in ”
ood plains and thus are more
susceptible to the severe storms caused by climate change. Their ap-
pliances are less likely to be reliable, vermin more prevalent, and win-
dows less tightly sealed. Affecting the health of the poor are the facto-
ries and warehouses, polluted streams, and highways adjacent to the
neighborhoods where they live. By contrast, the rich can afford to re-
side far from environmental health hazards and, as a result, face fewer
related problems and lower health care costs. The poor are also
less likely to have internet access, more prone to falling into arrears on
their utility payments, and more likely to be victimized by the privati-
zation of infrastructure that leads to more restrictive and more costly
The rich enjoy technological advantages, are shielded from
many environmental disasters, and are supported in their wealth by
subsidized of“
ce towers, commuter rail lines, and rede-
velopment projects. The contradiction between wealth and poverty is
embedded in the built forms of the landscape, public and private tech-
nologies, and variations in the vulnerability to nature.
One can “
nd similar entanglements around the other contradic-
tions. Environmental destructiveness is directly traceable to gas-
automobiles, building furnaces that burn low-
grade heating oil, and
the chemicals used in (and then exhausted from) dry cleaning busi-
nesses. The solution, and the path to sustainability, also relies on tech-
nologies: electric cars, recycling, solar panels, and green roofs. The
vironment is threatened by constructing homes and shops on pre-
viously undeveloped and soil-
rich sites, thereby expanding the citys
footprint. Democracy is enhanced by the availability of public spaces
for demonstrations, easy-
use voting machines, and transit systems
that connect neighborhoods being overlooked with elected of“
who have to be convinced to remedy the situation. Tolerance thrives
when the media report on hate crimes, the police avoid the technology
of racial pro“
ling, gun laws are aggressively monitored and enforced,
and school curriculum systems treat all students as equal in potential.
Intolerance is nurtured by the walls that separate neighborhoods and
digital social media open to those who spew hate.
These entanglements of humans, built forms, nature, and technolo-
gies are not speci“
c to cities. They are found in less dense places as
well. There, they are often less complex but can be equally helpful or
destructive„think of individual septic systems on the helpful side and
hydraulic fracking on the destructive side.
Ignoring the contribution
of these entanglements to the citys contradictions runs the risk of see-
ing them as merely a matter of human intention and neglect. They
are not and, because this is so, resisting them when they undermine
justice, democracy, tolerance, and sustainability cannot focus solely on
what humans do or do not do. Entanglements make it more dif“
to negotiate these contradictions and are one of the main reasons that
they persist. At the same time, they expand the possibilities for acting
Concluding Remarks
The preceding sentence returns us to the issue of what should be
done.Ž I have said very little about this. It is not that I am pessimistic
regarding the ability to manage the consequences of the citys contra-
dictions, but rather because I recognize that an almost unlimited num-
ber and variety of actions could be undertaken to rebalance wealth and
poverty, environmental destructiveness and sustainability, oligarchy
and democracy, intolerance and tolerance. The possibilities are not in-
nite but neither are they easily enumerated. No single response can
serve as a panacea. In addition, the question of who would have to act
confronts us with the differing interpretations, interests, needs, and
desires of the many groups who occupy and use the city. When com-
pensatory actions are undertaken, some groups will bene“
t and oth-
ers are likely to be ignored or harmed. These are the conditions with
which we have to contend. We cannot erase the citys contradictions.
In an ideal world, few people would be passive and many people would
recognize their political obligations and moral duties.
The city is a “
eld of possibilitiesŽ and this should give us hope.
though the citys contradictions might originate outside the city„
city being neither discrete nor isolated from the larger world„
they are
nurtured, ampli“
ed, strengthened, and resisted within it. A multitude
of consequences are produced and, yet, distinct tendencies emerge.
They are, though, just that„
tendencies. And, they manifest differently
over time and across social and geographical space. Neither a great hu-
man achievement nor a failure of civilization, the city is the product
of an ever-
changing negotiation that humans undertake with nature
and with the technologies they have created. At its best, the city is an
ambiguous achievement.
This book bene“
ted from the critical comments of a
number of smart people. Meg Holden, Nadia Mian, and
Daphne Spain read all of the chapters and, on doing so,
posed counter-
arguments, offered overlooked examples,
and generally encouraged me to make my argument
clearer and stronger. Laura Wolf-
Powers, Joan Fitzgerald,
Siobhan Watson, and Eric Goldwyn read more selectively
but no less perceptively. Two reviewers„
one anonymous
and one Alex Marshall„
for the University of Chicago
Press offered comments both global and particular, as did
Timothy Mennel who, as Senior Editor, saw the potential
in the book and encouraged me to make it more coherent
and accessible.
The Rockefeller Foundation was critical to the books
development. It granted me a one- month residency fel-
lowship at the Bellagio Center (Italy) in 2014. During this
time, I developed the argument along with the scaffold-
ing that weaves together the contradictions and empirical
examples. An added bene“
t was being able to tap the col-
lective experience and intelligence of my fellow residents.
The production and publicity staff at University of Chi-
cago Press carried the burden of the post-
writing phase
and were always helpful and professional when doing so.
I especially want to thank Mary Corrado for her editorial
Finally, and once again, I am indebted to Debra Bilow
for her support.
1. Respectively, the quotations are from Bruce Katz and Jen-
nifer Bradley,
The Metropolitan Revolution
(Washington, DC:
The Brookings Institution, 2013), p. 193; Edward Glaeser,
The Triumph of the City
(New York: Picador, 2011), p. 247;
and Nan A. Rothschild and Diane diZerega,
The Archaeology
of American Cities
(Gainesville: University Press of Florida,
2014), p. 192.
2. Henry B. F. Macfarland, The Twentieth Century City,Ž
American City
5, no. 3 (1911):128…
139. More generally, see
Robert A. Beauregard,
Voices of Decline: The Postwar Fate of
U.S. Cities
(New York: Routledge, 2003 ed.), pp. 27…
44; Peter
Cities of Tomorrow
(Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2002 ed.),
pp. 14…
47; and Lewis Mumford,
The City in History
York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1961), pp. 410…
3. On anti-
urbanism in the United States, see Steven Conn,
Americans against the City: Anti-
Urbanism in the Twenti-
eth Century
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014). On
urbanism in other countries, see Robert Beauregard,
Antiurbanism in the United States, England, and China,Ž
Fleeing the City
, ed. Michael J. Thompson (New York:
Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 35…
4. For critiques of what has been labeled the urban age the-
sis,Ž see Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, The Urban
Age in Question,Ž
International Journal of Urban and Regional
38, no. 3 (2014):731…
755 and Brendon Gleeson,
The Urban Age: Paradox and Prospect,Ž
Urban Studies
no. 5 (2012):931…
5. For a more sustained treatment of this perspective, see Marshall Berman,
All That Is Solid Melts into Air
(New York: Penguin, 1988). Berman writes
that to be modern is to live a life of paradox and contradictionŽ (p. 13).
6. Edward J. Glaeser, Reinventing Boston: 1630…
Journal of Economic
5, no. 2 (2005):119…
153. The quotation is on p. 151.
7. Jane Jacobs,
The Economy of Cities
(New York: Random House, 1969), p. 86.
8. The “
rst quoted phrase is from Leo Hollis,
Cities Are Good for You: The
Genius of the Metropolis
(London: Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 6 and the second
from Michael Shapiro,
Reading the Postmodern Polity
(Minneapolis: Univer-
sity of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 122.
9. For a different treatment of contradictions, see Nicholas Phelps,
Sequel to
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015). He discusses three of them:
growth vs. environmental conservation, individual accumulation vs. col-
lective consumption, and localism vs. regional cooperation.
10. Andrea Wulf attributes the origins of this sense of interconnectedness to
the famous nineteenth-
century scientist Alexander von Humboldt. See
The Invention of Nature
(London: John Murray, 2015).
11. On Marxist urban theory, see Mike Davis,
City of Quartz
(London: Verso,
1990) and Andy Merri“
The New Urban Question
(London: Pluto Press,
2014). As for non-
Marxist scholars, see Glaeser,
Triumph of the City
; Witold
Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities
(New York: Scribner,
2010); and Jon Teaford,
The Twentieth-
Century American City
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986). For a conservative perspective,
see Myron Magnet,
The Millennial City: A New Urban Paradigm for the 21st
(Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2000).
12. Ash Amin and Stephen Graham, The Ordinary City,Ž
Transactions of the
Institute of British Geographers
22, no. 4 (1997):411…
429. See also Michael
Storper and Allen J. Scott, Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical
Urban Studies
53, no. 6 (2016):1114…
13. This book is meant to join other books on the cityŽ written for a general
audience. They include histories such as Lewis Mumfords
The City in His-
(1961) and Jon Teafords
The Twentieth Century American City
popular presentations such as Alan Ehrenhalts
The Great Inversion and
the Future of the American City
(2012), Edward Glaesers
Triumph of the City
(2011), Alex Marshalls
How Cities Work
(2000), and Witold Rybczynskis
Makeshift Metropolis
(2010); and introductory texts such as Deborah Ste-
The City
(2013) and books on urban theory such as Phil Hub-
(2006) and Simon Parkers
Urban Theory and the Urban Experi-
1. Throughout this and other chapters, population data on cities have been
taken from various US Bureau of the Census demographic data sets, most
available online.
2. Of course, de-
urbanization occurs. For a general overview as this applies
to the United States and elsewhere, see Robert A. Beauregard, Shrinking
Cities,Ž in
International Encyclopedia of Social and Behavioral Sciences
, ed.
James D. Wright, 2nd ed., vol. 21 (Oxford: Elsevier, 2015), pp. 917…
3. Global Agenda Council on Competition,
The Competitiveness of Cities
Geneva: World Economic Forum, 2014).
4. James De“
lippis, Why Urban Policy? On Social Justice, Urbanization, and
Urban Policies,Ž in
Urban Policy in the Time of Obama
, ed. James De“
pis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016), pp. 293…
301 with
quotation from p. 294. See also Neil Brenner and Christian Schmid, To-
wards a New Epistemology of the Urban?Ž
19, no. 2 (2015):151…
5. On treating the city as having a single, de“ ning trait, see Ash Amin and
Stephen Graham, The Ordinary City,Ž
Transactions of the Institute of
British Geographers
22, no. 4 (1997):411…
429. The quotation on the open-
endedness of the urban is on page 5 in Louis Wirth, Urbanism as a Way
of Life,Ž
American Journal of Sociology
44, no. 1 (1938):1…
6. Jennifer Robinson, Urban Geography: World Cities, or a World of Cities,Ž
Progress in Human Geography
29, no. 6 (2005):757…
765, quotation on p. 763.
7. On agglomeration see Edward Soja,
Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities
and Regions
(Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 6… 18 and Michael Storper and
Allen J. Scott, Current Debates in Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment,Ž
Urban Studies
53, no. 6 (2016):1114…
1136. The Wirth article is Urbanism
as a Way of Life.Ž
8. On imaginaries, see Andreas Huyssen, ed.,
Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban
Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press,
2008). The classic book on the city of the mind is Italo Calvinos novel
Invisible Cities
(New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1974). On self-
awareness, see
Ian Hacking,
The Social Construction of What?
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1999), pp. 31…
9. Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-
The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of
a City Matters in a Global Age
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
10. Jane Jacobs,
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
(New York: Vintage,
1961), p. 16.
11. Witold Rybczynski,
Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities
(New York:
Scribner, 2010), p. 57.
12. The US Bureau of the Census de“
nes an urban area as a densely devel-
oped territory that contains 50,000 or more people.Ž See www
.html, accessed September 17, 2015.
13. This sensibility contributed greatly to the importance in the 1960s and
1970s of Herbert Ganss
The Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life
(New York: Free Press, 1962). See also Benjamin
A Nation of Neighborhoods: Imagining Cities, Communities, and
Democracy in Postwar America
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015),
pp. 135…
14. Alan Ehrenhalt,
The Great Inversion and the Future of the American City
(New York: Vintage, 2012), p. 185. On the decentered form of Los Angeles,
see the chapters by Edward Soja and Allen Scott, Richard Weinstein,
Christopher Jencks, and Michael Dear in Allen J. Scott and Edward Soja,
The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the 20th Century
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).
15. Brenner and Schmid, Towards a New Epistemology of the Urban?,Ž
p.166. See also Neil Brenner, Introduction: Urban Theory without an
Outside,Ž in
Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbaniza-
, ed. Neil Brenner (Berlin: Jovis, 2003), pp. 14…
16. Manuel Castells,
The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach
(Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1977). For a contemporary assessment, see David Harvey,
Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution
(London: Verso,
17. See Robert A. Beauregard,
When America Became Suburban
University of Minnesota Press, 2006), especially pp. 19…
39. For a historical
perspective focused solely on the suburbs, see Kenneth T. Jacksons clas-
sicŽ text
Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States
York: Oxford University Press, 1985).
18. As one example, see Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley,
The Metropolitan Rev-
olution: How Cities and Metropolitan Areas Are Fixing Our Broken Politicsand
Fragile Economy
(Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2013).
19. For an historical depiction of this, see William Cronon,
Natures Metropolis:
Chicago and the Great West
(New York: W.W. Norton, 1991). In brief, cities
are de“
ned by both their concentration and extension. See Neil Brenner,
Theses on Urbanization,Ž
Public Culture
25, no. 3 (2013):85…
114, espe-
cially pp. 102…
20. By privileging the city in the discussion, I am not denying its interdepen-
dence with its metropolitan region. Neither do I mean to devalue or deni-
grate the suburbs as does James Kunstler when he writes: The nations
massive suburban build-
out was an orgy of misspent energy and natural
resources that squandered our national wealth.Ž See his
The City in Mind
(New York: Free Press, 2001), p. xi.
21. On this point, see Gerald E. Frug and David J. Barran,
City Bound: How
States Sti”
e Urban Innovation
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008),
pp. 12…
52 and Paul Kantor,
The Dependent City: The Changing Political Econ-
omy of Urban America
(Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman/Little Brown
Division, 1988), pp. 193…
22. Sam Bass Warner, Slums and Skyscrapers: Urban Images, Symbols, and
Ideologies,Ž in
Cities of the Mind
, ed. Lloyd Rodwin and Robert M. Hollister
(New York: Plenum Press, 1984), pp. 181…
195. On the brandingŽ of cities,
see Miriam Greenberg,
Branding New York: How a City in Crisis Was Sold to
the World
(New York: Routledge, 2006).
23. Leo Hollis,
Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis
Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 9.
24. Murray Bookchin takes the notion of contradictions much further than I
do. In his
The Limits of the City
(New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1974),
he writes that since modern society is basically irrational, it should not
surprise us that the city re”
ects and even exaggerates the social irratio-
nalities of our timeŽ (p. viii).
25. Manuel Castells,
The Urban Question: A Marxist Approach
(Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1977) and David Harvey,
The Limits of Capital
(Chicago: Univer-
sity of Chicago Press, 1982), pp. 373…
26. Andy Merri“
The New Urban Question
(London: Pluto Press, 2014),
27. Henri Lefebvre,
The Urban Revolution
(Minneapolis: University of Minne-
sota Press, 2003 [orig. 1970]), quotation on page 15. See also Neil Smith,
Uneven Development
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984).
28. Ira Katznelson,
City Trenches: Urban Politics and the Patterning of Class in the
United States
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 3.
29. Of course, and as will be discussed, different groups have different experi-
ences: African-
Americans are less likely to view US society as basically
tolerant and Mexicans and Muslims are rightly fearful given current anti-
immigrant politics.
30. On this point, see Charles Tilly,
Durable Inequalities
(Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1998) and Michael Walzer,
Spheres of Justice: A Defense
of Pluralism and Equality
(New York: Basic Books, 1983).
31. M. Christine Boyer explores how city planning emerged to diffuse the[se]
contradictions of urban development.Ž See her
Dreaming the Rational City
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), p. 68.
32. For one representative example, see Allen J. Scott and Michael Storper,
The Nature of Cities: The Scope and Limits of Urban Theory,Ž
tional Journal of Urban and Regional Research
39, no. 1 (2015):1…
1. On how cities generate wealth, see Jane Jacobs,
The Economy of Cities
York: Random House, 1969); Jane Jacobs,
Cities and the Wealth of Nations
(New York: Vintage, 1985); Christopher Kennedy,
The Evolution of Great
Cities: Urban Wealth and Economic Growth
(Toronto, CA: University of
Toronto Press, 2011); and Mario Polese,
The Wealth and Poverty of Regions:
Why Cities Matter
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).
2. Of course, we need to consider the quality of these services and facilities,
a point to be discussed below.
3. This claim, albeit of the nation rather than cities, can be found in
Henry Georges famous critique of the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth
Poverty and Progress
(1880). See Edward T. ODonnell,
George and the Crisis of Inequality
(New York: Columbia University Press,
4. Michael Walzer,
Spheres of Justice
(New York: Basic Books, 1983).
5. On different lifestyles, see Marc Doussard,
Degraded Work: The Struggle
at the Bottom of the Labor Market
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2013); Emily Jane Fox, Its Expensive Being Rich,Ž
accessed October 29, 2015, http://
.cnn .com/
rich/; and Katie Johnston, Citys Middle-
Income Base
Eroding: Fewer Families Can Afford Boston, Analysis Shows,Ž
Boston Globe
September 7, 2015.
6. Peter Eisinger,
The Rise of the Entrepreneurial State
(Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 1988). On the contribution of public wealth to
and a sharing economy, see Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman,
ing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities
(Cambridge, MA:MIT
Press, 2015). On the importance of public goods and services to well-
being, see Tony Judt,
Ill Fares the Land
(New York: Penguin Press, 2010).
7. On public Wi-
Fi, see Josh Harkinson, City Wi Fi: Fast, Cheap, and No You
Cant Have It,Ž
Mother Jones
, January 22, 2015, accessed October 29, 2015,
at www
268411; Alex Marshall, Who Controls Fi-
26, no. 7 (2013):24…
25; and Olivia Quitana, City Expands
Public Wi Fi Network, Connects Community,Ž
Daily Free Press
, accessed
October 29, 2015, at www

community. On the broader involvement
of governments in city economies, see Richard L. Cook Benjamin, From
Waterways to Waterfronts: Public Investment for Cities, 1815…
1980,Ž in
Urban Economic Development
, ed. Richard D. Bingham and John P. Blair
(Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1984), pp. 23…
45; Edward L. Glaeser,
Reinventing Boston: 1630…
Journal of Economic Geography
5, no.2
153; Eric Monkkonen,
America Becomes Urban: The Development
of U.S. Cities and Towns
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988),
110; and Mary Lindenstein Walshak and Abraham J. Shragge,
Invention and Reinvention: The Evolution of San Diegos Innovation Economy
(Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books, 2014).
8. See Richard Florida,
The Rise of the Creative Class
(New York: Basic Books,
2002) and Edward Glaeser,
Triumph of the City
(New York: Penguin Press,
2011), pp. 17…
9. Alex Marshall provides an overview of the many ways in which govern-
ments make the economy possible. See his
The Surprising Design of Market
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014).
10. Harold Platt,
City Building in the New South: The Growth of Public Services in
Houston, Texas, 1830…
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983).
11. On the evolution of the American economy and the role of government,
see W. Elliot Brownlee,
Dynamics of Ascent: A History of the American Econ-
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974) and Curtis Nettels,
The Emergence
of a National Economy, 1775…
(New York: Holt, Rinehart and Win-
ston, 1962). For a more contemporary perspective, see John R. Logan and
Harvey Molotch,
Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place
University of California Press, 1987). To be avoided here is a technologi-
cal (and transportation-
based) determinism of urban growth; see Monk-
America Becomes Urban
, pp. 162…
12. Paul Kantor,
The Dependent City: The Changing Political Economy of Urban
(Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1988). For a discus-
sion of this in relation to streets, see Peter D. Norton,
Fighting Traf“
c: The
Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
13. On the extraction and concentration of wealth generally, see Andrew
Why We Cant Afford the Rich
(Bristol, UK: Polity Press, 2015). Lester
Thurow argued that great wealth that makes a family one of the richest in
the world often appears suddenly. See Lester Thurow,
Generating Inequal-
ity: Mechanisms of Distribution in the U.S. Economy
(New York: Basic Books,
1975). The chapter you are reading is not about the super-
wealthy or those
who suddenly ascend to their ranks.
14. Personal correspondence from Laura Wolf-
15. Raj Nalleri, Breda Grif“
th, and Shedid Yusuf,
Geography of Growth: Spatial
Economies and Competitiveness
(Washington, DC: The World Bank, 2012).
16. Calculated from US Small Business Administrative data accessed April 7,
2015, at www
17. Based on the listing provided at www
.com, accessed
May8, 2015.
18. Jacobs,
The Economy of Cities
, pp. 103…
232 and Saskia Sassen,
The Global
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991). Of course, large
corporations are not con“
ned to using local capital; they have retained
earnings and access to lenders and investors from across the country and
the world.
19. Calculated from www
fortune500, accessed March 16, 2015.
20. Michael Storper,
Keys to the City: How Economics, Institutions, Social Inter-
action, and Politics Shape Development
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univer-
sity Press, 2013), pp. 32…
51; Polese,
The Wealth and Poverty of Regions
21. On knowledge spillovers, see Michael Storper,
Keys to the City
, pp. 167…
The Economy of Cities
, pp. 49…
84; and Edward L. Glaeser et al.,
Growth in Cities,Ž
Journal of Political Economy
100, no. 6 (1992):1126…
1152. This centripetalŽ argument has to be read in relation to the
centrifugalŽ forces„
organizational, technological, and transportation
technologies that enable goods and services to be produced beyond their
31. From Table 1, p. 28 in Christopher E. Herbert, Daniel T. McCue, and Rocio
Moyono, Is Homeownership Still an Effective Means of Build-
ing Wealth for Low-
Income and Minority Households? (Was It Ever?),Ž
no. HBTL-
06 (Cambridge, MA: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard
University, 2013).
32. US Department of Commerce, The Geographic Concentration of High-
Income Households, 2007…
2011Ž (Washington, DC: US Bureau of the
Census, 2013). The median household income at the time was $51,000.
33. This is despite the fact that Bridgeport is a relatively poor and economi-
cally struggling city.
34. Alan Berube, All Cities Are Not Created UnequalŽ (Washington, DC: The
Brookings Institution, 2014). See also Alan Berube and Brad McDearman,
Good Fortune, Dire Poverty, and Inequality in Baltimore: An American
StoryŽ (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2015), Figure 9.
35. Sam Roberts, Manhattans Income Gap Is Widest in U.S., Census Finds,Ž
New York Times
, September 17, 2014.
36. Herbert, McCue, and Sanchez-
Moyono, Is Homeownership Still an Effec-
tive Means of Building Wealth for Low-
Income and Minority Households?
(Was It Ever?),Ž Table 4, p. 35.
37. Charles Tilly,
Durable Inequalities
(Berkeley: University of California Press,
38. Brief biographies on Gates and Bezos can be found on the Biography web-
site, which can be accessed at www
39. Malcolm Gladwell, Starting Over,Ž
New Yorker
91, no. 24 (2015):32…
The data are on pages 34 and 35. See also Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren,
Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez, Where is the Land of Opportunity?,Ž
posted February 10, 2014, accessed November 3, 2015, www
opportunity, and Paul Krugman, The
Death of Horatio Alger,Ž
, January 5, 2014.
40. See David Harvey, Class-
Monopoly Rent, Finance Capital and the Urban
Revolution,Ž in
The Urbanization of Capital
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1985), pp. 62… 89; David Madden and Peter Marcuse,
In Defense of Housing
(London: Verso, 2016); and Peter Marcuse, The
Enclave, the Citadel, and the Ghetto,Ž
Urban Affairs Review
33, no. 2
41. Brookings Institution,
State of Metropolitan America
(Washington, DC: The
Brookings Institution, 2010).
42. On how legal restrictions on cities exacerbate spatial inequalities, see Ger-
ald Frug and David J. Barron,
City Bound: How States Sti”
e Urban Innovation
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008).
43. Robert J. Sampson,
Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighbor-
hood Effect
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).
44. Sayer,
Why We Cant Afford the Rich
, pp. 83…
45. On the importance of informal institutions and networks in economic
development, see Storper,
Keys to the City
, pp. 104… 138 and pp. 167…
and Florida,
The Rise of the Creative Class
. More generally, see Mark S.
Granovetter, The Strength of Weak Ties,Ž
American Journal of Sociology
no.6 (1973):1360…
46. See Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom,
Place Matters:
Metropolitics for the 21st Century
(Lawrence: University of Kansas Press,
2001), pp. 56…
66 (on jobs) and William Julius Wilson,
When Work Disap-
(New York: Vintage, 1997).
47. Michael Greenstone, Adam Looney, Jeremy Patashnik, and Muxin Yu,
Thirteen Economic Facts about Social Mobility and the Role of Educa-
tionŽ (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2013), accessed May
27, 2015, www
48. Paul Peterson in his
City Limits
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1981) famously argued that city governments should not engage in
redistributive activities but rather focus their efforts on growth and
49. Tonya Moreno, City Income Taxes„
U.S. Cities That Levy Income Taxes,Ž
accessed May 3, 2015, www
a/ City
50. Leo Hollis,
Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis
Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 370.
51. Edward L. Glaeser, Matthew E. Kahn, and Jordan Rappaport, Why Do the
Poor Live in Cities? The Role of Public Transportation,Ž
Journal of Urban
63 (2008):1…
24, quotation on p. 7 and Elizabeth Kneebone,
The Growth and Spread of Concentrated Poverty, 2000 to 2008…
(Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2014).
52. Brookings Institution, State of Metropolitan America,Ž Figure 4, p. 139.
53. Ibid.; Ryan Childs, These Are the Poorest Cities in America,Ž
November 14, 2014, and Ryan Childs, These Are the Wealthiest Cities in
, October 30, 2014.
54. Matthew Desmond,
Evicted: Poverty and Pro“
t in the American City
York: Crown Publishers, 2016).
55. Brookings Institution, State of Metropolitan America,Ž Figure 5, p. 141.
56. Bianca Carragan, 2014, Being Poor in Beverly Hills, the Most Unequal
City in California,Ž posted March 6, 2014, accessed October 29, 2015,
.curbed .com/
california; Alexandra Cawthorne, Elderly Poverty:
The Challenge before Us,Ž posted July 30, 2008, accessed October 29,
2015, https://
us/; and Suzanne Travers,
2015, Aging in New York: City Wrestles with Poverty among Seniors,Ž
City Limits
, posted June 25, 2015, accessed October 29, 2015, www
06/ 25/
57. John Joel Roberts, 2014, Where Is the Homeless Capital of America?Ž ac-
cessed October 29, 2015, www
capit b 4886379.html, and US Department of Housing
and Urban Development, The 2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report
to CongressŽ (Washington, DC: Department of Housing and Urban Devel-
opment, 2014).
58. See the literature on welfare states for discussions of how national govern-
ments in”
uence the balance of wealth and poverty. A good beginning is
Gøsta Esping-
Anderson, ed.,
Welfare States in Transition: National Adap-
tations to Global Economics
(London: Sage, 1996). On cities, see Dreier,
Mollenkopf, and Swanstrom,
Place Matters
, pp. 133…
59. Quentin Fottrell, The Best U.S. Cities to Grow Old In„
Even If Youre
, posted April 12, 2016, accessed October 31, 2016, at
60. Nelson D. Schwartz, Poorest Areas Have Missed Out on Boons of Recov-
ery, Study Finds,Ž
New York Times
, February 25, 2016.
61. David Leonhardt, Middle-
Class Blacks in Poor Neighborhoods,Ž
New York
, June 25, 2015.
62. Substandard schools, a paucity of civic and religious organizations, and
residential segregation are all associated with a lack of upward mobility.
See David Leonhardt, Amanda Cox, and Claire Cain Miller, Change of
Address Offers a Pathway out of Poverty,Ž
New York Times
, May 4, 2015.
63. For an early but still useful re”
ection on income inequality and place,
see Wilbur R. Thompson,
A Preface to Urban Economics
(Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1968), pp. 105…
132. For a more recent perspec-
tive, see William W. Goldsmith and Edward J. Blakeley,
have.Ž See his
Cities Are Good for You: The Genius of the Metropolis
Bloomsbury, 2013), p. 355. Lastly, see David Owen, Greenest Places in the
U.S.? Its Not Where You Think,Ž posted October 26, 2009, accessed Janu-
ary, 29, 2016, http://
_its _not
3. Ernest J. Yanarella and Richard S. Levine,
The City as a Fulcrum of Global
(London: Anthem Press, 2011).
4. World Bank, Poverty Overview, accessed January 2, 2016, www
5. On the need to erase the divide between culture and nature, see Bruno
We Have Never Been Modern
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univer-
sity Press, 1993), pp. 97…
109. On cities as socio-
ecological systems, see
Matthew Gandy, Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity
in the Contemporary City,Ž
International Journal of Urban and Regional
29, no. 1 (2005):26…
49 and Eric Swyngedouw, Metabolic Urban-
ization: The Making of Cyborg Cities,Ž in
The Nature of Cities
, ed. Nik Hey-
man etal. (Abdington, UK: Routledge, 2006), pp. 21…
40. This argument
is compatible with many of those that have emerged from the environ-
mental movement. See Mark Roseland, Dimensions of the Eco-
14, no. 1 (1997):197…
6. On the presence of birds, plants, and animals and the importance of
weather and geological conditions for a city, see Jennifer Wolch, Stepha-
nie Pincetl, and Laura Pulido, Urban Nature and the Nature of Urban-
From Chicago to L.A.: Making Sense of Urban Theory
, ed. Michael Dear
(Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publications, 2002), pp. 369…
402 and Dawn
Day Biehler,
Pests in the City: Flies, Bedbugs, Cockroaches, and Rats
University of Washington Press, 2013).
7. Matthew Gandy,
Concrete and Clay: Reworking Nature in New York City
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002).
8. Richard A. Walker,
The Country in the City: The Greening of the San Francisco
Bay Area
(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007). See also Wil-
liam Cronon,
Natures Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West
(New York:
W.W.Norton, 1991).
9. Walker,
The Country in the City
, p. 254.
10. Urban political ecology provides a powerful interpretive perspective with
which to explore the relationship among humans, nature, and technolo-
gies and to grasp that relationships inherently political nature. See Roger
Keil, Urban Political Ecology,Ž
Urban Geography
24, no. 8 (2003):723…
738 and Anna Zimmer, Urban Political Ecology: Theoretical Con-
cepts, Challenges, and Suggested Future Directions,Ž
64, no. 4
11. Jane Jacobs,
The Economy of Cities
(New York: Random House, 1969), p. 3.
It is the city that develops the countryside, not the countryside (by pro-
ducing a surplus) that gives rise to the city. Walker, in
The Country in the
, remarks that city and countryside develop in tandemŽ (p. 35).
12. J. R. McNeill,
Something New under the Sun: An Environmental History of the
Twentieth Century
(New York: W. W. Norton, 2000).
13. Ferrao and Fernandez,
Sustainable Urban Metabolism
, p. 116.
14. My description of early Jamestown is mainly drawn from Carl Briden-
Jamestown 1544…
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).
Also see Ronald L. Heinemann, John G. Kolp, Anthony S. Parent Jr., and
William G. Shade,
Old Dominion, New Commonwealth: A History of Virginia
(Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007) and
JamesR. Perry,
The Formation of a Society on Virginias Eastern Shore, 1615…
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990).
15. The “
rst quotation is from Bridenbaugh,
Jamestown 1544…
, p. 45 and
the second quotation from Jill Lepore,
The Story of America
(Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2012). The relevant chapter in Lepore is Here
He LyesŽ (pp. 17…
30) with the quotation on p. 21.
16. Quoted in Bridenbaugh,
Jamestown 1544…
, p. 50.
17. Ibid., p. 135.
18. The data are from 2000 Census: U.S. Cities over 50,000: Ranked by
2000 Density,Ž accessed June 23, 2015, www
.demographia .com/
.html. The densest metropolitan area in 2010 was Los
Angeles at 2,702 people/square mile. See Wendell Cox, New Urban
Area Data Released,Ž posted March 26, 2012, accessed June 23, 2015,
19. McNeill,
Something New under the Sun
, pp. 269…
20. Quoted in Joel A. Tarr, ed.,
Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental His-
tory of Pittsburgh and Its Region
(Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press,
2003), p. 3. Slag is a waste product from mining.
21. My description of Pittsburghs environment during this era is drawn
mainly from Edward K. Muller and Joel A. Tarr, The Interaction of Natu-
ral and Built Environments in the Pittsburgh Landscape,Ž in
and Renewal
, ed. Tarr, pp. 11…
40 and Joel A. Tarr, The Metabolism of the
Industrial City,Ž
Journal of Urban History
28, no. 5 (2002):511…
545. See also
Something New under the Sun
, pp. 69…
22. Tarr, The Metabolism of the Industrial City,Ž p. 524.
23. William W. Buzbee,
Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism,
and the Regulatory War That Transformed New York City
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 2014).
24. Robert D. McFadden, Wall Collapses onto a Busy Manhattan Highway,Ž
New York Times
, May 13, 2005.
25. Semiconductor production makes extensive use of electricity and water
and generates hazardous gases. The water and gases then have to be
treated and disposed. See Christopher Ketty and Jason Holden, The
Environmental Impact of the Manufacturing of Semiconductors,Ž ac-
cessed June 23, 2015, www
.cnx .org/
[email protected]
26. Andrew Ross,
Bird on Fire: Lessons from the Worlds Least Sustainable City
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). See also Mike Davis, Las Vegas
versus Nature,Ž
Dead Cities
(New York: New Press, 2002), pp. 85…
27. Ross,
Bird on Fire
, p. 244. Of course, whereas Phoenix uses a great deal of
energy in the summer, it uses much less in the winter compared to cities
in the colder parts of the country.
28. Ross,
Bird on Fire
, p. 246.
29. Mike Davis,
Ecology of Fear: L.A. and the Imagination of Disaster
(New York:
Metropolitan Books, 1999). On the 1994 earthquake, see pp. 30…
32, 37.
The quotation is on p. 9.
30. Abel Wolman, The Metabolism of Cities,Ž
c American
213, no. 2
188, 190.
31. Christopher Kennedy et al., Energy and Material Flows of Mega-
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
112, no. 19
32. Christopher Kennedy et al., The Changing Metabolism of Cities,Ž
of Industrial Ecology
11, no. 2 (2007):43…
33. The points about buildings and transportation and increasing metabo-
lism levels come from Peter Baccini, A Citys Metabolism: Towards the
Sustainable Development of Urban Systems,Ž
Journal of Urban Technology
no. 2 (1997):27…
39. The excessive energy use of US cities is often con-
nected to the availability of cheapŽ fuels, especially when compared to
countries in Europe.
34. David A. Theobold, Landscape Patterns of Exurban Growth in the USA
from 1980 to 2020,Ž
Ecology and Society
10, no. 1 (2005):32…
35. The vehicle ownership rate per 1,000 people was 0.11 in 1900, 222.8 in
1950, and 828.0 in 2009. See Stacey C. Davis et al.,
Transportation Energy
Data Book
(Washington, DC: US Department of Energy, 2014), pp. 3-
5 and
9, and Tables 3.3 and 3.5.
36. The population data are from the US Bureau of the Census and the urban
land use data from Robert A. Beauregard,
When America Became Suburban
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006), p. 93, Figure 9.
37. Cities Built on Fertile Lands Affect Climate Change,Ž accessed April 7,
2016, www
_fertile _lands
38. The household data are from www
6.pdf, accessed July 8, 2015 and the home size data are
from www
.cnn .com/
real estate/american home size/,
accessed July 8, 2015.
39. The “
rst quote is from Morten Daugaard, Sprawl,Ž in
Encyclopedia of
Urban Studies
, ed. Ray Hutchinson (Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications,
2010), vol. 2, p. 766. On the factors leading to sprawl, see Beauregard,
When America Became Suburban
, pp. 47…
48, 94 and Anthony Downs,
Visions for Metropolitan America
(Washington, DC: The Brookings Institu-
tion, 1994), pp. 6…
7. The “
nal quotation is from Daniel Lazare,
Undeclared War: Whats Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It
York: Harcourt, 2001), p. 276.
40. Reid Ewing and Shima Hamidid,
Measuring Sprawl 2014
(Washington, DC:
Smart Growth America, 2014).
41. See Alex Krieger, The Costs„
and Bene“
of Sprawl,Ž
Harvard Design
, Fall 2003/Winter 2004, pp. 50…
55; Downs,
New Visions for Met-
ropolitan America
, pp. 7…
15; and Peter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd
Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-
rst Century
rence: University Press of Kansas, 2001), pp. 56…
42. Krieger, The Costs„
and Bene“
of Sprawl,Ž p. 52. See also Thad
Williamson, David Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovitz,
Making a Place for
Community: Local Democracy in a Global Age
(New York: Routledge, 2002),
43. Robert Bruegmann,
Sprawl: A Compact History
(Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2006), p. 17.
44. Adam Rome,
The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of
American Environmentalism
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
45. See Ferrao and Fernandez,
Sustainable Urban Metabolism
, pp. 68, 81…
and William Rees and Mathis Wackernagel, Urban Ecological Footprints:
Why Cities Cannot Be Sustainable„
and Why They Are a Key to Sustain-
Environmental Impact Assessment Review
16 (1996):223…
248. The
ecological footprint is the spatial version of urban metabolism.
46. The prior quotation is from David Moore,
Ecological Footprint Analysis: San
Fremont, CA
(Oakland, CA: Global Footprint Network,
2011), p. 3 and the quotation in this sentence from McNeill,
50. Alex Marshall,
How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), p. 175. See also Edward Glaeser,
Triumph of the City
(New York: Penguin Press, 2011), pp. 199…
222. For a
more critical perspective, see Michael Neuman, The Compact City Fal-
Journal of Planning Education and Research
25, no. 1 (2005):11…
51. Chakrabarti,
A Country of Cities
, p. 81. It could also be argued that the
tall buildings that provide a dominant image for the city embody more
energy in their steel and concrete and glass than buildings in the suburbs
where wood-
framed homes are more prevalent.
52. On greenŽ transportation, see Susan M. Opp and Jeffrey L. Osgood Jr.,
Local Economic Development and the Environment
(Boca Raton, FL: CRC
Press, 2013), pp. 67…
53. Sadhu Aufochs et al.,
The Guide to Greening Cities
(Washington, DC:
Island Press, 2013), pp. 39…
48. The quotation is from Fitzgerald,
54. Fitzgerald,
Emerald Cities
, pp. 40…
55. Sarah Goodyear, The City of Philadelphia Wants You to Stop Ignoring
Icky Over”
owing Sewers,Ž
Next City
, posted October 17, 2014, accessed
April 7, 2016, https://
56. Chakrabarti,
A Country of Cities
, pp. 98…
99. Neuman, The Compact City
Fallacy,Ž argues for more emphasis on process than urban form and notes
that the size and scale of a city might be more important than density and
its morphology.
57. See Tom Daniels, Smart Growth: A New American Approach to Re-
gional Planning,Ž
Planning Practice and Research
16, no. 3…
4 (2001):271…
279 andAnthony Downs, Smart Growth: Why We Discuss It More
than We Do It,Ž
Journal of the American Planning Association
71, no. 4
58. On the importance of density to the viability of downtowns, see Marshall,
How Cities Work
, pp. 6…
59. Peter Calthorpe,
The Next American Metropolis: Community and the Ameri-
can Dream
(New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1993).
60. Minimizing building energy use is particularly important. See 2016
Energy Star: Top Cities,Ž accessed April 7, 2016, www
61. Aufochs,
The Guide to Greening Cities
; Cynthia Rosenzweig et al., Cities
Lead the Way in Climate Change Action,Ž
467 (2010):909…
911; and
Stephen M. Wheeler, State and Municipal Climate Change Plans,Ž
of the American Planning Association
74, no. 4 (2008):481…
62. Rebecca Leonard, Green Infrastructure Grows Up,Ž
81, no. 6
63. Rebecca Tuhus-
Dubrow, L.A. Existential,Ž
, posted April 19, 2015,
accessed July 1, 2015, http://
.html. These changes, of course, are supported by state
and federal policies. On the Los Angeles River, see Matthew Gandy,
Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination
MA: MIT Press, 2014), pp. 145…
64. See Witold Rybczynski,
Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities
(New York:
Scribner, 2010), pp. 181…
188. As a contrary position, consider the claim
that the only modern communities that are remotely sustainable at pres-
ent are some aboriginal communities that have existed for centuries.Ž See
Roseland, Dimensions of the Eco-
City,Ž p. 201.
65. Ebenezer Howard,
Garden Cities of Tomorrow
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
1965 [orig. 1898]).
66. For an introduction to and critique of such efforts, see Mike Hodson and
Simon Marvin, Urbanism in the Anthropocene: Ecological Urbanism or
Premium Ecological Enclaves?Ž
14, no. 3 (2010):299…
67. Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman,
Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly
Smart and Sustainable Cities
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015), p. 88.
68. For food, and as regards energy consumption, what matters is its produc-
tion, not its distribution.
69. John Light, Cities Leading the Way in Sustainability,Ž posted January4,
2013, accessed July 1, 2015, http://
70. Wheeler, State and Municipal Climate Change Plans.Ž
71. Glaeser,
Triumph of the City
, p. 222.
72. Eric Sharp, City Lots Become Wildlife Habitats,Ž
Detroit Free Press
, Octo-
ber 16, 2008.
73. Terry Schwarz, The Cleveland Land Lab: Experiments for a City in
Transition,Ž in
Cities Growing Smaller
, ed. Steve Rugare and Terry Schwarz
(Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, 2008), pp. 71…
and Joseph Schilling and Raksha Vasuderan, The Promise of Sustainabil-
ity Planning for Regenerating Older Cities,Ž in
The City after Abandonment
ed. Margaret Dewar and June Manning Thomas (Philadelphia: University
of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), pp. 244…
74. Simin Davoudi, Resilience: A Bridging Concept or a Dead End,Ž
Theory & Practice
13, no. 2 (2012):299…
307; Susan Fainstein, Resilience
and Justice,Ž
International Journal of Urban and Regional Research
39, no. 1
167; Danny MacKinnon and Kate Driscoll Derickson, From
Resilience to Resourcefulness: A Critique of Resilience Policy and Activ-
Progress in Human Geography
37, no. 2 (2012):253…
270, and Law-
renceJ. Vale and Thomas J. Campanella, eds.,
The Resilient City: HowMod-
ern Cities Recover from Disaster
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
75. See
Detroit Future City: 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan
, accessed
July8, 2015, www
76. On the need for a sustainable city to be a democratic city, see Robert A.
Beauregard, Democracy, Storytelling, and the Sustainable City,Ž in
and Sustainability: Planning, Practice, and Possibility for American Cities
, ed.
Barbara Eckstein and James Throgmorton (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
2003), pp. 65…
1. See Bernard Crick,
Democracy: A Very Short Introduction
(Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2002), p. 13 and Sara M. Evans and Harry C. Boyte,
Spaces: The Sources of Democratic Change in America
(New York: Harper and
Row, 1986), pp. 3…
2. Thanks to Meg Holden for this point. See Richard Sennett,
The Uses of
r (New York: W.W. Norton, 1970).
3. Benjamin R. Barber,
If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013), p. 53.
4. The de“
ning text of the period, and the one most highly associated with
the call for democracy, was Lincoln Steffens
The Shame of the Cities
, pub-
lished in 1904.
5. During those years, the District of Columbia was effectively governed by
a Congressional committee and, unlike the states, did not have elected
representatives at the federal level. As for its growth, like many older
cities in the United States, Washingtons population dipped signi“
after 1950 but began to expand again in the 2000s. It peaked at 802,000
residents in 1950, fell to 572,000 in 2000, and increased thereafter to an
estimated 658,000 in 2014.
6. See Dennis R. Judd and Todd Swanstrom,
City Politics: Private Power & Pub-
lic Policy
(New York: Harper Collins, 1994), pp. 53…
75. These are sometimes
called growth regimes and are different from caretaker regimes committed
to small government and anti-
growth regimes having an environmental
and/or anti-
poverty agenda.
7. See Craig Calhoun, Civil Society and the Public Sphere,Ž
Public Culture
no. 2 (1993):267…
280; Jeffrey C. Goldfarb,
Civility and Subversion: The
and Towns 1780…
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988),
110; Judd and Swanstrom,
City Politics
, pp. 42…
11. The most famous commentator on associations in the United States is
Alexis de Tocqueville. In his
Democracy in America
he writes that the
citizen of the United States is taught from infancy to rely on his own
exertions in order to resist the evils and the dif“
culties of life.Ž Alexis de
Democracy in America
, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage Books, 1990
[orig. 1835]), p. 191.
12. Eric Fure-
Contesting the Postwar City: Working-
Class and Growth
Politics in 1940s Milwaukee
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
13. Chris Tilly, Next Steps for the Living Wage Movement,Ž
Dollars & Sense
posted September 1, 2001, accessed July 28, 2015, http://dollarsandsense
14. See Laura Wolf-
Powers, Community Bene“
ts Agreements and Local Gov-
ernment: A Review of Recent Evidence,Ž
Journal of the American Planning
76, no. 2 (2010):141…
159 and Laura Wolf-
Powers, Community
ts Agreements in a Value Capture Context,Ž posted 2012, accessed
November 17, 2016, www
15. Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce website, accessed July 29, 2015,
.com. Better Business Bureaus are another form of
business association. They are mainly concerned with regulating busi-
nesses by mediating between consumer complaints and individual
16. Alexandria Chamber of Commerce website, accessed July 29, 2015, www
17. Sharon Zukin,
The Culture of Cities
(Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers,
1995), pp. 24…
38 and Lawrence O. Houston Jr., ed.,
Business Improvement
(Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute, 2003).
18. Evan McKenzie,
Privatopia: Homeowner Associations and the Rise of Residen-
tial Private Governments
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994).
19. Thomas W. Sanchez, Robert E. Lang, and Dawn M. Shavale, Security vs.
Status? A First Look at the Censuss Gated Community Poll,Ž
Journal of
Planning Education and Research
24, no. 3 (2015):281…
20. Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts,Ž CNN Library, accessed April13,
2016 www
.cnn .com/
facts and Black Lives Matter website, accessed March 24, 2016, www
21. Samuel Zipp,
Manhattan Projects: The Rise and Fall of Urban Renewal in New
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 197…
249 and Christo-
pher Klemek,
The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Renewal: Postwar Urban-
ism from New York to Berlin
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011),
22. Jane Jacobs,
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
(New York: Vintage,
1962), pp. 112…
140 and Klemek,
The Transatlantic Collapse of Urban Re-
, pp. 187…
23. Mandi Isaacs Jackson,
Model City Blues: Urban Space and Organized Resis-
tance in New Haven
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008).
24. Nicholas Lemann,
The Promised Land: The Black Migration and How It
Changed America
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), pp. 111…
25. H. Briavel Holcomb and Robert A. Beauregard,
Revitalizing Cities
ington, DC: Association of American Geographers, 1981), pp. 46…
James DeFilippis,
Unmaking Goliath: Community Control in the Face of
(New York: Routledge, 2004); Neil R. Pierce and CarolF.
Corrective Capitalism: The Rise of Americas Community De-
velopment Corporations
(New York: The Ford Foundation, 1987); Thad
Williamson, David
Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovitz,
Making a Place for
Democracy in a Global Era
(New York: Routledge, 2002),
26. Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative website, accessed July 30, 2015,
.dsni .org/
27. Beryl Satter,
Family Properties: How the Struggle over Race and Real Estate
Transformed Chicago and Urban America
(New York: Metropolitan Books,
28. Thomas J. Sugrue,
The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in
Postwar Detroit
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). The quo-
tation is on p. 255 and the phrase defensive localismŽ is on p. 210.
29. Kimberley Kinder,
DIY Detroit: Making Do in a City without Services
neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
30. Great Nonpro“
ts website, accessed July 29, 2015, www
31. Evans and Boyte,
Free Spaces
, pp. 85…
101 on the Temperance Movement
and pp. 55…
61 on Rosa Parks.
32. On womens organizations, see Daphne Spain,
Constructive Feminism:
Womens Spaces and Womens Rights in the American City
(Ithaca, NY: Cor-
nell University Press, 2016) and Daphne Spain,
How Women Saved the City
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).
33. Relevant here are small and declining voter participation rates, and not
just in cities. See Anna Orso, Phillys voter turnout low, but not the
worst,Ž posted November 3, 2015, accessed April 11, 2016, www
34. In Philadelphia, in the early to mid-
twentieth century, the district tax
assessor who determined the value of a homeowners or businesspersons
property and thus the tax bill was also the precinct captain for the politi-
cal party in power. In the late 1940s, however, reformers displaced the
political machine that supported such irregularities. See Joseph S. Clark
and Dennis J. Clark, Rally and Relapse: 1946…
1968,Ž in
Philadelphia: A
Year History
, ed. Russell F. Weigley (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982),
pp. 650…
35. For a brief description of the Tweed Ring in New York City and its resis-
tance to progressive politics, see Edward T. ODonnell,
Henry George and
the Crisis of Inequality
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).
36. Barbara Ferman,
Challenge to Growth Machines: Neighborhood Politics in Chi-
cago and Pittsburgh
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996), pp.54…
63; Larry Bennett, The Mayor among His Peers: Interpreting Richard M.
Daley,Ž in
The City Revisited: Urban Theory for Chicago, Los Angeles, New
, ed. Dennis R. Judd and Dick Simpson (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 2011), pp. 242…
37. Erastus Corning II of Albany (NY) might hold the record: 1942…
38. On the mayor of Harrisburg, see Marc Levy and Mark Scolfero, Ex-
of Pennsylvania Capital Faces Corruption Charges Related to Failed Wild
West Museum,Ž
U.S. News and World Report
, July 14, 2015. On urban
corruption, see Jim Dwyer, Corruption in New York: An Unscrupulous
New York Times
, April 20, 2016. Foreshadowing chapter 5 on
tolerance and intolerance, one measure of civility is the degree to which
force and fraud are kept at bay.Ž See Jim Sleeper, Boodling, Bigotry, and
34 (1987):413…
419. The quotation is on p. 417.
39. Peter Marcuse, New York Citys Community Boards: Neighborhood
Policy and Its Results,Ž in
Neighbourhood Policies and Programmes
, ed. N.
Carmen (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 145…
163 and Tom Angotti,
York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate
MA: MIT Press, 2008).
40. Austin website, accessed August 1, 2015, www
.gov. On politi-
cal participation generally, see Putnam,
Bowling Alone
, pp. 31…
41. David Harvey, From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transfor-
mation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism,Ž
ska Annaler
no. 1 (1989):3…
42. Clarence Stone,
Regime Politics: Governing Atlanta, 1946…
University Press of Kansas, 1989).
43. Robert A. Beauregard, Resident Hiring Preference Ordinances: A Com-
parative Analysis,Ž
Economic Development Quarterly
1, no. 2 (1987):124…
44. Alan Altshuler and David Luboff,
Projects: The Changing Politics of Ur-
ban Public Investment
(Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 2003)
and Judd and Swanstrom,
City Politics
, pp. 335…
366. On speci“
c cities, see
Gregory T. Crowley,
The Politics of Place: Contentious Urban Redevelopment in
(Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005) and K. Sabeel
Rahman, 2016, The Key to Making Economic Development More Equi-
table Is Making It More Democratic,Ž
, accessed November 17, 2016,
45. Heywood T. Sanders,
Convention Center Follies: Politics, Power, and Public
ment in American Cities
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2014), pp. 341…
46. Mark Gottdeiner, Claudia C. Collins, and David R. Pickens,
Las Vegas: The
Social Production of an All-
American City
(Malden, MA: Blackwell Publish-
ers, 1999).
47. Mary Lindenstein Walshak and Abraham J. Shragge,
Invention and Reinven-
tion: The Evolution of San Diegos Innovation Economy
(Stanford, CA: Stan-
ford Business Books, 2014).
48. Mark S. Rosentraub,
Major League Winners: Using Sports and Cultural Centers
as Tools for Economic Development
(Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2010).
49. Katherine Q. Seelye, Bostons Bid for Summer Olympics Terminated,Ž
New York Times
, July 27, 2015.
50. David Osbourne, Reinventing Government,Ž
Public Productivity and
Management Review
16, no. 4 (1993):349…
356 and Robert A. Beauregard,
Public Partnerships as Historical Chameleons: The Case of the
United States,Ž in
Partnerships in Urban Governance
, ed. Jon Pierre (London:
Macmillan, 1998), pp. 52…
51. See Williamson et al.,
Making a Place for Community
, pp. 146…
52. Mary Hammon, Data-
Driven: Leveraging the Potential of Big Data for
81, no. 4 (2015):23…
29 and Alex Marshall, Big Data,Ž
33, no. 7 (2014):76…
80, 86…
87, 91.
53. Recognizing the multiplicity of political authorities involved in urban
governance is what Warren Magnusson labels seeing like a city.Ž See his
Politics of Urbanism: Seeing Like a City
(London: Routledge, 2011).
54. Judd and Swanstrom,
City Politics
, pp. 107…
55. The federal government mainly relies on individual income and corporate
taxes while state governments mainly rely on individual and corporate
income taxes, sales taxes, and, much less so, property taxes. See Justin M.
Ross, A Primer on State and Local Tax Policy,Ž Mercatus Center, George
Mason University, Arlington (VA), accessed August 3, 2015, at http://
56. David E. Wildasin, Intergovernmental Transfers to Local Governments,Ž
Figure 1, posted 2009, accessed August 2, 2015, www
.pdf. On unfunded mandates, see
Gerald E. Frug and David J. Barron,
City Bound: How States Sti”
e Urban In-
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008), pp. 92…
57. Gerald E. Frug,
City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), pp. 45…
58. These state and federal dependencies should not obscure the fact that
city governments are often sources of innovation, for example, around
minimum wage laws and tolerance for lesbian, gay, and transgendered
people. See Claire Cain Miller, Liberals Turn to Cities to Pass Laws Others
New York Times
, January 26, 2016.
59. Joseph F. C. DiMento and Cliff Ellis,
Changing Lanes: Visions and Histories
of Urban Freeways
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013), pp. 220…
60. Roger Biles,
The Fate of Cities: Urban America and the Federal Government,
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2011); Mark Gelfand,
A Nation of Cities: The Federal Government and Urban America 1933…
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1975); Robert A. Beauregard, Na-
tional [Urban] Policy,Ž in
The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and
Legal History
, ed. Donald T. Critchlow and Philip R. VanderMeer (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 344…
61. Alex Marshall,
How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000), pp. 157…
185 and Scott Bollens,
State Growth Management,Ž
Journal of the American Planning Association
58, no.4 (1992):454…
62. Gail Radford,
The Rise of the Public Authority: Statebuilding and Economic
Development in Twentieth-
Century America
(Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 2013).
63. C. Ross Stephens and Nelson Wikstrom, Trends in Special Districts,Ž
and Local Government Review
30, no. 2 (1998):129…
64. Saskia Sassen,
Cities in a World Economy
(Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge
Press, 1994) and Marcus Doel and Phil Hubbard, Taking World Cities
Literally: Marketing the City in a Global Space of Flows,Ž
6, no. 3
65. Pierre Clavel,
Activists in City Hall: The Progressive Response to the Reagan
Era in Boston and Chicago
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010) and
Richard Edward DeLeon,
Left Coast City: Progressive Politics in San Francisco,
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992).
66. Max Weber, The Nature of the City,Ž in
Classic Essays on the Culture of
, ed. Richard Sennett (New York: Appleton-
Crofts, 1969
[orig. 1905]), pp. 23…
1. Michael Walzer,
On Toleration
(New Haven, CT: Yale University Press,
1997), p. xii. Of course, people might also leave the city to exchange the
isolation there for communityŽ in a small town.
2. Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-
Shalit, 2011,
The Spirit of Cities: Why the Iden-
tity of a City Matters in a Global Age
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 2011), p. 196.
3. I will use queerŽ to refer to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgen-
dered, and questioning (LGBTQ).
4. Morgan Lee and Jeremy Weber, Heres What Supreme Court Says
about Same-
Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom,Ž
Christianity Today
posted June 26, 2015, accessed August 12, 2015, www.christianitytoday/
.html, and Adam Liptak, Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-
Sex Mar-
riage a Right Nationwide,Ž
New York Times
, June 26, 2015.
5. Robert A. Beauregard and Anna Bounds, Urban Citizenship,Ž in
racy, Citizenship and the Global City
, ed. Engin F. Isin (London: Routledge,
2000), pp. 243…
256 and Don Mitchell,
The Right to the City: Social Justice
and the Fight for Public Space
(New York: Guilford Press, 2003).
6. On the necessity of publics, see John Dewey,
The Public and Its Discontents
(Athens, OH: Swallow Press, 1954 [orig. 1927]).
7. Lyn H. Lo”
The Public Realm: Exploring the Citys Quintessential Social
(New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1998), p. 237. On the variation of
tolerance across cities, see Bell and de-
The Spirit of Cities
8. David Kirby, Holding Hands without Making Waves,Ž
New York Times
January 25, 1998.
9. See, for example, Louis Wirth, Urbanism as a Way of Life,Ž
Journal of Sociology
44, no. 1 (1938):1…
24. On the differences across which
tolerance is negotiated, see Walzer,
On Toleration
, pp. 52…
10. Catherine Fennell,
Last Project Standing: Civics and Sympathy in Post-
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015), p. 7 and p.142
respectively. On the weakness of sympathy in engaging assimilated other-
ness, see Gary Bridge,
Reason in the City of Difference: Pragmatism, Commu-
nity Action and Contemporary Urbanism
(New York: Routledge, 2005), p. 91.
11. David A. Karp, Gregory P. Stone, and William C. Yoels,
Being Urban: A
Sociology of City Life
(New York: Praeger, 1991) and Fran Tonkiss,
Space, the
City, and Social Theory
(Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005), pp. 8…
12. For an insightful investigation of such conditions in the housing market
of Chicago, see Fennell,
Last Project Standing
13. See, respectively, Building One Community website, accessed August 12,
2015, at www
.org; International Neighbors web-
site, accessed August 12, 2015, at www
.org; and
Immigrant Pathways Colorado website, accessed August 18, 2015, at www
.org. On Pittsburgh, see Luke Nozicka, Welcom-
ing New Neighbors: Mayor Peduto Releases Plan to Diversify Pittsburgh,Ž
Pittsburgh Post-
, June 23, 2015; Dylan Scott, Immigrant-
Cities Want What Arizona Doesnt,Ž
25, no. 12 (2012):44…
and Robert D. King, Why American Cities Are Fighting to Attract Immi-
Atlantic Monthly
279, no. 4 (2015):55…
14. Lo”
The Public Realm
, pp. 167…
15. Margaret Kohn, Public Space in the Progressive Era,Ž in
Justice and the
American Metropolis
, ed. Clarissa Rile Hayward and Todd Swanstrom (Min-
neapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), pp. 81… 101 and Duncan
McLaren and Julian Agyeman,
Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and
Sustainable Cities
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015). More generally on
public space and tolerance, see Richard Sennett,
The Fall of Public Man
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1992) and Richard Sennett,
The Uses of Disorder
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970).
16. Sharon LaFraniere, Sarah Cohen, and Richard A. Oppel, How Often Do
Mass Shootings Occur? On Average, Every Day, Records Show,Ž
New York
, December 2, 2015.
17. Lo”
The Public Realm
, pp. 10… 11 and Ash Amin, Animated Spaces,Ž
Public Culture
27, no. 2 (2015):239…
18. Regarding how neighbors treat each other, see Nancy L. Rosenblums
Good Neighbors: The Democracy of Everyday Life in America
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016).On the elusive concept of
community, see Thomas Bender,
Community and Social Change in America
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978) and Tonkiss,
Space, the
City and Social Theory
, pp. 8…
19. A good example of this can be found in J. Anthony Lukas,
Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families
York: Vintage, 1986).
20. Isabel Wilkerson,
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of Americas
Great Migration
(New York: Vintage, 2010), p. 486.
21. Why Do US Police Keep Killing Black Men?Ž BBC News, May 26, 2015,
accessed August 19, 2015, www
22. See Frogtown Neighborhood Association website, accessed August 21,
2015, at www
history and Andersonville Chamber of
Commerce website, accessed August 21, 2015, at www
23. Christine Stansell,
American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation
of a New Century
(New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), p. 68. See also
Herbert Gold,
Bohemia: Digging the Roots of the Cool
(New York: Simon and
Schuster, 1993) and Richard Lloyd, Bohemian,Ž in
Encyclopedia of Urban
, ed. Ray Hutchinson, vol. 1 (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2010),
pp. 79…
24. Edmund Gaither and Arnold Rampersad, Harlem Renaissance,Ž in
Encyclopedia of New York City
, ed. Kenneth T. Jackson (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 526…
527; David Levering Lewis,
Harlem Was in Vogue
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981) and Bonnie Menes
Cosmopolitan Culture: The Gilt-
Edge Dream of a Tolerant City
Atheneum, 1987), pp. 247…
270 with the quotation in the previous
sentence on p. 527.
25. For a general discussion of these issues, see John DEmilio,
Sexual Politics,
Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United
States, 1940…
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983) and Didier
Insult and the Making of the Gay Self
(Durham, NC: Duke University
Press, 2004), pp. 18…
23, quote on p. 21. On the Supreme Court decision,
see Robert Barnes, Supreme Court Rules Gay Couples Nationwide Have a
Right to Marry,Ž
Washington Post
, June 26, 2015.
26. On gentri“
cation, see Loretta Lees, Tom Slater, and Elvin Wyly,
(London: Routledge, 2008). For a list of hipster neighborhoods, see
Americas Best Hipster Neighborhoods,Ž accessed April 22, 2016, https://
27. On living together in difference, see Iris Marion Young,
Justice and the
Politics of Difference
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990),
256. As applied to speci“
c cities, see Kahn,
Cosmopolitan Culture
28. See http://
38. New Civil Rights website, accessed August 19, 2015, www
.com. On the homeless and public space, see Mitchell,
Right to the City
, pp. 161…
226 and on the ban against feeding the homeless
in public see Robbie Couch, 21 U.S. Cities Outlawed Feeding the Hungry
due to Myths about Homelessness: Report,Ž accessed August 19, 2015,
39. Robert D. King, Should English Be the Law?Ž
Atlantic Monthly
279, no.4
64. Such legislation is popular at the state level with over
30states having passed Of“
cial English laws. See Tony Fauro, Ameri-
can Cities Debate English-
Only Legislation,Ž posted 2009, accessed
August21, 2015, www
posted 2012, accessed August 12, 2015, www
come -
51. Anti-
Muslim Sentiment Grows in US after Paris Attacks,Ž RT America
website, accessed January 20, 2016, http://
america; Jessica Mendoza, Amid Anti-
Backlash in US, a Call for Compassion,Ž
Christian Science Monitor
, Novem-
ber 18, 2015; Jenna Johnson, Trumps Rhetoric on Muslims Plays Well
with Fans, but Terri“
es Others,Ž
Washington Post
, February 29, 2016; and
Cathy Lee Grossman, Poll: Americans Fear Terrorism, Mass Shootings„
and Often Muslims as Well,Ž
USA Today
, December 10, 2015.
52. Iris Marion Young,
Responsibility for Justice
(Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2011).
53. David L. Horowitz,
60. Bryce Covert, How a Poor Neighborhood Becomes a Trap,Ž ThinkProgress
website, posted 2015, accessed January 20, 2016, http://
poverty/; Peter Dreier, John Mollen-
kopf, and Todd Swanstrom,
Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-
(Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001), pp. 56…
91; and Rob-
ert J. Sampson,
Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012).
61. Richard Sennett,
Respect in a World of Inequality
(New York: W. W. Norton,
62. Richard Sennett,
The Fall of Public Man
(New York: W. W. Norton, 1992
[orig. 1974]), p. 255.
63. Howard Gillette Jr., The City in American Culture,Ž in
American Urban-
, ed. Howard Gillette Jr. and Zane L. Miller (New York: Greenwood
Press, 1987), pp. 27…
47; Raymond Williams, Metropolitan Perceptions
and the Emergence of Modernism,Ž
The Politics of Modernism
Verso, 1989), pp. 37…
48; and Rosalyn Deutsche, Men in Space,Ž
3 (1990):130…
137. The quotation is from Warren Magnusson,
of Urbanism: Seeing Like a City
(London: Rout ledge, 2011), p. 32. See also
On Toleration
, p. 9.
64. Thomas Bender, City Lite,Ž
Los Angeles Times
, December 22, 1996. On the
theme parkŽ concern, see Michael Sorkin, ed.,
Variations on a Theme Park:
The New American City and the End of Public Space
(New York: Noonday
Press, 1992). On the problematic diversity of public spaces, see Alexander
J. Reichl, The High Line and the Ideal of a Democratic Public Space,Ž
Urban Geography
37, no. 6 (2016):904…
65. Wilkerson,
The Warmth of Other Suns
, p. 45 and Kevin Boyle,
Arc of Justice:
A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
(New York: Henry
Holt, 2004).
66. Paul Goldberger, Atlanta Is Burning,Ž
New York Times Magazine
, June 23,
1996, pp. 52…
67. Alison Maney, These are the Transgender Bathroom Wars, in a Nut
Shell,Ž posted 2016, accessed April 23, 2016, www
68. Herbert Gans,
The Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian
(New York: Free Press, 1962).
69. LaFraniere, Cohen, and Oppel, How Often Do Mass Shootings Occur?Ž
Mass shootings are those that have four or more victims.
70. Richard Faussert and Alan Blinder, Era Ends as South Carolina Lowers
Confederate Flag,Ž
New York Times
, July 10, 2015.
71. Public “
gures frequently “
nd themselves being publicly criticized and
even “
red from their positions or forced to resign for intemperate speech.
For a recent and typical example, see Richard Sandomir, ESPN Finally
Grows Tired of Schillings Language,Ž
New York Times
, April 22, 2016.
72. On the connection between wealth and tolerance, see Richard Florida,
The Rise of the Creative Class
(New York: Basic Books, 2002). Florida argues
that creative people are essential to the economic growth of cities and
that they gravitate to places that are diverse, tolerant and open to new
ideasŽ (p. 249). See also Richard Florida and Gary Gates, Technology and
Tolerance,Ž Center for Urban and Metropolitan Policy (Washington, DC:
The Brookings Institution, 2001).
73. John Elgin and Richard Fausset, De“
ant Showing of Unity in Charleston
Church That Lost 9 to Racist Violence,Ž
New York Times
, June 21, 2015.
1. On San Francisco see Daniel Goldstein, San Francisco Real Estate Looks
like It Did before Dot-
Com Crash in 2000,Ž
, posted 2016,
accessed February 18, 2016, at www
20. As regards New York City, see Martin Filler, New York: Conspicu-
ous Construction,Ž
New York Review of Books
, April 2, 2015; Robert Frank,
If Its March, They Must Be in Miami,Ž
New York Times
, March 3, 2016;
and Daniel Geiger, Comeuppance,Ž
Crains New York Business
32, no. 11
13. Matthew Desmond documents the other extreme of the
housing market in his
Evicted: Poverty and Pro“
t in the American City
York: Crown Publishers, 2016).
2. See Ichiro Kawachi, Bruce P. Kennedy, and Kimberly Lochner, Long
Live Community: Social Capital and Public Health,Ž
American Prospect
November/December 1997, pp. 56… 59 and Richard Wilkinson,
Liberties Union website, accessed March 15, 2016, www
8. Richard Florida, Tolerance and Intolerance in the City,Ž CityLab website,
posted 2015, accessed March 6, 2016, www
9. Wilkinson,
20. Numerous authors have explored these experiences by walking the city.Ž
For two recent examples, see Teju Cole,
Open City
(New York: Random
House, 2011) in the genre of “
ction and Vivian Gornick,
The Odd Woman
and the City
(New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015) in non“
21. The reference here is to the famous essay by Georg Simmel titled The
Metropolis and Mental Life.Ž See
The Culture of Cities
, ed. Richard Sennett
(New York: Appleton-
Croft, 1969), pp. 47…
22. Robert A. Beauregard,
Voices of Decline: The Postwar Fate of U.S. Cities
York: Routledge, 2003) and Steve Macek,
Urban Nightmares: The Media, the
Right, and the Moral Panic over Cities
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2006). As regards social media, see Social Media and the City,ŽIBM
Smarter Cities website, accessed April 26, 2016, http://
23. On representation, see James Donald,
Imagining the Modern City
olis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999). On the phantasmagoria of city
life, see Steve Pile,
Real Cities
(London: Sage, 2005). The classic book on
spatial imaginaries is Benedict Anderson,
Imagined Communities
Verso, 1983). For a speci“
c example involving New York City, see May
Fluid New York: Cosmopolitan Urbanism and the Green Imagination
(Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013).
24. Tod Newcombe, The City that Incorporated Social Media into Every-
, posted 2015, accessed April 26, 2016, www
25. Mike Davis,
Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster
York: Metropolitan Books, 1998). More generally on the city in “
ction, see
Richard Lehan,
The City in Literature: An Intellectual and Cultural History
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998). And, for a speci“
c city:
Barbara Eckstein,
Sustaining New Orleans: Literature, Local Memory, and the
Fate of the City
(New York: Routledge, 2006).
26. Atticus Lish,
Preparation for the Next Life
(New York: Tyrant Books,
27. Bridge,
Reason in the City of Difference
; Warren Magnusson,
Politics of
ism: Seeing Like a City
(London: Routledge, 2011).
28. Andreas Huyssen, World Cultures, World Cities,Ž in
Other Cities, Other
, ed. Andreas Huyssen (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008),
pp. 1…
29. Matthew Gandy,
The Fabric of Space: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagi-
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014).
30. Stephen Graham and Simon Marvin,
Splintered Urbanism: Networked
Infrastructures, Technological Mobilities, and the Urban Condition
Routledge, 2001).
31. Hydraulic fracking involves using water and chemicals to extract oil from
underground rock formations. The waste water from the process is then
disposed of beneath the aquifer. In Oklahoma and other states, this has
dramatically increased the number and severity of earthquakes. See Wil-
liam Yardley, Quakes Finally Jolting Oklahoma Of“
cials to Act„
in Seismic Activity Is Seen as a Result of Fracking,Ž
Los Angeles Times
March 2, 2015 and Pamela Worth, Got Science? Will Oklahoma Finally
Get Serious about Fracking-
Related Earthquakes in 2016,Ž
ngton Post
posted 2016, accessed April 28, 2016, www. huf“
oklahoma b 9195262.html.
32. Magnusson,
Politics of Urbanism
, p. 117.
Addams, Jane, 125
advocacy organizations, 100, 101
uence, 24, 155…
56; and public
investment, 35…
African Americans, 12, 19, 49, 51,
97, 127, 130, 135, 137…
39, 142…
43, 145, 147…
48, 150, 159, 161;
and police violence, 47, 69, 96,
99, 137, 158…
agglomeration, x, 26…
27, 30, 34
Alexandria (VA), 94
aliens, 124…
government ideology, 182n28
urbanism, 175n3
architecture, 20, 37…
Asians, 132, 141, 143
associations: business, 94; home-
owner, 95…
96, 98…
99; neigh-
borhood, 97; tenant, 95
Atlanta, 148
automobile, 71…
banking, 33…
environmental burden, 56…
57, 58; as
eld of possibilities, 171; functionality,
2; human achievement, xiii, ix; as hu-
man settlement, xv; images of, 13…
imaginative, 2…
3, 6, 9, 167; in”
of, xiii, 2, 12…
13; as multiplicity, 5, 87;
nature, collaborating with, 61; and
opportunity, 43…
44; perceptions of,
69; physical aspects, 8…
9, 10, 22,
164; as place, 4; political status of, 13;
representation of, xiii, 4, 13…
14; size,
9; and technology, 60…
62, 80…
81, 110;
as thing in itself, 4…
5; triumphal per-
spective on, vii…
viii; as unsettled, xiii
suburb contrast, 81…
civil inattention, 131…
See also
civility, 162
civil society, 90…
102, 117
colonial cities, 3
common interest development, 96
community bene“
t agreements, 94
community development corporations, 98
community districts, 105
contradictions, x…
xiii, 14, 15… 20, 152…
176n9, 179n24; and capitalism, xii,
16; environmentally destructive/
sustainable, xi, 17…
18, 56…
86; interrela-
tionship of, 86, 119, 155… 59; intolerant/
tolerant, xi, 18…
19, 120…
51; oligarchic/
democratic, xi, 18, 87…
119; wealth/
poverty, xi, 17, 22…
See also
convention centers, 107…
corporations, location of, 33…
corruption, 103…
4, 158
Cox, George, 89
culture/nature divide, 59, 186n5
Curley, Michael, 89
Daley, Richard J., 89, 103, 104
Daley, Richard M., 103
Davis, Mike, 69
defensive localism, 126
democracy, grassroots, 89…
90, 92.
See also
governance; oligarchy
density, 31, 32, 63, 64…
65, 69, 76…
77, 78,
80, 91, 187n18; compact urban form,
See also
de Tocqueville, Alexis, 193n11
Detroit, 10, 85, 99, 138
urbanization, 177n2
Dillons Rule, 113
disabled, 144
discrimination, 121; gender-
based, 122;
housing, 97, 142…
43; racial and ethnic,
121, 144; against women, 121
diZerega, Diane, viii
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, 98
ecological de“
cit, 74…
ecological footprint, 18, 56…
57, 58, 64, 69,
76, 82, 84; of United States, 75
economic development, 107…
economies of scale, 31…
economy, 21; diversity of, 30, 34; spatial
concentration of, 28…
30, 32…
33; spe-
cialization, 34.
See also
elections, 103
employment, 31, 44…
energy consumption of cities, 57, 70, 75,
78, 188n33
English as of“
cial language, 136
environment: city-
suburb comparisons, 81;
laws concerning, 67; and poverty, 86;
and technology, 80…
81; and transpor-
tation, 77.
See also
ethnicity, 129
experiencing the city, 164…
69; and contra-
dictions, 165; differences in, 168; and
ction, 167; and media, 166…
experts, 110…
11, 117…
nancial institutions.
Flint (MI), 157
foreigners, 124.
See also
foundations, 37
fracking, 206n31
Gates, Bill, 40
Gladley, Ida Mae Brandon, 126
Glaeser, Edward, viii
governance, urban, 18, 87…
88, 90…
91, 118;
evolution of, 91…
See also
racy; oligarchy
government, 18; federal, 67, 131, 196n55.
See also
local government
Greenwich Village, 128
Harlem, 128
hate crimes, 139…
40, 159
city (
health: and density, 72; and the environ-
ment, 156; and governance, 156…
historic preservation, 182n30
homeless, 49… 50, 140
homeowner associations, 95…
100; Detroit,
99; government involvement, 98; and
race, 98…
See also
home size, 72
household size, 72
housing, 155…
Houston, 25
hyperbole, urban, viii, ix, 15, 68, 82
immigrants, 2, 19, 121, 132, 134…
35, 145,
49, 162; and marginalization, 136;
and proximity, 147; and race, 137…
141, 150; and urbanity, 148…
See also
income, 30…
32, 39, 45; and governmental
policies, 45…
46; household, 38…
taxes, 46…
indifference, 134…
See also
inequality, 40…
41, 44, 159
infrastructure, 25…
26, 27t, 32, 36, 105, 114
injustice, 141…
46, 161…
62; in housing mar-
kets, 142…
43; in labor markets, 141…
See also
integration initiatives, 124
intergovernmental: competition, 115…
relations, 111…
16; transfers, 112…
intolerance: bases of, 130; and city image,
148; competition for resources, 145;
English language, 136
Jacobs, Jane, 8, 97
Jamestown, 63…
Jim Crow, 147, 157
Johnson, Lyndon, 98
labor: division of, 30…
31; spatial concentra-
tion, 30; unions, 92…
93, 105; wages and
salaries, 30…
31, 32, 53
land: absorption of, 71, 78; area of cities,
64; regulations, 79
Las Vegas, 3, 108
Latinos, 49, 69, 82, 121, 142…
43, 150
Lee, Richard, 97
Lefebvre, Henri, 16
life expectancy, 51
living wage, 93, 94
local government, 26, 81, 102…
11, 117; and
democracy, 104…
5, 111; economic de-
velopment, 109; elite control of, 107…
global concerns, 116; and innovation,
196n58; investment opportunities, 107;
oligarchic opportunities, 106…
7; and
privatization, 109…
10; procurement,
106; progressive, 117; services, 105; sub-
sidies, 22; and technology, 110…
Los Angeles, 68…
70, 81
Marshall, Alex, 76
Martin, Trayvon, 96
Marx, Karl, 15…
mass shootings, 149, 150…
mass transit, 2, 76…
77, 79…
80, 153
mayors, 103… 4
media, and city, 106…
Menino, Thomas, 104
metropolitan area, 12, 13, 42, 64, 71, 72,
111, 169n20; governance, 112, 115, 118;
residential segregation, 144t
Milwaukee, 92…
use development, 11, 78, 79…
80, 146
moral responsibility, xiv, 21, 160…
Moscow, 88
museums, 37
Muslims, 90, 130, 134, 140…
41, 159
Native Americans, 63…
64, 69, 161
nature: and cities, 57…
60; and culture, 59,
62, 84; and technology, 81, 169…
neighborhoods: associations, 92; bohe-
mian, 125…
28; diversity of, 127; hipster,
129; historic, 37; queer, 128…
neighbors, 123…
24, 126
New Amsterdam, 91
New Haven (CT), 97
New York City, 67…
68, 70, 75, 141, 155…
oligarchy, 89; and cities, 87…
See also
democracy; governance
organizations: nonpro“
t, 100, 102, 163;
religious, 92
parks, 78
Phoenix, 10, 68…
Pittsburgh, 65…
place, attachment to, 7…
police violence, 137, 159…
political economy: Marxist, xii, 15…
Marxist, xii
political machines, 89, 103… 4
political responsibility, 162…
population: cities, 3, 10, 64; metropolitan,
71; urban, 2, 9; world, vii, 57
Portland (OR), 83
poverty: concentration of, 38…
47; among
elderly, 49…
50; and employment, 52;
governmental policies, 50; and minori-
ties, 49; and segregation, 51; and social
connections, 51…
52; spatial effects,
51, 54; statistics on, 47…
48; relation
to wealth, 52…
55; world poverty, vii,
See also
local government
progress, vii, ix, 97, 163
Progressive Era, 91
growth coalitions, 69, 89, 103, 107…
116, 188, 183
public spaces, 79; and diversity, 125, 146…
47; and private spaces, 125
Puerto Ricans, 97, 121
Putin, Vladimir, 88
queers, 120, 122, 128…
29, 136, 139, 197n3;
sex marriages, 129
redlining, 143
regional authorities, 12, 13, 115
relationships: primary, 122…
23; secondary,
123; variety of, 123
religions, 103, 130
resilience, 57, 64…
66, 85…
See also
riots, 137…
Robinson, Jennifer, 5
Ross, Andrew, 68
Rothschild, Nan, viii
San Antonio, 51
San Diego, 25… 26, 108… 9
San Francisco, 61, 83, 99, 117, 128, 133, 155
segregation, racial: residential, 19, 20…
51, 142…
46; voluntary, 97, 121, 127. S
Sikhs, 125
Smith, John, 63
social mobility, 41
social movements, 100…
space: and diversity, 125, 146…
47; paro-
chial, 125; private, 125; public, 79, 125,
146; queer, 128…
sprawl, 72…
See also
Stalin, Joseph, 88
strangers, 124…
suburbs, 12, 42, 57, 60, 61, 71, 73, 75, 81…
83, 146; and cities, 81…
82, 178n20. S
sustainability, 57, 58, 62, 89; most sustain-
able cities, 83; quest for, 76…
See also
Tampa, 13
technologies, 6, 60, 62, 110…
11; and
environment, 60…
61; and nature,
tolerance: and af”
uence, 159; and com-
merce, 132…
33; and democracy, 157;
and diversity, 120, 122…
34, 159; and
economic relations, 132…
33; and
federal laws, 131; and the free market,
200n33; and national legislation, 131;
religious, 130; and spatial form, 134;
and technology, 132; variation across
cities, 130…
See also
tourism, 13, 56
oriented development, 79, 80, 85
transportation, 71; and accessibility, 29.
mass transit
triumphalism, vii…
viii, 152
Tweed, William, 89
uneven development, 50
United States as urban nation, 1…
universities, 37
urban, 8…
11, 177n12; decline, viii; ethos, 8;
as a feeling, 10.
See also
Urban Age thesis, 175n4
urban citizenship, 205n11
urban crisis, viii
urban form, 78…
See also
urbanity, 10…
11, 146…
49; and immigrants,
49; and intolerance, 148…
49; and
use areas, 146…
urbanization, 2, 3, 11, 58, 64; planetary,
See also
urban metabolism, 62, 70…
76; and build-
ings, 70, 77
urban political ecology, 186n10
urban problems, viii, ix, 17
violence, 138, 149; police, 100, 137…
voluntary associations, 92…
94, 101…
civil society
walking the city, 206n20
Walzer, Michael, 24
Washington, DC, 4, 88, 192n5
Washington, Harold, 103
wealth, private, 21…
25; concentration of,
47; dependence on public wealth,
26; distribution of, 24…
25; and
nance, 33…
34; generation of, 25…
and governmental policies, 45…
andhousing, 155; initial advantages,
41; and neighborhoods, 41…
54; and poverty, 52…
55; public wealth,
relation to, 26…
27, 28, 35… 37; and
social connections, 44…
45, 51.
See also
wealth, public, 23…
26, 35…
37; advan-
tages, 40…
41; and city, 23, 25… 26; and
governmental policies, 45…
47; growth
of, 25…
28; private wealth, relation to,
37; and social connections, 44…
107; spatial effects, 41…
Weber, Max, 118
welfare state, 185n58
Williams, Roger, 130
Wirth, Louis, 6
workplace organizations, 92…
See also
Zoot Suit Riots, 138, 147

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