The Crisis of America's Cities

The Crisis of America's Cities

The Crisis of America's Cities

The Crisis of America's Cities


An original work on American cities and the ongoing "urban crisis". Using the metaphor of the socially constructed organization of space, Bartlett takes a broad view of the evolution of urban America, from its historical roots to the present; he then examines the way in which current policies have responded to, and affected the organization of space (covering housing, transportation, government and other urban problems). He concludes with a look to the future of American cities, how they will impact and be impacted on by changing commercial and labor markets, by the problems of poverty and cultural change. In an epilogue, he explores possible ways to overcome the "social dilemmas", while recognizing the difficulty of this undertaking.

A thoroughly unique perspective to the study of cities, this book is about how space is used in America and how it changes as the "logic of location" evolves historically. Starting with the assumption that cities are fundamentally unnatural" phenomena, it unravelsthe interactions of technological advances that have made them possible and policies that have given them shape.


Today the vast majority of Americans live in large cities and their suburbs. Begun as a nation of widely dispersed rural farmers, generation after generation we have become more and more urbanized. We are now, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, a nation of cities. Yet it is clear that all is not well there. The issue is not whether we will continue to live in cities, but rather how we are going to live with them. Pick up any newspaper, observe any political campaign, visit any major city and the theme of a growing "urban crisis" will be there. Too much poverty, too much decay, failing infrastructure, insolvent local government, the collapse of public education, fear of ever more violent crime, racial isolation, smothering traffic congestion, a growing loss of jobs--the list of urban problems is seemingly as endless as the political conflict over them is apparently irresolvable. For better or for worse, for now and for later, cities are where we live.

Everything that we do must be done somewhere. Indeed, it is where we decide to work, to play, to call "home," and how we move between these places that collectively and individually define our "space." I considered giving this book the title Exploring Space, but finally abandoned that idea for fear that confused booksellers would place it in the science fiction section. Although the title has been changed, the metaphor persists throughout. This book is an exploration of space, not in the outer reaches of the universe but here on the surface of the nation where we locate and relocate ourselves.

Cities are unique places where large numbers of people have chosen to live and work in proximity to each other, crowding into small spaces, straining natural resources, yet somehow surviving. Urban living as the norm is very recent. For most of human history, any society predominately organ-

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