Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965

Article excerpt

For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900-1965. By Robert B. Fairbanks. Urban Life and Urban Landscape Series. (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, c. 1998. Pp. xiv, 318. $47.95, ISBN 0-8142-0799-5.)

In For the City as a Whole, Robert Fairbanks seeks to examine "the changing nature of politics and planning in urban America during the twentieth century" (p. 1) by studying Dallas, Texas. In many ways "Big D" is an ideal subject for such an inquiry. As Fairbanks demonstrates, Dallas has, in the six decades under consideration, experimented with different forms of municipal government (employing both ward-based aldermanic/weak mayor and council-manager systems), engaged in several bouts of comprehensive city planning, weathered the rise of political and social extremist groups, successfully handled integration, and been home to numerous and very active good-government civic organizations.

Unlike most recent works on urban history, For the City as a Whole does not focus on the various social factors that shape cities. Instead, Fairbanks employs an intellectual history approach to investigate Dallas's past, focusing on what he terms "public discourse" (p. 5). Specifically, he traces Dallasites' perceptions of what a city should be and argues that those ideas had tremendous impact upon the type of city that was actually created. Fairbanks's thesis is that Dallas leaders were guided by the idea that their city was composed entirely of interrelated pieces, a point made clear by their use of the analogy of the connectedness of the various parts of the human body to explain how specific issues like the need for flood control or public housing in one area influenced the health of the entitle metropolis. …

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