Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Activists in City Hall: The Progressive Response to the Reagan Era in Boston and Chicago

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Activists in City Hall: The Progressive Response to the Reagan Era in Boston and Chicago

Article excerpt

Activists in City Hall: The Progressive Response to the Reagan Era in Boston and Chicago. By Pierre Gavel. (Ithaca: Cornell Press, 2010. Pp. xx, 232, notes, index. Paperback, $19.95.)

Historians of the post- WWII era United States have given increased attention to the rise of the conservative right, explaining just how this movement grew from a grassroots 1960s initiative into, with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980, a national force. However, even as this movement grew, progressive activists and politicians were at work in American cities attempting to advance the ideas of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Building on his earlier work on urban development, Pierre Clavel offers an insightful and detailed look at how these planners and activists worked in the 1970s, 1980s, and beyond to create affordable housing and jobs in Boston and Chicago. The work contributes to not only urban and political history, but more broadly to the story of post-1960s America.

In focusing largely on the Ray Hynn and Harold Washington administrations (succeeding mayoralties in both cities are given some attention), Clavel argues that a new kind of city government emerged in Flynn's Boston and Washington's Chicago. New urban planners, some first involved in political and social causes in the Sixties and Seventies, now entered city hall. The inclusion of these diverse planners in city government marked a new era in urban politics. They worked to create new manufacturing districts in Chicago and link downtown real estate development to housing subsidies in Boston.

The first two chapters are dedicated to defining and providing examples of "progressive cities" in which planners sought economic redistribution and maintained strong ties to a neighborhood base to ensure broader participation in city planning. Clavel offers a model to trace the trajectory of cities such as Berkeley, Hartford, Santa Monica, and others that fought the problems facing cities nationwide in the 1970s. …

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