The Dependent City Revisited: The Political Economy of Urban Development and Social Policy

By Paul Kantor | Go to book overview

6
The Politics of Decline
and Conversion: Central Cities

The dilemmas that dependency has imposed on urban America reach their most tragic forms in the central cities of the nation's Frostbelt--the industrialized Northeast-Midwest region. For more than a generation, citizens in Frostbelt communities have struggled to find a new economic role in the urban system while coping with massive social dislocations as a result of increasing poverty, racial division, and loss of residents and businesses. A look at how these cities have managed their economic transformation reveals that sometimes there are still opportunities for building decent communities in the inner cities. But such attempts often are frustrated by the politics and economics of dependency.

In the nation's heartland big city development politics has been shaped by three compelling changes in their postwar political economies. First, most of these cities have had to cope with a fairly steady decline in their market positions within the urban system as a result of the dispersal of jobs, the decline of older industries, and the flight of large, mostly skilled segments of their populations to the suburbs. This process of economic change has almost invariably driven these cities to undertake efforts to restructure their economies, mainly by promoting conversion from industrial to service-based activities. Such an effort has, in turn, required major alterations in their physical structure, their employment mix, and their neighborhoods--changes that have not necessarily helped large segments of inner-city populations.

Second, central city governments have generally experienced severe political tensions as a result of this conversion process. The political response to urban decline and conversion has given birth to almost endless issues about how to do it, who pays the burden of the changes it imposes, and who reaps the possible rewards it can generate. These potentially explosive questions are dealt with in local political systems that are, in a sense, ill-equipped to resolve them smoothly.

In America's old core cities social polarization and mass political mobilization have grown to substantially revitalize the democratic features of urban politics. This has created opportunities for political influence for groups that have elec-

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The Dependent City Revisited: The Political Economy of Urban Development and Social Policy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents VII
  • Tables and Illustrations XI
  • Preface XIII
  • 1 - The Dependent City and Urban Politics 1
  • Notes 14
  • 2 - The Emergence of the Dependent City: Mercantile Democracy 17
  • Notes 39
  • 3 41
  • Notes 75
  • 4 - The Postindustrial Political Economy: The New Dependent City 77
  • Notes 111
  • 5 - Urban Entrepreneurship: The Mainstream of Community Development 113
  • Notes 139
  • 6 - The Politics of Decline and Conversion: Central Cities 141
  • 7 - Growth and Dependency: The Politics of Suburbia and the Sunbelt 161
  • Notes 190
  • 8 - The Governmentalization of Inequality 193
  • Notes 211
  • 9 - Can Dependent Cities Redistribute? 213
  • 10 - The Future of the Dependent City 231
  • References 247
  • About the Book and Author 267
  • Index 269
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