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Particular attention is paid to the way these conflicts express themselves in the texture of urban life. Murphy addresses fundamental questions about the use and abuse of space in city architecture, the quality of urban life, and the interplay of such notions as reason and authority, freedom and limits, and modernity and antiquity in relation to the idea of civic justice.
The book concludes with a sustained reflection on the legacy of the American Republic. Founded on a torturous compromise between antinomianism and the civic ideals of justice, America became the first great republic to disavow the city, a disavowal that has had enduring and tragic effects on its politics and social life ever since.
Murphy's superb synthesis is a provocative re-evaluation of the significance of humanism and the relevance of an enduring classical idea to contemporary life.