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The Public and Its Possibilities: Triumphs and Tragedies in the American City
     

The Public and Its Possibilities: Triumphs and Tragedies in the American City

by John D. Fairfield
 

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In his compelling reinterpretation of American history, The Public and Its Possibilities, John Fairfield argues that our unrealized civic aspirations provide the essential counterpoint to an excessive focus on private interests. Inspired by the revolutionary generation, nineteenth-century Americans struggled to build an economy and a culture to complement their

Overview

In his compelling reinterpretation of American history, The Public and Its Possibilities, John Fairfield argues that our unrealized civic aspirations provide the essential counterpoint to an excessive focus on private interests. Inspired by the revolutionary generation, nineteenth-century Americans struggled to build an economy and a culture to complement their republican institutions. But over the course of the twentieth century, a corporate economy and consumer culture undercut civic values, conflating consumer and citizen.

Fairfield places the city at the center of American experience, describing how a resilient demand for an urban participatory democracy has bumped up against the fog of war, the allure of the marketplace, and persistent prejudices of race, class, and gender. In chronicling and synthesizing centuries of U.S. history-including the struggles of the antislavery, labor, women's rights movements-Fairfield explores the ebb and flow of civic participation, activism, and democracy. He revisits what the public has done for civic activism, and the possibility of taking a greater role.

In this age where there has been a move towards greater participation in America's public life from its citizens, Fairfield's book-written in an accessible, jargon-free style and addressed to general readers-is especially topical.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A sustained argument about the repeated and resilient assertion of public democracy in American cities, and the forces that inhibited and subverted its full expression.”—Mary Ryan, John Martin Vincent Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University

"As long ago as the 1920s Frederick Jackson Turner suggested an urban interpretation of American history; John Fairfield takes up that challenge. A hope long since abandoned to monographic specialization in the field has been happily realized in the powerful work of synthesis crafted by John Fairfield. The Public and Its Possibilities is a smart, imaginatively conceived and researched, well written, and passionately told history of the challenges and possibilities of a lively urban democratic public."
Thomas Bender, New York University

 

"A work of historical synthesis and political criticism, John Fairfield’s book is a powerful reminder of the indispensable role of American cities in fostering a more expansive civic culture. Fairfield writes in the tradition of Lewis Mumford, Paul and Percival Goodman, and Jane Jacobs—alert to the ever-changing landscape of streets and plazas, public institutions, and informal associations that have enabled city residents of different backgrounds to imagine themselves as citizens and act accordingly. And like those urbanist critics, Fairfield is acutely aware that the market fundamentalism that has devastated many American cities has had equally devastating consequences for our capacity for democratic self-government. His concluding call for a new ‘ecology of the city’ could not be more timely."
Casey Nelson Blake, Columbia University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439902110
Publisher:
Temple University Press
Publication date:
02/03/2012
Series:
Urban Life, Landscape and Policy Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

John D. Fairfield is Professor of History and Academic Director of the Institute for Politics and Public Life at Xavier University and the author of The Mysteries of the Great City: The Politics of Urban Design, 1877-1937.

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