The Public and Its Possibilities: Triumphs and Tragedies in the American City [NOOK Book]


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

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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 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439902127
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 3/26/2010
  • Series: Urban Life, Landscape and Policy
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • File size: 585 KB

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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Table of Contents

Preface: The Public and Its Possibilities 
Introduction: Liberalism and the Civic Strand in the American Past 
Civic Aspirations and Liberal Values 
An Urban Thesis

Part I. Civic Aspirations and Market Development in a Long Age of Revolution 

1.Democratizing the Republican Ideal of Citizenship: Virtue, Interests, and the Citizen-Proprietor in the Revolutionary Era 
Seaport Cities: Crucibles of Market and Public 
The People Out of Doors and the Imperial Crisis 
A More Democratic Public: Consumer Boycotts Politicize the Household 
The Threat of Enslavement and the Need for Virtue: The Unifying Myth of the American Revolution 
Virtue and Vice in an Overheated Market 
Redeeming the Revolution: Virtues or Mechanisms? 
Citizen-Proprietors and the Democratization of Competence 
Revolutionary Legacies, Democratic Futures 

2. Creating Citizens in a Commercial Republic: Market 33 Transformation and the Free Labor Ideal, 1812–1873 
The Origins of the Free Labor Ideal 
The Market Revolution and the Public Purpose 
Labor Politics in the Jacksonian City: Unjust Government and a Conspiracy to Enslave 
A Crippled Democracy: Jacksonian Fears and Whig Paternalism 
The Free Labor Ideology and the Transformation of Northern Whiggery 
Positive Liberty: Turning Slaves into Citizens 
The Limits of Radical Republicanism 

3. The Short, Strange Career of Laissez-Faire: Liberal Reformers and Genteel Culture in the Gilded Age 
Big Business and Small Politics in the Gilded Age 
Liberal Reformers and Genteel Culture 
The Liberal Reformers’ Encounter with the City 
Civic Murder: Liberal Reformers and Public Opinion 
“This Word Culture”: An Industrial Tragedy at Pullman

Part II. Popular Culture, Political Culture: Building a Democratic Public 

4. The Democratic Public in City and Nation: The Jacksonian City and the Limits of Antislavery 
Constructing a Public Realm 
In the Streets: Law and the Public Realm 
To the Park: The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Jacksonian Public 
Popular Culture, Political Culture 
Young America and Democratic Culture 
The Republic of the Streets and Fields 
The Astor Place Riot 
Fatal Flaw: Young America and Negrophobia 
Cultural Laissez-Faire versus the Evangelical United Front 
Antislavery: Passion and Rationality in the Antebellum Public 
Lincoln’s Rhetorical Revolution 

5. The Democratic Public Discredited: The New York City Draft Riots and Urban Reconstruction, 1850–1872 
“The Most Radical City in America” 
Nativism and the Erosion of Municipal Autonomy 
The New York City Draft Riots 
Draconian Justice: Reconstructing New York City 
The Spectacular Rise and Precipitous Fall of Boss Tweed 
Postwar Republicanism: Labor Revolt and Metropolitan Capital 
Retrenchment and Reform 

6. Cultural Hierarchy and Good Government: The Democratic Public in Eclipse 
Highbrow/Lowbrow and an Incompetent Citizenry 
Don’t Get Out the Vote 
Municipal Counterrevolution: Dillon’s Rule and the Benevolent Expert 
Domesticating the City 
Civic Vertigo: The City Biological and Pathological 
The Degeneration of Popular Politics 
Mob Mind, Befuddled Public

Part III. The Public in Progressivism and War 

7. The Republican Moment: The Rediscovery of the Public in the Progressive Era 
The City Beautiful and Intelligent 
The Georgists and the City Republic 
Democracy as Cooperative Inquiry: The Social Centers Movement 
Mass Media and the Socialization of Intelligence 
Nickel Madness or the Academy of the Working Man? 
The National Board of Review of Motion Pictures and the Mutual Decision 
The Rise of Hollywood and the Incorporation of Movie Culture 

8. The Public Goes to War but Does Not Come Back: Requiem for a Participatory Democracy 
The War Intellectuals and The New Republic 
The War for the American Mind 
From Mastery to Drift 
Trusting the Public Too Much or Too Little? 
A Democrat on the Defensive 
Participatory Democracy and Urban Culture: From Public Opinion to Public Relations

Part IV. A Democracy of Consumers 

9. From Economic Democracy to Social Security: The Labor Movement and the Rise of the Welfare/Warfare State 
Industrial Democracy, Industrial Discipline 
The Syndicalist Moment 
From the New Freedom to the New Nationalism: War and the Triumph of the Corporate State 
Labor’s War 
From Welfare Capitalism to Moral Capitalism 
Democratic Unions, Labor Party 
The Second New Deal: Consumerist Democracy and the End of Antimonopoly 
From New Deal to New War: Liberals and Labor Abandon Reform 
Taming Labor in the Welfare/Warfare State 

10. Constructing a Consumer Culture: Redirecting Leisure from Civic Engagement to Insatiable Desire 
The Popular Demand for Leisure and the Rise of the Saloon 
The Leisure Question and Cheap Amusements 
The Discovery of Play 
Captains of Consciousness, Land of Desire 
Exit the Saloon, Enter the Bijou 
Shaping Character, Inculcating Values 
The Incorporation of the Consumer Culture 
Mass Culture, Mass Media, and the Consumerization of Politics 

11. Private Vision, Public Resources: Mass Suburbanization and the Decline of the City 
New Deal Urban Policy and the Suburban-Industrial Complex 
The Origins of the Urban Crisis I: Eroding the Tax and Employment Base 
The Origins of the Urban Crisis II: Homeowner Pop u lism and the Fragmentation of Metropolitan Government 
Central City Housing: The Racial Time Bomb 
Dispossession: Urban Redevelopment and Urban Renewal 
Confronting the Reverse Welfare State: From Civil Rights to Black Power 
Two Societies, Separate and Unequal 
Suburban Secession and Farewell to the Public Realm 

Conclusion: The Future of the City: Civic Renewal and Environmental Politics 
The Great Unfinished Tasks of American Civilization 
Private City, Public Crisis 
Visions of Fear and Hope 
Toward an Ecology of the City


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