The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age

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Overview

"In a field saturated with superficial rankings and business surveys, The Spirit of Cities represents the triumph of the aesthetic over the commercial. By walking and living in the world's capitals—a novel and admirable methodology that proves more revealing than any theory—Bell and de-Shalit untangle the riddles of our most intriguing cities. This book is as beautiful as it is insightful."—Parag Khanna, author of How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance

"There aren't many new ideas in political theory, but Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit definitely have a new idea, and a good one: that cultivating 'the spirit of cities' is the best antidote to global homogenization. The nine cities that they use as examples are presented with an innovative and engaging mix of personal anecdote, history, and theoretical reflection. They have produced a book that sparkles, which is also something new in political theory."—Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"While cities are distinguished by their architecture and physical appearance, Bell and de-Shalit make a compelling case that many major world cities—and their inhabitants—also express their own distinctive ethos or values. The Spirit of Cities takes the reader on a wide-ranging and lively personal journey."—Witold Rybczynski, author of Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities

"The Spirit of Cities presents a new approach to the study of cities in which the focus is placed on a city's defining ethos or values. The style of the book is attractively conversational and even autobiographical, and far from current social science positivism. For a lover of cities—and perhaps even for one who is not—The Spirit of Cities is consistently good reading."—Nathan Glazer, author of From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture's Encounter with the American City

"This book tackles an agenda that has been sorely lacking in modern political philosophy. Its methodology is impressionistic. The result is unclassifiable, though the category that would probably best encompass it is belles lettres. These are essays in the classical sense. In the spirit of Montaigne, they seek to describe a personal and therefore necessarily idiosyncratic perspective. I found the book extremely entertaining to read, and quite insightful throughout."—Daniel Weinstock, Université de Montréal

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Editorial Reviews

Times Higher Education
The affinity and intimacy recalled here inevitably evoke memories of and comparisons to one's own city experiences. The scholarly knowledge is often enlightening and instills the urge to go deeper into many of the urban histories that the authors place in front of the reader. . . . After reading their city portraits, one is inclined to 'stroll' through one's own city with newly opened eyes, ready for surprises and the unraveling of hidden historic layers.
— Florian Kossak
Choice
The call 'city-zens of the world unite' symbolizes the enduring importance of and unique characteristics associated with cities able and willing to withstand the pressures of globalization. Rather than suggesting the rise of uniformity fostered by globalization across cities, Bell and de-Shalit offer a series of fascinating and convincing case studies that counter this view. . . . Personally familiar with Jerusalem, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Oxford, Berlin, Paris, and New York, in their findings the authors describe unique ethes ranging from religious conviction in the case of Jerusalem to ambition in the case of New York.
British Future
This highly readable book . . . is academically informed but will not strike the general reader as academic.
— Sunder Katwala
City-Lit Cafe
For this city lover their book was a passionate, profound and inspiring journey to the heart of the contemporary urban experience.
Prague Post
The Spirit of Cities is a strange book, in a good way. . . . [F]ascinating and informative. . . . Bell and de-Shalit have created an admirable study that offers insight into all cities.
— Stephan Delbos
City-Lit Café

For this city lover their book was a passionate, profound and inspiring journey to the heart of the contemporary urban experience.
Oculus
Bell and de-Shalit put forth a provocative thesis, and they present it in a rich brew of insights, anecdotes, and ideas that can benefit anyone with a stake in the urban environment.
— Stanley Stark
Times Higher Education - Florian Kossak
The affinity and intimacy recalled here inevitably evoke memories of and comparisons to one's own city experiences. The scholarly knowledge is often enlightening and instills the urge to go deeper into many of the urban histories that the authors place in front of the reader. . . . After reading their city portraits, one is inclined to 'stroll' through one's own city with newly opened eyes, ready for surprises and the unraveling of hidden historic layers.
British Future - Sunder Katwala
This highly readable book . . . is academically informed but will not strike the general reader as academic.
Prague Post - Stephan Delbos
The Spirit of Cities is a strange book, in a good way. . . . [F]ascinating and informative. . . . Bell and de-Shalit have created an admirable study that offers insight into all cities.
Oculus - Stanley Stark
Bell and de-Shalit put forth a provocative thesis, and they present it in a rich brew of insights, anecdotes, and ideas that can benefit anyone with a stake in the urban environment.
From the Publisher
"The affinity and intimacy recalled here inevitably evoke memories of and comparisons to one's own city experiences. The scholarly knowledge is often enlightening and instills the urge to go deeper into many of the urban histories that the authors place in front of the reader. . . . After reading their city portraits, one is inclined to 'stroll' through one's own city with newly opened eyes, ready for surprises and the unraveling of hidden historic layers."—Florian Kossak, Times Higher Education

"For this city lover their book was a passionate, profound and inspiring journey to the heart of the contemporary urban experience."—City-Lit Café

"The call 'city-zens of the world unite' symbolizes the enduring importance of and unique characteristics associated with cities able and willing to withstand the pressures of globalization. Rather than suggesting the rise of uniformity fostered by globalization across cities, Bell and de-Shalit offer a series of fascinating and convincing case studies that counter this view. . . . Personally familiar with Jerusalem, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Oxford, Berlin, Paris, and New York, in their findings the authors describe unique ethes ranging from religious conviction in the case of Jerusalem to ambition in the case of New York."—Choice

"This highly readable book . . . is academically informed but will not strike the general reader as academic."—Sunder Katwala, British Future

"The Spirit of Cities is a strange book, in a good way. . . . [F]ascinating and informative. . . . Bell and de-Shalit have created an admirable study that offers insight into all cities."—Stephan Delbos, Prague Post

"Bell and de-Shalit put forth a provocative thesis, and they present it in a rich brew of insights, anecdotes, and ideas that can benefit anyone with a stake in the urban environment."—Stanley Stark, Oculus

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691151441
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 9/11/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Daniel A. Bell is the Zhiyuan Chair Professor of Arts and Humanities at Shanghai Jiaotong University and professor of political theory and director of the Center for International and Comparative Political Philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. His books include "China's New Confucianism" and "Beyond Liberal Democracy" (both Princeton). Avner de-Shalit holds the Max Kampelman Chair for Democracy and Human Rights at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His books include "Disadvantage" and "Power to the People".
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Civicism 1
Jerusalem: The City of Religion 18
Montreal: The City of Language(s) 56
Singapore: The City of Nation Building 78
Hong Kong: The City of Materialism 111
Beijing: The City of Political Power 140
Oxford: The City of Learning 161
Berlin: The City of (In)Tolerance 191
Paris: The City of Romance 222
New York: The City of Ambition 249
Notes 279
Bibliography 321
Index 333

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