Voices of Decline - The Postwar Fate of US Cities / Edition 1

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As World War II faded into the past, urban decline emerged as the dominant motif in the public debate over the fate of the once-mighty cities of many Western industrial nations. Freely crossing disciplinary boundaries, this book uses the words of those who witnessed the cities' distress to portray the postwar discourse on urban decline in the United States. That discourse reshaped the ambivalence Americans have towards their cities, probed the nature of their moral responsibilities, offered advice as to how they should respond, and most importantly, sited in the cities the contradictions of society.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Since America became an urban society, its cities have been a source of heated debate. Their condition has resulted not just from the unfolding of economic forces but also from policies rooted in a mentality that has regarded urbanism as threatening. In this highly original work Bob Beauregard ferrets out the history of the American city as it existed in the popular imagination. His brilliant - and entertaining - investigation reveals the mind set that has defined America's urban problems and thereby seriously limited the possibilities for addressing them." Susan S. Fainstein, Rutgers University

"An original and authoritative look at the place of cities in twentieth century American culture. The catalogue of different voices that Beauregard uncovers will force us into new ways of seeing the 'decline' of U. S. cities." Professor J. Dear, University of Southern California

"Voices of Decline is a solid, original contribution - well-written, insightful, provocative, and instructive. The book accomplishes it goals admirably, providing the best work I have seen on methodology of 20th century U. S. urban study. I am pleased to recommend it with enthusiasm." John S. Adams, University of Minnesota

"A solid, original contribution, well written, insightful, provocative, and instructive. The book accomplishes its goals admirably, providing the best work I have seen on methodology of 20th century US urban study. I am pleased."

Library Journal
Since the late 1800s, cities have become the measure of American progress. Their rise and decline has been touted as the driving force in the changes of American commerce and society. Beauregard (Univ. of Pittsburgh) draws his thesis from the discourse of the popular press: mass-market magazines, national newspapers, government reports, and other public forums. The bulk of the volume takes a chronological approach. Beauregard concludes that capitalism does not require ``functioning cities'' and that city decline need not be inevitable or permanent. This interdisciplinary examination is excellent intellectual history. However, because of its dense prose, it will be most useful to scholars and specialists.-- Jenny Presnell, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, Ohio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557864420
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 1/14/1994
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 360
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert A. Beauregard is Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, where he teaches on urban development and social theory. He most recently edited Atop the Urban Hierarchy (1989).

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Table of Contents



1. Themes and Texts.

2. Representing Urban Decline.

3. The Cities Wholesome and Good.

4. Not Those of Decadence.

5. The Unhappy Process of Changing.

6. On the Verge of Catastrophe.

7. Every Problem a Racial Dimension.

8. Crisis of Our Cities.

9. Rising from the Ashes.

10. Not Excessively Inconvenienced.

11. Intersections, Displacements, Absences.

12. Legitimating the Siting of Decline.

Bibiliographic Essay.

Methodological Note.


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