the politics of the suburbs
August 12, 2012, 12:49 pm
Filed under: betaCITY, Cities, density, Energy, Suburbs | Tags: , ,

This description of the establishment and maturation of the American suburb follows an interesting narrative arc:  from consumption, to politicization, to passivity, to stability, to class and racial segregation.

We’ve all heard the story of increased consumption and the evacuation of our city’s cores.  We don’t read much, however, about how land rights activism and conservatism were the direct result of suburbanization.  Nor about the passivity of the new middle class once established in their exurban homes.

From Harvey’s essay, the Right to the City:

The suburbanization of the United States was not merely a matter of new infrastructures. As in Second Empire Paris, it entailed a radical transformation in lifestyles, bringing new products from housing to refrigerators and air conditioners, as well as two cars in the driveway and an enormous increase in the consumption of oil. It also altered the political landscape, as subsidized home-ownership for the middle classes changed the focus of community action towards the defence of property values and individualized identities, turning the suburban vote towards conservative republicanism. Debt-encumbered homeowners, it was argued, were less likely to go on strike. This project successfully absorbed the surplus and assured social stability, albeit at the cost of hollowing out the inner cities and generating urban unrest amongst those, chiefly African-Americans, who were denied access to the new prosperity.

The Right to the City, David Harvey


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