Philip Bess likes cities, especially Chicago. He likes cities that work--cities that do not just promote commercial and cultural activity and move traffic, garbage and pedestrians efficiently, but that create a space for human flourishing. Cities are not utilitarian entities governed by impersonal market forces. They are moral entities, Bess argues.
What kind of towns do people want to live in? It might seem like a vast, imposing question, but the answer is no great mystery to the New Urbanists, an impressive group of environmentalists, architects, designers and town planners who have been trying to teach developers what features of the built environment make a community attractive, livable and, well, a community.
This book is part of the saga begun in Stark’s provocative The Rise of Christianity (1996). It features more sociological and statistical arguments than the earlier book but contains startling conclusions that encourage the reader to press on.
When Abraham Smith retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1996, the last thing on his mind was preaching from a storefront in one of the most depressed areas of the nation’s capital. But an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church asked the lieutenant colonel and ordained minister to create a new congregation in the district’s troubled Petworth neighborhood.
Some city dwellers still remember porch-sitting and leisurely walks to the corner store for ice cream. That was before TVs and freezers drew people inside behind locked doors. Children walked to school, and afterwards they worked at local jobs or played in neighborhood streets or vacant lots.
When Michael Harrington wrote The Other America 40 years ago, he pointed out that the advent of freeways linking suburban homes to downtown offices had rendered the poverty of the inner city invisible to many Americans. The city had become the home of the poor, the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised.
Western ideas about good cities descend from Athens, Jerusalem and Rome. From Athens we inherit two seminal ideas: that the good life is the life of moral and intellectual excellence, and that the good city is one that makes this good life possible for its citizens.