America's Undeclared War: What's Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It

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9780151005529: America's Undeclared War: What's Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It

"I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1800, sounding a note that has echoed throughout American history. In this bracing reexamination, Daniel Lazare traces the progress of America's unwavering war on its cities and looks at the profound consequences.

From Jefferson through Henry Ford and Franklin Roosevelt to the present, we have labored to wither our cities, simultaneously fouling our air and our landscape, depleting our energy resources to feed our automobiles and neglecting any form of community other than hollow, homogenous suburbs. And yet the average American has a smaller share of the country's wealth than the average European and less opportunity to improve his or her lot.

Provocative and enlightening, America's Undeclared War exposes a prejudice both fundamental and destructive to American culture. With a mordant wit and a refreshing clarity, Lazare offers a vision that can re-invigorate us, our communities, and our future.

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About the Author:

Daniel Lazare is the author of the iconoclastic study of the U.S. Constitution, The Frozen Republic, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. He has written about race, drugs, and urban policy for a wide variety of publications, including Harper's, The American Prospect, and Le Monde Diplomatique. He lives in Manhattan.

From Publishers Weekly:

"I view great cities as pestilential to the morals, the health, and the liberties of man," said Thomas Jefferson, voicing a concern of many early Americans about the moralAand, implicitly, democratic and politicalAsuperiority of rural over urban life. If Jefferson's view was predicated on a fear of powerful federal and state governments (dependent upon urban centers), Alexander Hamilton promoted strong, stable states and the idea of cities as necessary to economic and civil health. According to Lazare (The Frozen Republic), the Jeffersonians are winning this ideological fight, much to America's detriment. As a result, he says, the U.S. consistently treats its urban centers with prejudice and neglect. Lazare has marshaled an enormous range of ideas and facts to advance and substantiate his argument, variously suggesting that though cities breed social reform, they are traditionally condemned as hotbeds of immorality; that automobile mass production occasioned urban redesign that endangers the public; that California's draconian 1979 Proposition 13 tax cut further eroded the state's highways and urban schools; and that Jacob Riis's urban reform campaigns were profoundly anti-immigrant and anti-urban. In his last chapter, "Solutions," Lazare calls for implementing our (constitutional) right to amend our "ancient Constitution," and for broader acceptance of emerging technologies like cheaper, faster and lightweight trains. Drawing upon rich historical details, the urban and social theory of John Kenneth Galbraith, Jurgen Habermas, Michel Foucault and Jane Jacobs, and economic and environmental studies, Lazare provides an engaging, provocative and alarming portrait of America at the turn of the millennium.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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