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The City as Political Center

City As Democratic Ideal, The City As Democratic Menace, Contemporary Challenges To The City's Democratic Potential

In Western political thought, ideas about cities, citizenship, and democracy have always been inextricably linked. Since Socrates suggested in The Republic that his interlocutors help him to create a city in speech, the city has functioned as a real and metaphorical center for struggles over what it means to be political. Ideas about civilization and barbarism, egalitarianism and exclusion, virtue and vice, civic participation and social unrest, all find expression in discussions of the city. Yet the city is and has always been an ambiguous achievement; its success (or failure) as a form of political organization rests on its citizens' dubious abilities to govern themselves, deliberate with strangers, act on principles beyond narrow self-interest, and collectively determine their future. Thus the state of a nation's cities is often used as a barometer to judge the quality of its political life.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to Cluster