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The City as Political Center

The City As Democratic Menace

From its inception, however, the city's equality and diversity have also signified its instability—the threat it poses to moral, social, and political order. The city has been regarded as the site of sinful excess and moral turpitude, where upstanding citizens may risk succumbing to the depravity of the mob. Despite (or because of) its status as the rationalized center of Western political and economic life, the city has also been the site of its revolutions; from Europe in 1848 to the United States and Paris in 1968, cities have been recognized as the epicenters of democratic upheaval.

Attempts to secure the city as a political and cultural center have historically often sought to contain, control, or eliminate many of the very elements urban democrats find so promising. Efforts to create meaningful, modern urban life have varied greatly, ranging from the reinvention of Paris by Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809–1891), the Garden City of Ebenezer Howard (1850–1928), the City Beautiful of Daniel Burnham (1846–1912), and the Radiant City of Le Corbusier (1887–1965), to numerous public housing projects across the United States and Europe. But as Elizabeth Wilson notes, what these efforts have in common is the desire to replace chaos with order, heterogeneity with uniformity, and the noise and commotion inevitable in lively public places with placidity and good behavior.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterThe City as Political Center - City As Democratic Ideal, The City As Democratic Menace, Contemporary Challenges To The City's Democratic Potential