The Suburban Assault on Democracy
By Michael J. Thompson
Celebrations of Urbanity - The Urban Reinventors, Issue Nr. 2, December 2007
"The United States is the first suburban civilization in world history, by which I simply mean that it is the first major civilization that has seen the rise of a largely non-urban population, culture, and spatial organization. It is the first to organize itself around the idea that whole swaths of the population can live in a relation of a high degree of economic interdependence, but a high degree of residential and cultural isolation and individualism. It is the first civilization to organize itself on a mass basis and yet be characterized by social atomization. Suburban civilization is not simply an alternative, non-urban form of residential planning; it is a substantial shift in the contour of everyday life in modern western society. It is a form of life which is characterized by a desire for a simpler environment and has affected a marked decline in the diverse communities that composed the urban landscapes of the prewar period. Suburbs have given rise therefore to a new culture of life, one that, I would argue, when looked at through the nexus of culture, space, and politics, gives us an insight into its corrosive effects on democratic life in modern society…"
Michael J. Thompson is Assistant Professor of Political Science at William Paterson University. His latest book is The Politics of Inequality: A Political History of the Idea of Economic Inequality in America (Columbia University Press, 2007) and is currently writing a new book, The Specter of Babel: Antiurbanism and the Demise of Public Reason.