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The Unheavenly City Revisited Paperback – November 1, 1990


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Waveland Press (November 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881335290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881335293
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Titles of related interest from Waveland Press: Gmelch et al., Urban Life: Readings in Urban Anthropology, Fifth Edition (ISBN 9781577666349); Howell, Hard Living on Clay Street: Portraits of Blue Collar Families (ISBN 9780881335262); and Shannon et al., Urban Problems in Sociological Perspective, Fourth Edition (ISBN 9781577661955).

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By John Thacker on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Edward C. Banfield's most important work, Unheavenly City (and its revised edition, Unheavenly City Revisited) was and remains a dramatic challenge to the traditional concepts of urban renewal originating in the New Deal. The book was intensely controversial when it was published, and it's not hard to see why from reading it, as Banfield challenges almost every tenet of the existing urban studies orthodoxy. From the impact of minimum wage laws to the importance of social class, the author touches every important issue that faces the underclass in cities, with often surprising recommendations.
Conservatives will appreciate what is probably the best statement of a conservative plan and thinking about the plight of cities, but Banfield's meticulous use of careful arguments and research make the book useful for those who disagree with him as well. An excellent book for anyone who wants to examine the problems of cities and challenge their own assumptions, with bold recommendations for helping those trapped in poverty.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Kerwick on June 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was assigned to read the original version of Banfield's work in an undergraduate municipal government course in 1972, shortly after it was written. At that time, I lived in a slum ridden eastern city and Banfield's observations about the philosophical shortcomings leading to poverty and urban blight, as well as the cynicism of many of the recipients and brokers of governmental largess, seemed sensible, if not obvious from my empirical observations. Unfortunately, Banfield's observations, and more importantly his prescriptions for ending the embryonic "victim" culture, received more results in the form of threats to the author than in sounder urban governance. At the same time, more of the middle classes and productive members of the working classes fled that city as well as others around the country and those cities continued to decline. And that is the key importance of reading Banfield in 2001. Time has proven him correct, every bit as much as it has demonstrated the carnival barker's fraud that encompassed every portion of the so-called "great society." These debates exist today as well and the education debate is one of the best examples. Similarly, our national and local city politics are replete with countless snake oil salesmen promising a new Jerusalem if we can just redistribute more wealth from the productive to the grasping victims. This does work very well for the redistributors, but a review of Banfield's text 30 years later demonstrates beyond reasonable dispute that it does not for the cities or their slum dwellers. A generation was wasted ignoring these realities; hopefully another one won't have to be.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By oldfatslow on March 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
[I haven't read the book in some time and don't have a copy at hand, so I may misremember some things.]
Time is the great divider of men in the city. Those that can see a future and plan for it are on the opposite end of the social spectrum than those that live merely for the action of the present. Banfield does a superb job of showing that this time distinction is something that is impervious to race or color. One of the great insights is that the classes of a city are not fixed in their positions: they tend to migrate from lower to upper over time.
I read his chapter on "Rioting Mainly for Fun and Profit" just before the Rodney King riots in LA. It was oddly prophetic.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Hell? Yes, that is the general impression of urban America that you are left with after reading 'The Unheavenly City Revisited'. There are a couple of reasons for this. The original book 'The Unheavenly City' was first published in 1970 and then 'Revisited' in 1974. In many ways urban America is quite different today than it was then. It is no coincidence that an entire chapter is devoted to riots. Watts in 1965 and Detroit in 1967 were still very much a topic of discussion by urban planners. The main reason though for the impression of an urban hell is because that's exactly what the author believed we were creating. The main purpose of this book was to challenge and refute traditional approaches to urban planning. One of Banfields main contentions was that "we do not know and can never know what the real nature of the problem is, let alone what might work to alleviate or solve it". He wanted to make urban planning more multidisciplinary, bring in new approaches and ideas and broaden the debate.
He broadened the debate all right. There was such a storm of controversy that surrounded 'The Unheavenly City' that the author had to take the unusual step of publishing the 'Revisited' version only four years later largely to provide clarity and explain some of the more contentious points that he raised. For instance, the chapter entitled 'The Imperatives of Class' generated a lot of heat. Banfield was accused of saying that the lower class was synonymous with African Americans and the poor. He didn't say that. It didn't matter though because by bringing it up and dancing around it for an entire chapter he left himself open to critics who said 'Well it's what you meant even if you didn't say it.
Not all the criticism was related to his arguments and certainly not all of it was fair.
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