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The Unheavenly City Revisited Paperback – November 1, 1990

4.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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).
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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: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.5 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: #1,122,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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[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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During President Nixons short term in office, he commissioned a Congressional Study to answer the question, "Why can't one of the richest nations in the world (at that time it was America) eliminate proverty. The results of the study were so controversial that the Study was never released to the Public, but copies are still available in the Congressional Library today. The main problem of the study is that many people who read it concluded that the reason that America could not eliminate poverty was due to "racial prejudince and practices. Nothing could be further from the truth. Edward Banfield took it upon himself to do his own study in order to answer the same question. You will notice that the title of the book has the key work in it, "Revisited". He had already written the "Unheavenly City" and it was so poorly misinterpreted that he came back and wrote the "Unheavenly City Revisited" to try to explain that the reason that America could not elimiate poverty, was not in fact due to "racial overtones", but in fact was due to "the future orientations of generations of people that created four differnent Classes of people: !) the Upper Class; 2) the Middle Class; 3) the Working Class; and 4) the Lower Class. What caused people to end up in which class had nothing to do with racial matters, it had every thing to do with the "future orientations" of the people with each class. The Upper Class held visions and dreams beyond their own life times, and because of this remarkable future orientation they built their wealth and success so that they could have an impact on the world they lived in, and could leave a legacy and inheritance behind.Read more ›
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