- Series: Modern Library Chronicles
- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Modern Library; Modern Library Chronicles edition (October 10, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0375756515
- ISBN-13: 978-0375756511
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The City: A Global History (Modern Library Chronicles) Paperback – October 10, 2006
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Advance Praise for The City
“A compelling and original synthesis that belongs on the urbanist’s bookshelf with Lewis Mumford, Peter Hall, and Fernand Braudel.”
–Witold Rybczynski, Martin & Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism, School of Design, professor of Real Estate, Wharton School
“No one knows more about cities than Joel Kotkin, and has more to teach us about them. In The City, Kotkin takes us on a brisk and invigorating tour of cities from the Babylon of ancient times to the burgeoning exurbs of today. It is impossible not to learn a lot from this book.”
–Michael Barone, senior writer, U.S. News & World Report, and co-author of The Almanac of American Politics
“If you want to understand why the future of American and European cities is mixed at best, if you want to understand why George Bush won the 2004 election, you need to read Joel Kotkin’s account of how and why cities have developed and declined.”
–Fred Siegel, author of Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York and the Genius of American Life, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute
“Unique and powerful insights into urban life . . . This book is a great read.”
–Bob Lanier, Mayor of Houston, 1992-1998
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Inside Flap
If humankind can be said to have a single greatest creation, it would be those places that represent the most eloquent expression of our species's ingenuity, beliefs, and ideals: the city. In this authoritative and engagingly written account, the acclaimed urbanist and bestselling author examines the evolution of urban life over the millennia and, in doing so, attempts to answer the age-old question: What makes a city great?
Despite their infinite variety, all cities essentially serve three purposes: spiritual, political, and economic. Kotkin follows the progression of the city from the early religious centers of Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley, and China to the imperial centers of the Classical era, through the rise of the Islamic city and the European commercial capitals, ending with today's post-industrial suburban metropolis.
Despite widespread optimistic claims that cities are "back in style," Kotkin warns that whatever their form, cities can thrive only if they remain sacred, safe, and busy-and this is true for both the increasingly urbanized developing world and the often self-possessed "global cities" of the West and East Asia.
Looking at cities in the twenty-first century, Kotkin discusses the effects of developments such as shifting demographics and emerging technologies. He also considers the effects of terrorism-how the religious and cultural struggles of the present pose the greatest challenge to the urban future.
Truly global in scope, The City is a timely narrative that will place Kotkin in the company of Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, and other preeminent urban scholars.
Top customer reviews
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Fine: it's a short book, a mere 160 pp of text, plus almost 40 pp of notes (a good thing), and the 7 pp of suggested readings. I suppose the Modern Library's "Chronicles" format - "featuring the world's great historians on the world's great subjects," all at less than 200 pp - should have tipped me off, but there was the offsetting kudos of Witold Rybczynski: "A compelling and original synthesis that belongs on the urbanist's bookshelf with Lewis Mumford, Peter Hall, and Fernand Braudel." Yes, Prof. Rybczynski, I suppose so, but perhaps only as the first book to pull off that shelf for kindling when the cabin grows cold. Kotkin really doesn't deserve this bonbon from Rybczynski; nor does he belong in this seminal company. His book doesn't seem to contain much that's original; it seems mostly derived from the insights of others. (I suppose that's why it's a "synthesis.") For the most part, much of it - and surely its central thesis that cities are built on sacred, security, or commercial foundations - is in Mumford and Hall, much else, particularly on the rise of commercial cities, may be found in Braudel, and in the later chapters more contemporary writers like Daniel Bell, Saskia Sassen, Manuel Castells, Kenneth Jackson, and Joel Garreau, are among the many authorities who show up. Throughout, the discussion is cursory and in places absolutely superficial, as though lists of observations and authorities had been cobbled together into paragraphs that often end with a clunk.
On the Third World city Kotkin struck me as almost wholly without a clue, although I surmise that, had he written closer to the present time, he would have been able to cull a few interesting and relevant ideas from the World Bank's World Development Report 2009, in which the Bank turns a major corner on developing-economy cities, finally seeing them as potential developing-world engines of growth. Kotkin didn't himself divine any of this at the time of his writing, for the most part reheating accounts of the many pathologies of developing-world urbanization, misunderstanding, among other things, the pull of primate cities in an otherwise bleak,largely subsistence agrarian landscape - "cities = the promise of a better life for millions" - the structural role of informal economies in developing countries, and quite a bit more.
But the little "suggested reading" essay is extremely worthwhile. For this, and for the Robert Ezra Parks quote on "the city as a state of mind," two stars.