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Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place

3.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520063419
ISBN-10: 0520063414
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A well-documented look at the social forces and factions responsible for value free development. . . . Highly recommended to scholars and students of urban sociology, political science, and urban planning."--Nancy Ann Bates, "Social Science Quarterly
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (March 9, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520063414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520063419
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #998,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I feel compelled to write a short review because of the two negative reviews accompanying this listing. This book is an extension of the arguments in "The City as a Growth Machine," the seminal sociology article from 1976, by Harvey Molotch. Molotch's basic argument is that previously, local government and community studies focused on intra-elite competition and the like. His major point was that regardless of differences of opinion within the local political power structure, all in fact were united behind a "growth agenda" directed to an intensification of land uses and an increase in rents (the economics term, in the sense of the rentier class). The book extends these arguments much further. For example, one of the points made is about the "use value" versus the "exchange value" of place. The latter is about making money off place, the former about the intrinsic value of home, etc. The other major point (also in the article) is the growth machine's "value-free development" ideology, that growth is always good, adds jobs, etc. This book is as important to urban studies as Jane Jacobs _Death and Life of Great American Cities_. Whereas Jacobs focuses on design, density, and mixed uses; Logan and Molotch focus on the sociology, politics, and economics of local government. In the argot of today, they focus on the "back story." Sections on the role of sports, gambling, etc., in the growth machine efforts are no less worthwhile. Any one who is active on local land use issues will find this book to be a revelation. My only significant "criticism" is that the book is 17 years old and could use an updating with additional citations, etc. In short, this is an essential book.
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Format: Paperback
If you've ever tried to understand seeming arbitrary political decisions about land use, or why some growth issues are never discussed, or why certain transportation projects are funded and others are not, this book provides an structure of understanding local and regional politics in America in the late 20th century, one you won't find in Planning School or if you are in transportation engineering.
It also tells how globalized capitalism is driving local
planning.
Logan and Molotch's thesis is to local politics what Darwin evolutuionary concepts are to natural botony and natural history. You will never watch local government the same
way again after reading this book.
This book is considered one of the most important books in sociology of the last 50 years, and won the American Sociology
Association book-of-the-year award in 1990.
If you are a died in the wool Cato-Institute/ American Enterprise Institution/Chicago School liberatian /free market-solved everything person, you won't like it. But if you want to
have a an alternate paradigms of how political economy of the the city works in your head, this provides a good alternative.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Logan and Molotch use the explanation of the city through the tension that exists between owners who see the city as exchange value and the residents who see the city as use value. According to the authors, the local elites are associated with politicians and local media to generate a coalition, whose speech is that the results of their actions will benefit everyone. Such discourse is needed to operate the "growth engine", transforming the city and its value in use of all, the exchange value of a few.
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Format: Paperback
"It seems obvious that only in the largest places is it possible to attain the highest incomes in the lucrative occupations; for individuals with such ambitions, large may be the only option."
The above is an excerpt from this tedious text that calls itself, untruthfully, an introduction to urban studies. Such statements are made throughout the entire text with no figures upon which to base such assumptions. The authors insist on the omnipresence of unexplained jargon, vague statements, farfetched metaphors and ambiguous assumptions in order to arrive at a certain point they are failing to make.
It is painfully obvious that the authors are not capable of any coherent and/or original thought and in order to fill out the 360 pages of "Urban Fortunes" they heavily rely on recycling and reusing the ideas of others, followed by an extensive 70-page bibliography and a 20-page index.
As an innocent bystander I feel cheated for losing forever the time I spent reading this text, yet I feel that much worse for the unsuspecting undergraduate college students who, according to the back cover, are required to buy this book for their classes.
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Format: Paperback
When I first got this book, by the glowing reviews on the back, I thought that I would be treated to a jargon-free discourse on sociology. Unfortunately, the people who wrote the reviews on the back are either 1) stupid 2) lying 3) being blackmailed by the author or 4) exchanging glowing reviews for their own books. Mr. Molotch is unable to explain even the most basic concepts in political science, economics, or sociology without resorting to jargon that he is unwilling (or unable) to define. After closely examining the book, I found no fewer than 78 terms that were repeatedly used which he refused to define, and whose meanings seem to change more than Madonna's choice in attire did back in the 1980s. The one achievement of this book is that it manages to set the course of the social sciences back many years. Rather than using rigorous analysis, the author uses platitudes, nonsense words and shoddy analysis. The book makes no contribution to the literature, and has no value to policy-makers, students, or historians.
On the good side, various paragraphs of the book may make for good cocktail party chatter, provided the drinks being served are not watered down.
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