A sobering account of inequality and spatial conflict rising against a cultural backdrop of urban change.

THE NEW URBAN CRISIS

HOW OUR CITIES ARE INCREASING INEQUALITY, DEEPENING SEGREGATION, AND FAILING THE MIDDLE CLASS—AND WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT IT

A prominent urban theorist examines the hidden impacts of gentrification and innovation on (mostly) American cities.

Prolific sociologist Florida (Director, Martin Prosperity Institute/Univ. of Toronto; The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, 2010, etc.) builds on his earlier work about the “creative” economy to argue that his optimism about cities’ recoveries from the era of white flight and neglect must now be tempered with recognition of “a dark side to the urban resurgence and back-to-the-city movement.” He wryly acknowledges backlash against his own ideas and the gentrifying takeovers of blue-collar areas: “What troubled me most of all was the decline and disappearance of the great middle-class neighborhoods.” Florida organizes his discussion in thematic chapters, trying to nonjudgmentally demonstrate how well-intentioned elites have managed to repair once-blighted cityscapes while still harming their cultural vernacular, adding further stressors to the lives of the working poor and minority groups in now-coveted neighborhoods. In “The Inequality of Cities,” he explores how an economic recovery fueled by tech and media “creatives” inevitably worsens inequality, noting, “our most liberal cities also number among the most unequal.” In “The Bigger Sort” and “The Patchwork Metropolis,” the author presents data to suggest that racial and class segregation are actually hardening, particularly in glamorous tech cities (San Francisco) and so-called global cities (New York), due to housing prices. Florida also explores the disturbing irony that classic urban pathologies of violence, drugs, and malaise have migrated to cities’ suburban belts: “Large swaths of them are places of economic decline and distress.” Florida draws subtle, thoughtful inferences from his research, and he writes in slick, approachable prose overly studded with phrases that aspire to be intellectual buzzwords (the title is repeated frequently). Throughout, the author remains an idealistic, perceptive observer of cities’ transformations.

A sobering account of inequality and spatial conflict rising against a cultural backdrop of urban change.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-07974-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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