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.