Tag Archives: Jackson Lears

Introducing the Summer Issue: The Meaning of Cities

Bearden_The Block II 1972 copy copy

The Block II, 1972, by Romare Bearden (1921–1988), The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art, © Romare Bearden Foundation/VAGA, New York.

Whenever it pops up these days, and it does very often, the phrase smart city conjures up visions of a bright, bold urban future—a future that, to some extent, has already arrived. We are assured that through the mobilization of Big Data, the Internet of Things, robotics, and a host of other technological wonders, this “sweeping change” is not only inevitable but all to the good.

But are we reassured?

The answer depends on what we think is good not just for cities but about them—about what we expect of them as sites and incubators of commerce, creativity, and community, and, even more crucially, as places that form the minds and souls of their inhabitants. And yet, in this epoch of “the city”—when more than half of the world’s population inhabits cities, when so much thought and study have been devoted to the challenges of city life, and when so many expectations have been placed upon the city as the solution to a range of pressing national and global problems—surprisingly little attention is paid to the crucial purpose of cities.

As the pace of urbanization accelerates worldwide—with some projections putting 70 percent of humanity in cities by 2050—there is good cause to see our fate inextricably bound up with the forms our cities take. For that reason among others, the question of  the meaning of cities, the theme of this issue, has never been more urgent. We invite you to join our authors as they consider different aspects of that question.

We will be releasing a select number of essays and reviews from this issue on a rolling basis during the coming weeks, starting with the following two:

Here’s what subscribers can already read: Noah J. Toly’s “The New Urban Agenda and the Limits of Cities,” Marc J. Dunkelman’s “Next-Door Strangers: The Crisis of Urban Anonymity,” and Nancy Isenberg and Andrew Burstein’s “Cosmopolitanism vs. Provincialism: How the Politics of Place Hurts America.” Other contributions include essays by Mark Edmundson, Donald Dewey, and Jackson Lears.

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The Hedgehog’s Array: April 24, 2015

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Noteworthy reads from the last week:

“The Liberal Arts vs. Neoliberalism,” Jackson Lears
“It is a platitude that we cannot defend the humanities without slipping into platitudes. Why is that?”

“An Ex-Cop Keeps The Country’s Best Data Set On Police Misconduct,” Carl Bialik
“The whole data-collecting operation is powered by 48 Google Alerts that Stinson set up in 2005, along with individual Google Alerts for each of nearly 6,000 arrests of officers. He has set up 10 Gmail addresses to collect all the alert emails, which feed articles into a database that also contains court records and videos.”

“Inside the Whimsical but Surprisingly Dark World of Rube Goldberg Machines,” Brendan O’Connor
“Our modern era is riddled with machines doing ever less consequential tasks in ever more complex ways. The machines are digital, not mechanical, but the difference between the maximalism of the Rube Goldberg machine and the minimalism of the iPhone is perhaps not so great after all.”

“Have We Seen the End of the 8-Hour Day?,” Nathan Schneider
“Twenty years ago, ‘flexibility’ was considered a good thing, a desideratum for working mothers gaining a foothold in workplaces designed for sole-breadwinner men. In the intervening years, however, the flexibility discourse that had been developed to meet the needs of white-collar workers, especially women, has been turned against blue-collar workers, especially women. ‘Flexibility,’ and control over what it meant, became the privilege of employers, not employees.”

“Managing the Decline of, Like, a Great Language,” Barton Swaim
“What I’m advocating is the grammatical equivalent of legalizing marijuana but regulating it. Maybe it will turn out badly, but the policy of interdiction has failed.”

“What World? Whose Algorithms?,” Eitan Wilf
“If search engines can and do use similar algorithms to analyze a user’s profile based on the corpus of his or her past online activity to dictate advertising and customized content, they can potentially entrap users in a self-referential and narcissistic world that hinders and stifles personal development and growth. Yet the same algorithmic technologies can be reconfigured for the opposite end.”

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