The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age
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Cities shape the lives and outlooks of billions of people, yet they have been overshadowed in contemporary political thought by nation-states, identity groups, and concepts like justice and freedom. The Spirit of Cities revives the classical idea that a city expresses its own distinctive ethos or values. In the ancient world, Athens was synonymous with democracy and Sparta represented military discipline. In this original and engaging book, Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit explore how this classical idea can be applied to today's cities, and they explain why philosophy and the social sciences need to rediscover the spirit of cities.
Bell and de-Shalit look at nine modern cities and the prevailing ethos that distinguishes each one. The cities are Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance), and New York (ambition). Bell and de-Shalit draw upon the richly varied histories of each city, as well as novels, poems, biographies, tourist guides, architectural landmarks, and the authors' own personal reflections and insights. They show how the ethos of each city is expressed in political, cultural, and economic life, and also how pride in a city's ethos can oppose the homogenizing tendencies of globalization and curb the excesses of nationalism.
The Spirit of Cities is unreservedly impressionistic. Combining strolling and storytelling with cutting-edge theory, the book encourages debate and opens up new avenues of inquiry in philosophy and the social sciences. It is a must-read for lovers of cities everywhere. In a new preface, Bell and de-Shalit further develop their idea of "civicism," the pride city dwellers feel for their city and its ethos over that of others.
problem is that indifference may lead to acceptance of intolerance. Berliners did not really see what happened to the Jews, the Roma, the Communists. To really see this, one has to be aware of what one sees; one has to care about it. Come to think of it, it may be true that in several periods Berliners have been indifferent. After the reunification, people were thrilled for the East Berliners: they now had freedom; there would be growth, they would get good jobs, they would be rich. But the
how to price them in a declining market.” But there was no need to understand so long as people were making money. In the end, Andrew Ross Sorkin notes, “this drama is human one, a tale about the fallibility of people who thought they themselves were too big to fail.” And the key lesson has not yet been learned: “Perhaps most disturbing of all, ego is still very much a central part of the Wall Street machine. While the financial crisis destroyed careers and reputations, and left many more bruised
would diverse social forces have been galvanized to the same extent? More civicism emerged during World War II. As a service to those on leave, the American Theatre Wing opened the Stage Door Canteen in the basement of a theater on Forty-fourth Street in 1942. “Here enlisted men—no officers allowed—could eat, see a show, and dance, often with celebrities. Lauren Bacall volunteered on Monday nights, often spending the entire evening dancing; Broadway stars Katharine Cornell and Helen Hayes bussed
that parents did all they could to prevent their children from being labeled as “failures,” leading to a drastic increase in recourse to private tutors and pressure on children to cram and get top results throughout every step of their school careers.88 The pressure-cooker school system exacerbated “kiasuism,” a Hokkien term that literally means “afraid to lose,” referring to all kinds of small-mindedness and selfish behavior to get the better of others. The state attempts to counter kiasuism by
I’ve ever worked in. The chairs are too wide and too deep, and they are not high enough for reading comfortably; the tables are much too high, and the light (should God give Oxford a reprieve from its fate of raining enough to ruin one’s day) cannot penetrate the ungenerously sized window. Should you wish to use your laptop, the few seats with plugs nearby (laptops must be too noisy and modern for Oxford libraries) probably are already occupied. Yet, despite this, the library’s unique ambiance