Synopses & Reviews
For over fifty years numerous public intellectuals and social theorists have insisted that community is dead. Some would have us believe that we act solely as individuals choosing our own fates regardless of our surroundings, while other theories place us at the mercy of global forces beyond our control. These two perspectives dominate contemporary views of society, but by rejecting the importance of place they are both deeply flawed. Based on one of the most ambitious studies in the history of social science, Great American City argues that communities still matter because life is decisively shaped by where you live. To demonstrate the powerfully enduring impact of place, Robert J. Sampson presents here the fruits of over a decades research in Chicago combined with his own unique personal observations about life in the city, from Cabrini Green to Trump Tower and Millennium Park to the Robert Taylor Homes. He discovers that neighborhoods influence a remarkably wide variety of social phenomena, including crime, health, civic engagement, home foreclosures, teen births, altruism, leadership networks, and immigration. Even national crises cannot halt the impact of place, Sampson finds, as he analyzes the consequences of the Great Recession and its aftermath, bringing his magisterial study up to the fall of 2010. Following in the influential tradition of the Chicago School of urban studies but updated for the twenty-first century, Great American City is at once a landmark research project, a commanding argument for a new theory of social life, and the story of an iconic city.
"Anchored by his work with the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), Harvard sociologist Sampson (Crime in the Making: Pathways and Turning Points Through Life) reviews, reassesses, and revises 'the old Chicago School of urban sociology,' discarding what has proved to be wrong while preserving key insights and incorporating more current theoretical and methodological approaches. Both countering and absorbing contemporary globalization concepts, which suggest that place is irrelevant, he demonstrates, in persuasive detail, that 'differentiation by neighborhood is not only everywhere to be seen, but that it has durable properties.' After reviewing the historical development of neighborhood-effects research, Sampson provides a thorough account of the history of the PHDCN, its methodology, and its multifaceted, long-range studies of Chicago neighborhoods. Replete with lucidly explicated charts and diagrams, Sampson analyzes a multitude of neighborhood aspects from patterns of movement to patterns of altruism, from the role of nonprofits to the distribution of churches. Though academically rigorous and dense, his 'relentless analytic march across the social landscape of Chicago' remains accessible. While Sampson's magnum opus will find most of its readers within the social science community and will likely become required reading for budding and practicing scholars, the trickle-down impact of his analysis is likely to be significant." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Great American City
takes us from the grand theories conjured by its commanding title, down to the iconic street corner to see what it really means when windows are broken. This is a book of big, challenging, provocative, and inspiring ideas, as well as of meticulous, rigorous, and exhaustive data. Sampson has truly shown his shoulders big enough to be counted among Chicago’s most venerated social observers, as well as the most astute theorists of place.”
“After Great American City
we will never be able to view cities in the same way again. This is one of those rare books that deeply affect how we think about the world. It teaches us afresh how the neighborhoods we live in affect us and the people around us. And there are also immense policy implications. Robert Sampson shows definitively how the fate of the urban poor is so very dependent on the communities in which they live.”
“A revolution is under way in social science, and Robert Sampson’s Great American City
offers an excellent exemplar of the new turn. . . The book convincingly demonstrates that individual outcomes are not the simple result of atomistic choices but reflect highly contingent decisions that unfold within spatially grounded social structures and institutionalized processes that limit options and reproduce existing inequalities between individuals, households, and neighborhoods. By situating human beings within a well-defined social system, Sampson contextualizes individual actors and their decisions socially, spatially, and institutionally.”
“It’s good reading which is a rare compliment to a sociologist. . . A very important book.”
George Akerlof - Nobel Laureate in Economics, University of California at Berkeley
“Robert J. Sampson's important new book challenges prevailing notions of community decline. Sampson argues that our communities continue to matter a great deal and that our lives are powerfully shaped by where we live. . . . [With] lots of empirical detail and theoretically driven, Great American City shows the striking persistence of poverty across its neighborhoods from 1960 to 2000."
andldquo;Integrating the Inner City is the first serious, empirically based, book-length analysis of mixed-income housing and is destined to become the leading study in its field for years to come. Drawing on exceptional research, Chaskin and Joseph carefully ground the book in theory while providing rich data to support their arguments along the way. Few works have examined life inside public mixed-income communities, making this book a valuable addition that will be highly sought after by the many people concerned with affordable housing.andrdquo;
andldquo;Integrating the City rises above politics, profit-motives, and moralizing and offers a real look at how mixed-income communities are working and not working for the people who live in them. Chaskin and Joseph give us a rigorously empirical account of the translation of theory into practice, and the story is a sobering one. The buildings are new and the streets are safer, but poor residents still experience considerable social stigma and economic fragility. Meticulously researched, accessibly written, and powerfully argued, this book should guide public housing policy and our approach to racial and class integration for decades to come.andrdquo;
andldquo;Chaskin and Josephandrsquo;s study of the promises and the limitations of The Chicago Plan for Transformation, the largest attempt at mixed-income public housing reform in the US, reveals a challenge that many urban planners do not foreseeandmdash;the continued economic and social marginalization of the poor families who gain a place in mixed-income developments.andnbsp;Integrating the Inner City not only combines compelling data, based on six years of in-depth field research, and considerate theoretical arguments to describe and explain the problem of economic and social integration in these developments, it also suggests several positive actions that might be taken to address it.andnbsp;Chaskin and Josephandrsquo;s impressive study is a must-read.andrdquo;
For many years Chicagoandrsquo;s looming large-scale housing projects defined the city, and their demolition and redevelopmentandmdash;via the Chicago Housing Authorityandrsquo;s Plan for Transformationandmdash;has been perhaps the most startling change in the cityandrsquo;s urban landscape in the last twenty years. The Plan, which reflects a broader policy effort to remake public housing in cities across the country, seeks to deconcentrate poverty by transforming high-poverty public housing complexes into mixed-income developments and thereby integrating once-isolated public housing residents into the social and economic fabric of the city. But is the Plan an ambitious example of urban regeneration or a not-so-veiled effort at gentrification?
In the most thorough examination of mixed-income public housing redevelopment to date, Robert J. Chaskin and Mark L. Joseph draw on five years of field research, in-depth interviews, and volumes of data to demonstrate that while considerable progress has been made in transforming the complexes physically, the integrationist goals of the policy have not been met. They provide a highly textured investigation into what it takes to design, finance, build, and populate a mixed-income development, and they illuminate the many challenges and limitations of the policy as a solution to urban poverty. Timely and relevant, Chaskin and Josephandrsquo;s findings raise concerns about the increased privatization of housing for the poor while providing a wide range of recommendations for a better way forward.
About the Author
Robert J. Chaskin is professor and deputy dean at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and director of the University of Chicago Urban Network. He is the author or editor of several books, including, most recently Youth Gangs and Community Intervention.Mark L. Joseph is associate professor in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University and director of the National Initiative on Mixed-Income Communities. He is coauthor of Voices from the Field: Learning from Comprehensive Community Initiatives.