Kotkin's 'New Localism'

Joel Kotkin thinks that the effects of the financial crisis may not be all bad, and may even encourage a new focus on family and community ties.

"This trend toward what I call "the new localism" has been underway for some years, driven by changing demographics, new technologies and rising energy prices. But the economic downturn will probably accelerate it as individuals and corporations look not to the global stage but closer to home, concentrating and congregating on the Main Streets where we choose to live – in the suburbs, in urban neighborhoods or in small towns.

In his 1972 bestseller, "A Nation of Strangers," social critic Vance Packard depicted the United States as "a society coming apart at the seams." He was only one in a long cavalcade of futurists who have envisioned an America of ever-increasing "spatial mobility" that would give rise to weaker families, childlessness and anonymous communities.

Packard and others may not have been far off for their time: In 1970, nearly 20 percent of Americans changed their place of residence every year. But by 2004, that figure had dropped to 14 percent, the lowest level since 1950. Americans born today are actually more likely to reside near their place of birth than those who lived in the 19th century. Part of this is due to our aging population, because older people are far less likely to move than those under 30. But more limited economic options may intensify this phenomenon while bringing a host of social, economic and environmental benefits in their wake."

Full Story: Turns Out There's Good News on Main St.



Kotkin's Criticisms of New Urbanism

This piece seems to confirm the suspicions of many, and myself,that Kotkin's well-known and widespread criticisms of New Urbanism in the media was simply the acts of a publicity hound.

I don't see how Kotkin and his fellow travelers can now deny that what he's saying in this article isn't also a quite central objective of New Urbanists. Perhaps the only difference is the degree of auto orientation and overall density of revitalized existing suburban downtowns and/or new New Urban/Suburban walkable business districts. Shades of pre-World War II streetcar and railroad suburbs!

It's Always Been True Of Kotkin

Kotkin has always criticized New Urbanisam and, at the same time, copied the ideas of New Urbanism, such as building pedestrian-oriented downtowns in the suburbs. He even named his ideas "the new suburbanism" - copying once again.

The main difference between Kotkin and the New Urbanists is that Kotkin argues against reducing automobile dependency. He wants people to drive to those pedestrian-oriented suburban downtowns.

Charles Siegel

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