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The Uses Of Urban Theory

Eminent urban scholar Richard Sennett populates Building and Dwelling with rich discussions of history, philosophy, and theory—as well as strolls through contemporary cities.
June 19, 2018, 6am PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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"Building and Dwelling, Sennett’s 15th book on urbanism, is an intellectual romp that — in just the first four pages — includes encounters with St. Augustine, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Immanuel Kant, and Nicholas Negroponte. At once trying to build a modern philosophy of cities while acknowledging, as he did most famously in The Uses of Disorder, the inherent messiness of cities, Sennett uses a compelling framework and aspires to an admirable, if elusive, goal....nothing less than an articulation of how to achieve, or at least think about, the ethical city in the 21st century. It’s no small task."

"City life always wavers along continua that are bounded by unattainable poles, and so dualities run throughout Building and Dwelling. Sennett concerns himself with public and private; past and future; formal and informal; technological and analog; freedom and order; surveillance and anonymity; diversity and homogeneity; democracy and despotism; logic and emotion; local and metropolitan; past and future; speed and incrementalism; and Moses and Jacobs, among many others."

"Naturally, the good life lies on different points along the continuum for different people, which is, if anything, the ultimate message of Building and Dwelling. Planners, builders, and urban residents themselves must always seek the right balance. They must respect that the balance can shift, and that it shifts differently for everyone."

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Published on Friday, June 15, 2018 in Los Angeles Review of Books
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