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The Mysteries Of 'Social Infrastructure'

In his new book Palaces for the People, sociologist Eric Klinenberg explores the places—from libraries and schools to cafes and churches—where cities' social lives take place. It's a compelling idea but one that Klinenberg discusses clumsily.
November 6, 2018, 7am PST | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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New York MTA

"Palaces for the People takes a meandering journey through what Klinenberg calls 'social infrastructure.' In contrast with 'social capital,' the term coined by Robert Putnam to describe the strength of social relationships, social infrastructure refers to the places where social relationships form. It’s a hardware-vs.-software situation, as it were."

"This premise, like almost everything else Klinenberg writes, is perfectly reasonable and engaging. Klinenberg writes with an admirable social mission: 'If states and societies do not recognize social infrastructure and how it works, they will fail to see a powerful way to promote civic engagement and social interaction, both within communities and across group lines.' And yet, he goes out of his way to muddle his argument and make the provision of social infrastructure seem somehow less urgent than it really is."

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Published on Monday, October 29, 2018 in California Planning & Development Report
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