Supersizing Exurban Utopia

Author David Brooks examines how the American reality is reflected in the nation's suburbs.
April 5, 2004, 11am PDT | Chris Steins | @urbaninsight
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

In a feature-length essay adapted from his new book, "On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense," New York Times columnist David Brooks takes a look at the sprawling American urban form. He dismisses those who criticize suburbia as bland and "white-bread," explaining that the suburbs are merely the newest incarnation of the American Dream. They are the way we show our national identity: a nation that thrives on change, manifest destiny, and a drive that is second to none: "Throughout human history, most people have lived around some definable place -- a tribal ring, an oasis, a river junction, a port, a town square. But in exurbia, each individual has his or her own polycentric nodes -- the school, the church and the office park... The reality is that modern suburbia is merely the latest iteration of the American dream. Far from being dull, artificial and spiritually vacuous, today's suburbs are the products of the same religious longings and the same deep tensions that produced the American identity from the start... Suburban America is a bourgeois place, but unlike some other bourgeois places, it is also a transcendent place infused with everyday utopianism. That's why you meet so many boring-looking people who see themselves on some technological frontier, dreaming of this innovation or that management technique that will elevate the world -- and half the time their enthusiasms, crazes and fads seem ludicrous to others and even to them, in retrospect."

Thanks to Stephen Dyer Miller

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, April 4, 2004 in The New York Times
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email