A History of Bi-Partisan Anti-Urbanism

Although recent studies and controversies such as Agenda 21 make anti-urban politics seem like a right wing commodity, a new book details the implications of a long history of bi-partisan anti-urbanism.
July 15, 2014, 8am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Rebecca Onion introduces a new book by Steve Conn, titled Americans Against the City: Anti-Urbanism in the Twentieth Century, which argues that "anti-urban movements have always benefited those who already enjoy social privilege, while leaving behind immigrants, ethnic minorities, and the poor." It follows, according to Conn, that until the entire country abandons anti-urban politics, some of our largest and most difficult problems are doomed to persist.

To support the argument, Conn builds a history that complicates the narrative of the marriage between right wing and anti-urban politics: "a new history shows that anti-urban feelings have cut a wide swath through American history and politics. Conservatives have described the city as a hotbed of vice and crime, with an alienating level of diversity and too much government regulation. Over time, plenty of liberals have crusaded against city living as well, arguing for smaller-scale, decentralized towns where people could form what they saw as more authentic communities."

Onion's prose precedes an interview with Conn, in which they discuss some of the more prominent anti-urban liberals (e.g., FDR and Frank Lloyd Wright) and the racial implications of anti-urban politics.

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Published on Sunday, July 13, 2014 in The Boston Globe
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