[Paleopsych] CHE: A glance at the spring issue of The Wilson Quarterly: The future of big cities

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Fri May 6 21:39:43 UTC 2005

A glance at the spring issue of The Wilson Quarterly: The future of big cities
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Magazine & journal reader

    Just at the time large cities seem to be most dominant, huge urban
    centers may be losing ground, says Joel Kotkin, a fellow at the Steven
    L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Bernard M. Baruch College of the
    City University of New York, and a visiting lecturer in history,
    theory, and humanities at the Southern California Institute of

    The 21st century is the first in which a majority of people live in
    cities, he says, but recent technological and demographic changes
    threaten to weaken cities.

    Advances in telecommunications now allow individuals and corporations
    to conduct business from places outside major cities. Small towns and
    suburban areas around cities are drawing more and more professionals
    and businesses out of the city centers, he says. Immigrants and young
    people have traditionally bolstered city populations, but many
    immigrants are choosing to live in outlying areas, he says, and young
    people who start their careers in cities now tend to move out when
    they start families or businesses of their own. And, in many developed
    countries, the younger population is dwindling because of low birth

    Many cities have focused on tourism and entertainment to compensate
    for their losses, but "a busy city must be more than a construct of
    diversions for essentially nomadic populations," he writes. "It
    requires an engaged and committed citizenry with a long-term financial
    and familial stake in the metropolis."

    The needs of cities have not changed much over the millennia they have
    existed, he says, and "to be successful today, urban areas must
    resonate with the ancient fundamentals -- they must be sacred, safe,
    and busy." While cities no longer need to be built around temples or
    identified with particular gods, their citizens should share a sense
    of common purpose and identity, he says. Citizens also need to
    perceive their cities as safe, a special challenge in the face of

    "In the sprawling cities of the developing world, the lack of a
    healthy economy and the absence of a stable political order loom as
    the most pressing problems," he says. But cities in developed
    countries "seem to lack a shared sense of sacred place, civic
    identity, or moral order," he writes. "And the study of urban history
    suggests that affluent cities without moral cohesion or a sense of
    civic identity are doomed to decadence and decline."

    The article, "Will Great Cities Survive?," is adapted from Mr.
    Kotkin's recent book, The City: A Global History (Modern Library,
    2005) and is not online. Information about the journal is available at

    --Kellie Bartlett

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