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Cities in the Urban Age

A Dissent

We live in a self-proclaimed Urban Age, where we celebrate the city as the source of economic prosperity, a nurturer of social and cultural diversity, and a place primed for democracy. We proclaim the city as the fertile ground from which progress will arise. Without cities, we tell ourselves, human civilization would falter and decay. In Cities in the Urban Age, Robert A. Beauregard argues that this line of thinking is not only hyperbolic—it is too celebratory by half.

For Beauregard, the city is a cauldron for four haunting contradictions. First, cities are equally defined by both their wealth and their poverty. Second, cities are simultaneously environmentally destructive and yet promise sustainability. Third, cities encourage rule by political machines and oligarchies, even as they are essentially democratic and at least nominally open to all. And fourth, city life promotes tolerance among disparate groups, even as the friction among them often erupts into violence. Beauregard offers no simple solutions or proposed remedies for these contradictions; indeed, he doesn’t necessarily hold that they need to be resolved, since they are generative of city life. Without these four tensions, cities wouldn’t be cities. Rather, Beauregard argues that only by recognizing these ambiguities and contradictions can we even begin to understand our moral obligations, as well as the clearest paths toward equality, justice, and peace in urban settings.

224 pages | 12 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Geography: Urban Geography

History: Urban History

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology


“Highly recommended. . .[Cities in the Urban Age] provides an interesting counter perspective to much of contemporary urban scholarship. It will be of strongest interest to students and scholars of urban studies and urban planning as well as urban sociology.”


“In fewer than 200 pages, Beauregard offers a text that is well structured, highly readable, theoretically subtle, and rich in citations. It introduces the reader to complex ideas and scholarship in urban studies, replete with examples that illustrate practical problems of cities. . . .Cities in the Urban Age elevates the importance of engaging with the problems, struggles, and political dimensions of cities and urban life. Dissenting from contemporary urban scholarship, Beauregard challenges narratives of cities as manifestations of social, economic, democratic, and environmental progress.”

Journal of Urban Affairs

“Robert Beauregard has created an elegantly written, cogently framed distillation of the ‘urban problem’—persuading us to weigh the overwhelming physical presence and environmental costs of cities against their potential to pursue the common good. This is a most thoughtful guide to the moral choices that cities face.”

Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places

Table of Contents

1 The City
2 Wealth, Poverty
3 Destructive, Sustainable
4 Oligarchic, Democratic
5 Intolerant, Tolerant
6 Encountering Contradictions

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