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systemic con equences because they exerci e real, if constrained, authority over core economic and cultural activitie . New York City offers a test ca e for the relative theoretical sturdine of the e two views. What city ha been more subject to global forces of economic and demographic change? Yet what city ha attempted more governmental intervention, whether through an elaborate local welfare tate, the regulation of hou ing markets, or the promotion of its own economic expansion? The evidence can help us determine the extent to which citie can u e larger forces to chart their own cour e or are merely ubject to them. Skeptics may challenge the a umption that placecentered, interdi ciplinary, historical re earch i badly needed, a well as the belief that ew York i an excellent tarting point for uch work. ew York City' distinctiveness may cau e particular doubt about the latter point. New York i older, larger, denser, and more heterogeneou than other American cities. It is more Roman Catholic than mo t and more Jewish than any. It houses di proportionate number of the rich and poor alike. It ha a larger public labor force, more kinds of public ervices, and greater governmental regulation of housing markets than other cities. And while New York City might be the nation' mo t cosmopolitan city, it al 0 ha parochial world like the Satmar Cha idim in Williamsburg or the Italian-Americans of Bensonhur t. How, then, can New York City be taken a repre entative of anything? We believe that New York City is more archtypical than atypical. By concentrating extreme, it reveals forces, trend , and conflicts that are latent el ewhere. As a world city, it is among the fir t to feel trends ari ing el ewhere. As a center of influential economic, political, and cultural in titutions, it create and propagate widely felt innovation. De pite decentralization and new ource of competition, it ha been economically dominant for more than a century. Its disproportionate influence on national political development continues to today, de pite its dwindling fraction of the national vote. From the political machine (and its Progre ive opponents), to the New Deal, to the liberal reforms of the 1960 and the fi cal crisis of the 1970s, New York has provided a template for national pattern . A third of the foundation dollars, three national network news operations, most of the leading magazine and book publishers, two newspaper with a claim to national tanding, the main art market, and many nationally 6

significant cultural in titutions are all located in New York City. It is urpri ing, then, that New York has received 0 little comprehen ive cholarly attention. Numerou monographs have appeared on particular a peets of the city' hi tory, but they are fragmented and without a common theoretical focu . Scholars have produced more ynthetic work on Bo ton or Chicago, or even on New Haven, than on New York. A quarter century has pa ed ince the la t comprehen ive re earch program on New York City'S political sy tern or its economy. Even if the skeptic rejects the claim that ew York pro ide the ba i for theoretical development in the ocial cience, the need for greater comprehensive scholarly attention can hardly be denied. E. B. White once wrote that "by rights ew York hould have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of orne vital upply line in its circulatory sy tern or from orne deep lab rinthine short circuit."s The essays in Power, Culture, and Place ugge t rea ons why, until now, uch a fate ha been avoided. Es ays by Diane Lind trom (Univer ity of Wi consin), Emanuel Tobier (New York Univer it ), and Norman and Susan Fain tein (Baruch College, City Univer ity of ew York, and Rutger Univer ity, re pectively) provide ample evidence that mercantile, industrial, and postindustrial tran formation posed major ocial challenge . Lindstrom shows that overall economic growth wa accompanied by increa ing cla s inequality in the antebellum period. Tobier demon trate how the tremendous economic drive at the turn of the century produced new tension over land use in the central busine di trict and the expanding outer borough hou ing markets. The Fain teins, in turn, examine how tate intervention to re hape the city to promote corporate function and metropolitan decentralization generated new kinds of conflict. The e es ays give ample evidence that economic development con istently produced conflict-yet fatal cri es never re ulted. One ource of order may emerge from learning to live with di order. Cultural hi torians Peter G. Buckley (The Cooper Union) and William R. Taylor (State University of New York, Stony Brook) examine the cro -class use of public spaces, the forging of treet life, and how the popular culture industry took elected aspects of that street culture and projected them into national discour e. Sociologists William

E. B. White. Here Is Ntw York . New York: Harper & Row. 1949. p. 24. VOLUME

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Profile for SSRC's Items & Issues

Items Vol. 42 No. 3 (1988)  

Items Vol. 42 No. 3 (1988)