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The Politics of Public Space by Setha Low

The Politics of Public Space

by Setha Low

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Setha Low and Neil Smith, as editors and contributors to "The Politics of Public Space," create an intriguing and often thought-provoking exploration of our ideas of public spaces and public commons. Their context, they explain up front, is "the broad decay of twentieth-century American liberalism" which has led to a "restructuring of what counts as public space today" (p. 1). They and their colleagues, throughout the book, make us think about the repercussions of privatizing public spaces (e.g., when a conservancy plays a primary role in managing a public asset such as New York's Central Park, or when merchants form business districts and, in the process, focus on the commercial aspects of an area to the exclusion of those who might detract from the commercial value of their property). They lead us through questions about what we gain in terms of security and what we lose in terms of public access to tax-supported public spaces through the ever-increasing number of gated communities--and even leave us wondering whether those gated communities ultimately contribute much to the development of collaborations and other interactions that foster strong communities. The final essay, by Don Mitchell and Lynn Staeheli, uses the theme of "Property Redevelopment, Public Space, and Homelessness in Downtown San Diego" to tackle the wicked problem of how to approach public space in terms of the competing interests interwoven throughout the book, and ultimately leaves us with the uneasy feeling that we are far from having resolved the challenges we face in defining and using the public spaces we claim to cherish yet so often take for granted. ( )
  paulsignorelli | Jan 22, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0415951399, Paperback)

Why is public space disappearing? Why is this disappearance important to democratic politics and how has it become an international phenomenon? Public spaces are no longer democratic spaces, but instead centres of private commerce and consumption, and even surveillance and police control. "The Politics of Public Space" extends the focus of current work on public space to include a consideration of the transnational - in the sense of moving people and transformations in the nation or state - to expand our definition of the 'public' and public space. Ultimately, public spaces are one of the last democratic forums for public dissent in a civil society. Without these significant central public spaces, individuals cannot directly participate in conflict resolution. "The Politics of Public Space" assembles a superb list of contributors to explore the important political dimensions of public space as a place where conflicts over cultural and political objectives become concrete.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:13 -0400)

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