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Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of…
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Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (1985)

by Kenneth T. Jackson

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Jackson provides a comprehensive analysis of the the move to the suburbs in America. He argues that this is not a new phenomena, but goes back to the nineteenth century. He cites the causes as the abundance of land, distrust of cities, racial tensions and unregulated use of private property. New construction techniques and improvements in transportation were also very important. In particular, the growth of the use of cars allowed greater movement to the suburbs. In addition, federal policy, with public housing and red lining, contributed to suburbanization.

Jackson fluctuates between seeing suburbs as symbiotic and parasitic, with parasitism dominating recent decades. He sees suburbs as a drain on cities, offering very little in return. He appears completely hostile to the car, which is his primary villain in 20th century suburbanization, as it combines mobility and status. Yet he sees hope for the future as land and construction prices go up. Although most of his analysis has become the standard, his predictions have not held up as well. Twenty years later, suburbanization continues with little change in sight. ( )
1 vote Scapegoats | Nov 25, 2009 |
Why does the US look so strange compared to other places with big cities, with failing urban cores surrounded by prosperous (ticklike, even) suburbs? Jackson gives the history of US suburbanization, which started with cheap transportation via streetcars and railroads and exploded with the rise of the automobile. He argues that there were two key preconditions—the suburban ideal of living in detached housing with an automobile (desires he argues are shared widely beyond the US, but the US’s wealth enabled more people to fulfill that ideal) and population growth, making geographic expansion seem desirable. And then there were two fundamental causes: racial prejudice (which led whites to flee cities when they could, and led to government policies that made it easier for whites to flee and harder for minorities, most especially African-Americans, to go anywhere—the government turned prejudice into policy, so that homes in “redlined” areas couldn’t get mortgages and therefore couldn’t help African-Americans build wealth) and cheap housing (also the result of government decisions to subsidize suburbanization, homeownership, and automobile transit, as well as new construction technology, abundant land, and relative wealth). Wealthy developers were allowed to shape government policy, unlike in Europe, so, for example, municipal services were extended to suburbs, often paid for by the cities they were draining.

Very interesting and depressing reading; published in 1984, Jackson makes some predictions about the future of suburbanization that, a quarter-century later, have mostly not been borne out, though they haven’t been disproved either. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Sep 3, 2009 |
Pretty much a classic of American Studies, in which Jackson explores the political, economic, and social aspects of American suburbanization, from the beginnings of suburbs up through the 70s or maybe early 80s. He covers a lot of important issues, such as race relations and white flight, the decay of the downtown (once a shopper's paradise that people from the suburbs made special trips to visit), the role of the government in control over mass transport, and etc. With all the recent urban "revitalization" going on in some of our major cities, it might be time for a new edition? Still solid reading for those interested in urban studies. ( )
  sansmerci | May 6, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195049837, Paperback)

This first full-scale history of the development of the American suburb examines how "the good life" in America came to be equated with the a home of one's own surrounded by a grassy yard and located far from the urban workplace. Integrating social history with economic and architectural analysis, and taking into account such factors as the availability of cheap land, inexpensive building methods, and rapid transportation, Kenneth Jackson chronicles the phenomenal growth of the American suburb from the middle of the 19th century to the present day. He treats communities in every section of the U.S. and compares American residential patterns with those of Japan and Europe. In conclusion, Jackson offers a controversial prediction: that the future of residential deconcentration will be very different from its past in both the U.S. and Europe.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This first full-scale history of the development of the American suburb examines how "the good life" in America came to be equated with the a home of one's own surrounded by a grassy yard and located far from the urban workplace. Integrating social history with economic and architecturalanalysis, and taking into account such factors as the availability of cheap land, inexpensive building methods, and rapid transportation, Kenneth Jackson chronicles the phenomenal growth of the American suburb from the middle of the 19th century to the present day. He treats communities in everysection of the U.S. and compares American residential patterns with those of Japan and Europe. In conclusion, Jackson offers a controversial prediction: that the future of residential deconcentration will be very different from its past in both the U.S. and Europe.… (more)

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