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David Dinkins and New York City Politics

Race, Images, and the Media

As the first African American elected mayor of New York City, David Dinkins underwent intense scrutiny—first from the black community, then from white liberal supporters, the media, and the city’s electorate. Wilbur C. Rich focuses on the critical role played by the New York City media in the perception of mayoral leadership. Using interviews and words of journalists, Rich examines media coverage as both the architect and challenger of Dinkins’ image. The making and unmaking of David Dinkins not only exposes much about the agency of African American politicians, but also reveals the fragility of electoral coalitions.

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Deflecting Immigration

Networks, Markets, and Regulation in Los Angeles

As international travel became cheaper and national economies grew more connected over the past thirty years, millions of people from the Third World emigrated to richer countries. A tenth of the population of Mexico relocated to the United States between 1980 and 2000. Globalization theorists claimed that reception cities could do nothing about this trend, since nations make immigration policy, not cities. In Deflecting Immigration, sociologist Ivan Light shows how Los Angeles reduced the sustained, high-volume influx of poor Latinos who settled there by deflecting a portion of the migration to other cities in the United States. In this manner, Los Angeles tamed globalization’s local impact, and helped to nationalize what had been a regional immigration issue. Los Angeles deflected immigration elsewhere in two ways. First, the protracted network-driven settlement of Mexicans naturally drove up rents in Mexican neighborhoods while reducing immigrants’ wages, rendering Los Angeles a less attractive place to settle. Second, as migration outstripped the city’s capacity to absorb newcomers, Los Angeles gradually became poverty-intolerant. By enforcing existing industrial, occupational, and housing ordinances, Los Angeles shut down some unwanted sweatshops and reduced slums. Their loss reduced the metropolitan region’s accessibility to poor immigrants without reducing its attractiveness to wealthier immigrants. Additionally, ordinances mandating that homes be built on minimum-sized plots of land with attached garages made home ownership in L.A.’s suburbs unaffordable for poor immigrants and prevented low-cost rental housing from being built. Local rules concerning home occupancy and yard maintenance also prevented poor immigrants from crowding together to share housing costs. Unable to find affordable housing or low-wage jobs, approximately one million Latinos were deflected from Los Angeles between 1980 and 2000. The realities of a new global economy are still unfolding, with uncertain consequences for the future of advanced societies, but mass migration from the Third World is unlikely to stop in the next generation. Deflecting Immigration offers a shrewd analysis of how America’s largest immigrant destination independently managed the challenges posed by millions of poor immigrants and, in the process, helped focus attention on immigration as an issue of national importance.

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Degraded Work

The Struggle at the Bottom of the Labor Market

Marc Doussard

Critics on the left and the right typically agree that globalization, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the expansion of the service sector have led to income inequality and rising numbers of low-paying jobs with poor working conditions.

In Degraded Work, Marc Doussard demonstrates that this decline in wages and working conditions is anything but the unavoidable result of competitive economic forces. Rather, he makes the case that service sector and other local-serving employers have boosted profit with innovative practices to exploit workers, demeaning their jobs in new ways—denying safety equipment, fining workers for taking scheduled breaks, requiring unpaid overtime—that go far beyond wage cuts. Doussard asserts that the degradation of service work is a choice rather than an inevitability, and he outlines concrete steps that can be taken to help establish a fairer postindustrial labor market.

Drawing on fieldwork in Chicago, Degraded Work examines changes in two industries in which inferior job quality is assumed to be intrinsic: residential construction and food retail. In both cases, Doussard shows how employers degraded working conditions as part of a successful and intricate strategy to increase profits. Arguing that a growing service sector does not have to mean growing inequality, Doussard proposes creative policy and organizing opportunities that workers and advocates can use to improve job quality despite the overwhelming barriers to national political action.

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Democracy's Lot

Rhetoric, Publics, and the Places of Invention

Candice Rai’s Democracy’s Lot is an incisive exploration of the limitations and possibilities of democratic discourse for resolving conflicts in urban communities. Rai roots her study of democratic politics and publics in a range of urban case studies focused on public art, community policing, and urban development. These studies examine the issues that erupted within an ethnically and economically diverse Chicago neighborhood over conflicting visions for a vacant lot called Wilson Yard. Tracing how residents with disparate agendas organized factions and deployed language, symbols, and other rhetorical devices in the struggle over Wilson Yard’s redevelopment and other contested public spaces, Rai demonstrates that rhetoric is not solely a tool of elite communicators, but rather a framework for understanding the agile communication strategies that are improvised in the rough-and-tumble work of democratic life.
 
Wilson Yard, a lot eight blocks north of Wrigley Field in Chicago’s gentrifying Uptown neighborhood, is a diverse enclave of residents enlivened by recent immigrants from Guatemala, Mexico, Vietnam, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. The neighborhood’s North Broadway Street witnesses a daily multilingual hubbub of people from a wide spectrum of income levels, religions, sexual identifications, and interest groups. When a fire left the lot vacant, this divided community projected on Wilson Yard disparate and conflicting aspirations, the resolution of which not only determined the fate of this particular urban space, but also revealed the lot of democracy itself as a process of complex problem-solving. Rai’s detailed study of one block in an iconic American city brings into vivid focus the remarkable challenges that beset democratic urban populations anywhere on the globe—and how rhetoric supplies a framework to understand and resolve those challenges.
 
Based on exhaustive field work, Rai uses rhetorical ethnography to study competing publics, citizenship, and rhetoric in action, exploring “rhetorical invention,” the discovery or development by individuals of the resources or methods of engaging with and persuading others. She builds a case for democratic processes and behaviors based not on reflexive idealism but rather on the hard work and practice of democracy, which must address apathy, passion, conflict, and ambivalence.

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Desegregating the City

Ghettos, Enclaves, and Inequality

Desegregating the City takes a global, multidisciplinary look at segregation and the strengths and weaknesses of different antisegregation strategies in the United States and other developed countries. In contrast to previous works focusing exclusively on racial ghettos (products of coercion), this book also discusses ethnic enclaves (products of choice) in cities like Belfast, Toronto, Amsterdam, and New York. Since 9/11 the ghetto-enclave distinction has become blurred as crime and disorder have emanated from both European immigrant ethnic enclaves and America’s ghettos. The contributors offer a variety of tools for addressing the problems of racial and income segregation, including school integration, area-based “fair share” housing requirements, place-based mixed-income housing development, and expanded demand-side residential subsidy options such as housing vouchers. By exploring these alternatives and their consequences, Desegregating the City provides the basis for a combination of flexible antisegregation strategies.

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Designing Gotham

West Point Engineers and the Rise of Modern New York, 1817-1898

by Jon Scott Logel

Between 1817 and 1898, New York City evolved from a vital Atlantic port of trade to the center of American commerce and culture. With this rapid commercial growth and cultural development, New York came to epitomize a nineteenth-century metropolis. Although this important urban transformation is well documented, the critical role of select Union soldiers turned New York engineers has, until now, remained largely unexplored. In Designing Gotham, Jon Scott Logel examines the fascinating careers of George S. Greene, Egbert L. Viele, John Newton, Henry Warner Slocum, and Fitz John Porter, all of whom studied engineering at West Point, served in the United States Army during the Civil War, and later advanced their civilian careers and status through the creation of Victorian New York. These influential cadets trained at West Point in the nation’s first engineering school, a program designed by Sylvanus Thayer and Dennis Hart Mahan that would shape civil engineering in New York and beyond. After the war, these industrious professionals leveraged their education and military experience to wield significant influence during New York’s social, economic, and political transformation. Logel examines how each engineer’s Civil War service shaped his contributions to postwar activities in the city, including the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, the creation of Central Park, and the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. Logel also delves into the administration of New York’s municipal departments, in which Military Academy alumni interacted with New York elites, politicians, and civilian-trained engineers. Examining the West Pointers’ experiences—as cadets, military officers during the war, and New Yorkers—Logel assesses how these men impacted the growing metropolis, the rise of professionalization, and the advent of Progressivism at the end of the century.

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Designing Our Way to a Better World

Thomas Fisher

Envisioning what we need, when it doesn’t yet exist: this, Thomas Fisher tells us, is what design does. And if what we need now is a better world—functioning schools, working infrastructure, thriving cities—why not design one? Fisher shows how the principles of design apply to services and systems that seem to evolve naturally, systems whose failures sometimes seem as arbitrary and inevitable as the weather. But the “invisible” systems we depend on for our daily lives (in education, politics, economics, and public health) are designed every bit as much as the products we buy and the environments we inhabit—and are just as susceptible to creative reimagining.

Designing Our Way to a Better World challenges the assumptions that have led to so much poor performance in the public and private realms: that our schools cannot teach creativity, that our governments cannot predict the disasters that befall us, that our health system will protect us from pandemics, that our politics will remain polarized, that our economy cannot avoid inequality, and that our industry cannot help but pollute the environment. Targeting these assumptions, Fisher's approach reveals the power of design to synthesize our knowledge about the world into greater wholes. In doing so, this book opens up possible futures—and better futures—than the unsustainable and inequitable one we now face.


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Detroit Divided

Unskilled workers once flocked to Detroit, attracted by manufacturing jobs paying union wages, but the passing of Detroit's manufacturing heyday has left many of those workers stranded. Manufacturing continues to employ high-skilled workers, and new work can be found in suburban service jobs, but the urban plants that used to employ legions of unskilled men are a thing of the past. The authors explain why white auto workers adjusted to these new conditions more easily than blacks. Taking advantage of better access to education and suburban home loans, white men migrated into skilled jobs on the city's outskirts, while blacks faced the twin barriers of higher skill demands and hostile suburban neighborhoods. Some blacks have prospered despite this racial divide: a black elite has emerged, and the shift in the city toward municipal and service jobs has allowed black women to approach parity of earnings with white women. But Detroit remains polarized racially, economically, and geographically to a degree seen in few other American cities.  

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