Anthony M. Orum
Department of Sociology College of Liberal Ats and Sciences
Over the past 25 years, there have been massive political and economic changes across the world. Capital moves freely, seeking its most profitable investments. Some people grow wealthy from such investments, but many people do not. The changes have altered the face of urban places, creating in many older industries cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Detroit or Milwaukee a destitute “underclass.” At the same time, there appears to be a growing polarity between the rich and the poor of many cities. These problems are compounded by political disputes, particularly in the United States, between central cities and their fringe areas. This essay reviews four major books on these and related changes, and looks for common threads as well as critical solutions. Among other things, the essay reminds social scientists that the changes are not uniform across the world, and that not every city will be fated to die the death of an old industrial empire. Some older cities have remade themselves, such as Barcelona; newer industrializing cities like Shanghai face other challenges and offer new hope for the future. The solutions for cities will depend on the rich and varied resources history has made available to their residents, and how residents are able to make use f them. In the United States, the capacity of metropolitan places to solve their problems will depend very much on the ability of mainly white suburban residents to view themselves as part of the same moral community as their black and brown brethren living in the inner city.