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Power, Culture and Place

Power, Culture and Place: Essays on New York City

John Hull Mollenkopf EDITOR
Copyright Date: 1988
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Power, Culture and Place
    Book Description:

    With a population and budget exceeding that of many nations, a central position in the world's cultural and corporate networks, and enormous concentrations off wealth and poverty, New York City intensifies interactions among social forces that elsewhere may be hidden or safely separated. The essays inPower, Culture, and Placerepresent the first comprehensive program of research on this city in a quarter century.

    Focusing on three historical transformations-the mercantile, industrial, and postindustrial-several contributors explore economic growth and change and the social conflicts that accompanied them. Other papers suggest how popular culture, public space, and street life served as sources of order amidst conflict and disorder. Essays on politics and pluralism offer further reflections on how social tensions are harnessed in the framework of political participation. By examining the intersection of economics, culture, and politics in a shared spatial context, these multidisciplinary essays not only illuminate the City's fascinating and complex development, but also highlight the significance of a sense of "place" for social research.

    It has been said that cities gave birth to the social sciences, exemplifying and propagating dramatic social changes and proving ideal laboratories for the study of social patterns and their evolution. As John Mollenkopf and his colleagues argue, New York City remains the quintessential case in point.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-403-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
    John Hull Mollenkopf

    This volume uses the special vantage point of New York City to explore the economic, political, and cultural facets of urban development in the United States. While focusing on these themes within the city, it also asks how developments in the nation’s largest and most important city have helped shape broader patterns throughout this country and the world. The contributors do not attempt to resolve long-standing debates about the relative importance of economic, political, and cultural factors in explaining social development, but they do try to frame the crucial issues concerning the interaction of these factors during the mercantile, industrial,...


    • 1 Economic Structure, Demographic Change, and Income Inequality in Antebellum New York
      (pp. 3-24)
      Diane Lindstrom

      The years from 1815 to 1860 brought unprecedented and sweeping economic change to the United States. Surging nonagricultural output accelerated the nation’s underlying growth rate. Vigorous capital investment in new technologies fueled the rise of manufacturing and mining. It also precipitated a sharp shift toward greater income and wealth inequality. By the eve of the Civil War, the distinctly modern patterns of industrialization, rapid economic growth, and substantial income inequality were fully shaped.

      This transformation vitally affected American cities. Urban areas increasingly attracted nonagricultural employment; cities had traditionally housed services, but now they began to accommodate growing shares of manufacturing....

    • 2 Culture, Class, and Place in Antebellum New York
      (pp. 25-52)
      Peter G. Buckley

      New York City witnessed changes of unprecedented scale between 1820 and 1860. The dimensions of this demographic, economic, and spatial transformation have been finely sketched by Diane Lindstrom, among others. This period encompassed the highest decennial rate of urbanization ever experienced by an American city: an almost ninefold increase in population, from a town containing 120,000 people to a metropolitan area of over one million. New York established and maintained both mercantile and manufacturing supremacy over its rivals, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. The early introduction of regular packet lines secured a near monopoly of information encounters with Europe. The line...

    • 3 Rethinking the Origins of Machine Politics
      (pp. 53-74)
      Amy Bridges

      Like Topsy, machine politics “just grew” in the United States. For nearly a century, it was the characteristic form of American city government. Although political development theorists have recently analyzed corruption, patronage, and personalistic leadership in a number of countries, machine politics was long seen to be—as indeed it was—a peculiarly American phenomenon. As a result, Americanists have sought to explain the political machine in terms of the outstanding peculiarities of the United States. Some see the purportedly nonideological style of the machine as the urban counterpart of the liberal tradition, equally grounded in absence of class consciousness....


    • 4 Manhattan’s Business District in the Industrial Age
      (pp. 77-106)
      Emanuel Tobier

      “Nothing is greater or more brilliant than commerce; it … fills the imagination of the multitude; all energetic passions are directed towards it.” This is the way Alexis de Tocqueville characterized theélan vitalthat differentiated American society from its Old World contemporaries.¹ Its glow was nowhere more effulgent, its promises more boundless (though for most, in reality, bounded) than in nineteenth century New York. Only briefly the political capital, the city owed its undoubted and early primacy among American metropolises to its continuously demonstrated ability to attract and nurture the movers and shakers of a rising capitalist economy.²


    • 5 The Launching of a Commercial Culture: New York City, 1860–1930
      (pp. 107-134)
      William R. Taylor

      In the fifty years between 1880 and 1930, New York outdistanced other large American cities in the vigor and creativity of its commercial culture. No other American city matched the range of entertainment, theater, nightlife, and other forms of recreation that were available in New York during these years. Wealthy elites in New York, as in other cities, established cultural institutions, clubs, museums, concert halls, and opera houses that provided the usual ties with similar elites elsewhere. New York’s large working population found expression for its political, ethnic, and economic concerns in union halls; ethnic, trade, and neighborhood associations; and...

    • 6 Political Incorporation and Containment: Regime Transformation in New York City
      (pp. 135-158)
      Martin Shefter

      During the decades following the Civil War, Tammany Hall became the most powerful political organization in New York. From the 1890s to the 1930s, political competition in the metropolis largely took the form of periodic struggles between machine politicians belonging to or allied with Tammany, and political coalitions that rallied against them in the name of reform. By contrast, during the decades following World War II, the influence of the city’s regular Democratic party organizations was considerably diminished. Wallace Sayre and Herbert Kaufman, in their authoritative studyGoverning New York City, depict politics in the metropolis during these years as...


    • 7 Governing Regimes and the Political Economy of Development in New York City, 1946–1984
      (pp. 161-200)
      Norman I. Fainstein and Susan S. Fainstein

      At the end of World War II, New York City was a predominantly white industrial city.* Forty years later, almost half of all New Yorkers are either black or Hispanic and the local economy is largely service-based (Tables 7.1 and 7.2). Such massive demographic and economic alteration has inevitably triggered struggles over territory and the direction of development policy within a changing political arena. This essay analyzes the case of New York in light of a more general periodization of the politics of development in American cities during the postwar period.

      Long-term tendencies and short-term policy initiatives must be distinguished...

    • 8 White Ethnicity: Ecological Dimensions
      (pp. 201-222)
      William Kornblum and James Beshers

      This essay deals with people and cultures at the city’s rim. The people we describe live mainly along the shore in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, but we will focus specifically on communities along Jamaica Bay. The residents of these communities are sometimes lumped together as middle class “white ethnics” since they are predominantly white New Yorkers of Italian, Irish, and Jewish ethnic heritage. But this label assumes more than is actually known about their cultures, their communities, and their class identifications. In this essay, therefore, we will look first at the ecological ordering of white ethnic...

    • 9 The Postindustrial Transformation of the Political Order in New York City
      (pp. 223-258)
      John Hull Mollenkopf

      New York City’s economy and society have undergone a profound and often painful transformation since the mid-1950s. At the end of World War II, New York was clearly a white, ethnic, blue collar, industrial city, despite the importance of its office sector. Today, high level business service activities drive the city’s economy and its industrial base suffers from seemingly endless decline. The white, blue collar working class has aged and greatly diminished in size. Those of its children who remain in the city hold positions in the higher occupational ranks of the stronger economic sectors, particularly the business professions.



    • 10 Metropolitan Life and the Making of Public Culture
      (pp. 261-272)
      Thomas Bender

      What has long been needed in studies of New York and other great cities is some integrating concept to help scholars—whatever their discipline and specialization—pull together what is known and enable them to orient their future work better to the larger community of scholars studying the same city. The series of conferences out of which these essays emerged sought to address this problem. Each of the essays seeks to reach beyond the discipline and problems that initiated it. But it is as a group that one best appreciates the accomplishments of these essays. Their collective implication is the...

    • 11 The Place of Politics and the Politics of Place
      (pp. 273-284)
      John Hull Mollenkopf

      Two themes in this volume intertwine to produce an interesting paradox. One concerns the declining ability of party organizations to moderate or stabilize the explosive potential of class inequalities produced by New York City’s development. In the mercantile and industrial eras, the regular county party organizations provided the central means for mediating such conflicts. They forged inter-class and interethnic political accommodations, selectively articulated some forms of political expression while dampening others, and provided the only route to ongoing political power. The regular party organizations still exist and exercise influence today, but they contrast greatly with the situation a century, or...

    • 12 Reflections on Space and the City
      (pp. 285-300)
      Ira Katznelson

      Max Weber had little to say as a social theorist about New York, Chicago, St. Louis, and the other large cities he saw during his visit to the United States in 1904. But he made clear in his diary entries that these cities served as a metaphor for capitalist modernity: magnificently though frightfully fragmented, “a mad pell-mell,” extraordinarily unequal, characterized by “a tremendous intensity of work,” loosely integrated, composed of a mosaic of nationalities each in its own territory, yet marked by an uncaring individuality. “Undoubtedly one could take ill and die without anyone caring!” He was struck too by...

  8. Name Index
    (pp. 301-308)
  9. Subject Index
    (pp. 309-320)