In review of Triumph of the City, summary of how city dwellers view the suburbs

As he reviews the new book Triumph of the City, a reviewer summarizes how city dwellers view the suburbs:

But look past the rhetorical flourishes, and you see an ambivalent verdict on post-1960s urban policy: It is often the actors most philosophically “urbanist” in intent that are the most deleteriously anti-city in effect. Mr. Glaeser brings us, in striking detail, a gated subdivision in the Houston outskirts called “The Woodlands.” The city dweller’s inborn cultural revulsion to the place is the stuff of any number of Sundance dramas: the sterility of the McMansions, the moral vacuity of the micropolitics, the ecological nihilism of the SUVs. But the appeal of such prefab townlets—one million people have moved to the Houston area since 2000—has little to do with culture; the Sun Belt beckons because urban California and the Northeast have radically distorted the market for any city’s most crucial commodity: property.

These complaints about suburbia do seem to be commonly found in Sundance-type dramas, books, and music. This is practically its own genre: the “average person” (often middle to upper class whites) finds emptiness in sparkling (but shallow) suburbia yet comes alive when encountering something different than white, crass, depressing suburbia. But as the reviewer notes, there are reasons that people move to places like Houston.

(A condensed version of this book’s argument, particularly about how skyscrapers will help the city thrive,  can be found here.)

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