Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of City Life

Eric Klinenberg. Crown, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5247-6116-5
Sociologist Klinenberg (coauthor of Modern Romance) presents an illuminating examination of “social infrastructure,” the physical spaces and organizations that shape the way people interact. Touring libraries, playgrounds, churches, barbershops, cafés, athletic fields, and community gardens, Klinenberg identifies the ways such spaces help prevent crime, reduce addiction rates, contribute to economic growth, and even ameliorate problems caused by climate change. He visits geothermal pools in Iceland, open to the public day and night, which provide a place for people to commingle despite the frigid weather; the Metropolitan Oval soccer complex in Queens, N.Y., where for the past 90 years local youth of all backgrounds have played sports; and the floating schools and libraries located on the riverbanks around Bangladesh that host courses on literacy, sustainable agriculture, and disaster survival, while also providing shelter to citizens unable to afford conventional protection from the region’s catastrophic floods. Klinenberg’s observations are effortlessly discursive and always cogent, whether covering the ways playgrounds instill youth with civic values or a Chicago architect’s plans to transform a police station into a community center. He persuasively illustrates the vital role these spaces play in repairing civic life “in an era characterized by urgent social needs and gridlock stemming from political polarization.” (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/16/2018
Release date: 09/11/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-1-5247-6117-2
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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