cover image Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics

Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics

Kim Phillips-Fein. Metropolitan, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9525-8

Phillips-Fein (Invisible Hands), professor of history at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, makes municipal bonds exciting in this painstakingly researched revisionist account of the 1970s fiscal crisis that shook New York to its core. She argues that, although the city would go on to emerge from the crisis seemingly unscathed, its robust brand of social democratic politics would be lost forever. Paced like a thriller and extremely well written, the book chronicles the slow descent of the city into a fiscal abyss and its unlikely rescue by a group of hardened bureaucrats, altruistic investment bankers, and political power players who formed the Municipal Assistance Corporation. Dubbed “Big MAC,” the committee succeeded in passing austerity measures that gutted the city’s public services and institutions while restoring fiscal health—but at the cost of reorienting city politics towards the wealthy and paving the way for the glittering, profoundly unequal “hard-edged city” of today. Phillips-Fein narrates with almost cinematic flair, and by the time the credits roll, the significance of her accomplishment becomes clear. The book should be required reading for all those interested in the past, present, and future of democratic politics. [em](Apr.) [/em]