The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Future of Our Urban Crisis
Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1970. Octavo. Original cloth and dust jacket (not price-clipped). Minor wear to dust jacket, including to head and spine, else near-fine. Fine in near-fine dust jacket. Item #85
A fine first printing of Edward C. Banfield’s (1916–1999) controversial exploration of urban policy and the problems that plague the American city. Banfield was a political scientist who began his academic career at the University of Chicago where he taught alongside fellow scholars (and friends) Leo Strauss and Milton Friedman before moving to Harvard University in 1959. Banfield specialized in urban politics, city planning, and civic culture, and published a number of foundational works on urban policy and culture, including The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (1958) and, perhaps his best-known work, The Unheavenly City (1970). In addition to his scholarship, Banfield worked for several federal government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Farm Security Administration, which allowed him to observe the effects of government policy and the disjunction between policy goals and results. Although an early supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal, Banfield grew skeptical of government intervention and the efficacy of government aid programs. His subsequent scholarship served as a catalyst for the “broken window theory” of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder—a theory later popularized by his mentee James Q. Wilson in his famous Atlantic article “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety,” coauthored with George L. Kelling in 1982. In The Unheavenly City, Banfield acknowledges in the preface that “this book will probably strike many readers as the work of an ill-tempered and mean-spirited fellow.” His object was to write a serious, forthright book about contemporary urban problems, and his conclusions offered a stark rebuttal to the governmental interventionism of his (and our) day. Banfield’s core message was that utopian policies designed to fix America’s deteriorating urban centers (including housing projects, urban renewal programs, and mass transit policies) would not only fail, but would exacerbate the plight of the urban poor and intensify urban decay. Publication of The Unheavenly City provoked intense discussion among students, scholars, policymakers, and the general public, and it remains one of the most widely read and debated books on American urban policy to this day. Named by National Review as one of the top 100 non-fiction books of the twentieth century, this uncommonly bright first printing remains a seminal work of urban policy and cultural analysis.