The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life

The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life

Paperback

By (author) Richard Sennett

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  • Publisher: WW Norton & Co
  • Format: Paperback | 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 216mm x 15mm | 295g
  • Publication date: 9 February 1993
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0393309096
  • ISBN 13: 9780393309096
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 649,251

Product description

The distinguished social critic Richard Sennett here shows how the excessively ordered community freezes adults-both the young idealists and their security-oriented parents-into rigid attitudes that stifle personal growth. He argues that the accepted ideal of order generates patterns of behavior among the urban middle classes that are stultifying, narrow, and violence-prone. And he proposes a functioning city that can incorporate anarchy, diversity, and creative disorder to bring into being adults who can openly respond to and deal with the challenges of life.

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Author information

Richard Sennett teaches sociology at the London School of Economics and New York University

Editorial reviews

A slight disorder, perhaps more than a slight disorder, in the city's dress is what sociologist Richard Sennett argues for in this very readable view of the sickness of our cities. Sennett feels that there is a prevailing philosophy of purity in Americans, one not unrelated to the Puritan ethic, but based now on a society of abundance in which each isolated middle-class family can retreat to its insulated high-rise apartment or house in the suburbs. This purity manifests itself in isolation and avoidance of conflict. It is a don't-touch-me attitude based on fear. If instead, when the conflict of exploration versus self-protection first occurs in adolescence, youth were encouraged to explore and to learn that there are no simple answers, the result would be a maturing quality. With the discovery of one's own vulnerability comes that of the vulnerability of others - I can't control him but he can't control me either. Translating these existential ideas to the urban setting, Sennett suggests that the very last thing one wants is to have city planners organize a city along functional lines, erasing variety and substituting simplistic monotony. There was much virtue in the old neighborhoods where people met face to face and occasionally hand to hand, Sennett believes. Naturally he would not restore them - he is no slum romantic - but what he dreams of is a return of power to the citizen, a sense of commitment and involvement. His ideas of how to achieve this sense are strongly anarchic in flavor and probably shocking to many, but the basic description of the illness and prescription seem very sound indeed. (Kirkus Reviews)