The Uses of Disorder

The Uses of Disorder : Personal Identity and City Life

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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 more

Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 139.7 x 215.9 x 15.2mm | 294.84g
  • WW Norton & Co
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0393309096
  • 9780393309096
  • 570,512

About Richard Sennett

Richard Sennett's books include The Corrosion of Character, Flesh and Stone, and Respect. He was the founding director of the New York Institute for the Humanities and now teaches sociology at New York University and at the London School of more

Review Text

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)show more