Michael B. Katz


On his book Why Don't American Cities Burn?

Cover Interview of February 05, 2012


I want readers to take away at least four things from this book.

- An understanding of urban transformation and its consequences. To comprehend the world in which we live we need to toss out older ideas of city, suburb, and urban. The exercise is not just intellectual. It is necessary if we are to develop policies to respond to the situation as it is, not as it was not so very long ago.

- An ability to criticize statements that attribute poverty to the failings of individuals. By this point in history, it should be clear that the attribution of poverty to personal defect along with the hoary idea of the undeserving poor are intellectually bankrupt and incapable of pointing the way to effective strategies for substantially reducing the unacceptable extent of poverty in America.

- An appreciation of the positive role of government and a healthy skepticism about the ability of privatization and policies based on market-models to solve major social problems. The denigration of government is one of the most corrosive public trends in recent American history. Its ugly consequences are all around us. Without strong, effective government, a vibrant, successful democracy is impossible.

- A willingness to reject the idea that there is no alternative. TINA, as the late Daniel Singer called the idea, is a powerful ideological control mechanism for disabling protest and creative thinking about possibilities for change and alternative policies. Alternatives always have existed, as they do today; the question is whether we have the imagination and will to make them happen.