Cities Are Abnormal by Elmer Peterson


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This is a high-quality facsimile reprint of the 1946 edition of “Cities Are Abnormal”:

Cities are abnormal! So say twelve leading Americans, who present in this volume the case for decentralization, not of the metropolis alone, but of our entire economic and social life.

For two decades or more, sociologists, industrialists, and medical men have been urging with increasing vigor that the big city, with its congestion, uneconomical pyramiding, and separation from the ultimate consumer, is not the goal towards, which we should strive. Decentralization, the hold, is desirable — perhaps inevitable — on economic grounds, and as a means to a happier, healthier life, it can make the difference between success and failure for millions of Americans.

The big city has gone far beyond the requirements of the Industrial Revolution which gave the original impetus to its growth. In an age of rapid transportation and communication, the striving for numbers is an anachronism. As things now stand, it can be said that the larger cities of America have reached, both literally and figuratively, the crest of a vertical wave.

Decentralization as it is here presented is no blueprint for a future Utopia. It means the development of smaller communities in the vast intervals between the great cities of the United States. It looks to a more intimate connection between the production of raw materials and their manufacture and distribution, a better balance between industry and agriculture, and the achievement of values and stability which an urban-congested industrialism has not been able to develop.

Today, more than three-quarters of our population is urban based. Security for millions of people is thus bound up with urban production and an hourly wage. That such security is extremely tenuous is proved by the history of the past fifty years. At a time when the whole of our economic and cultural fabric is up for review, the present structure of our civilization cannot but point a moral for dwellers in cities and tillers of the soil alike.

Contributors include Louis Bromfield, Jonathan Forman, Ladd Haystead, Henry L Kamphoefner, S C McConahey, H C Nixon, J J Rhyne, Paul B Sears, Roy L Smith, Warren S Thompson, Paul L Vogt


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