Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City - Richard Sennett

Staff Pick

Starting with his definition of a city as both a physical place and a mentality, Sennett is a critic of distinctions. Elucidating the claims of both the ville and the cité, describing the differences between boundaries and borders, defining sociability and sociality, and, most of all, advocating an open city (flexible, porous, resilient democratic) as opposed to a closed one (rigid, controlling, prescribed, authoritarian),  Sennett gives a brilliant survey of what cities have been, are, and might be, all in the service of establishing “an ethics” of these built environments that can perhaps solve some of the problems—inequality, racism—that the social sciences cannot.  Both an urbanist and an urbanite himself, Sennett balances abstractions with the real experiences of people in cities. His book takes us to today’s Shanghai, New York, Barcelona, Medellín, and Berlin, showing how different forms of grid patterns work, observing how people interact with strangers and noting which kinds of strangers are likely to encounter each other. He studies urban modes of empathy and aloofness and gives a quick lesson in proxemics: the science of how people choose to clump. Sennett is as wide-ranging intellectually as he is geographically. From St. Augustine to Google, his reference points include Lucretius and Tocqueville, Kant and Heidegger, nineteenth-century French novels and Teju Cole’s 2011 Open City, along with the more predictable Jane Jacobs, Lewis Mumford, and Le Corbusier. Like a great city itself, this book is lively, surprising, and teeming with things to notice and think about.

Building and Dwelling: Ethics for the City By Richard Sennett Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374200336
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - April 10th, 2018