In Part One of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, the main idea that he is trying to convey to the reader pertains to the placelessness of political theory and how the changes in society over time have led to a shift in the civic map. These two topics lead to the big picture name attributed to part one: The Geography of Politics. While this sounds like a rather abstract topic to someone without any previous exposure to it, but Fleming presents many arguments that really provide the reader with concrete examples of how politics has a geographical setup, even if it’s not voluntary.
In the first chapter of the book, Fleming turns the reader’s attention to a concept called political theory. He first, however, briefly summarizes the evolution of politics over time in the US and states that today, Americans aren’t defined by race, ethnicity or gender, but by their political views (20). Fleming also adds that the country has worked hard to provide equal opportunity to all its citizens, but that behind the equality lies a political game of interests. He exemplifies this by referring to the citizenship process, in which he believes that while it does play a small role in the so-called Standards, future citizens must convince that they believe in the “American political principles” (21). While this is only one of the many themes that Fleming approaches in the first chapter, it is interesting to see how accurate it is when considering today’s society. The results of the past elections only serve to confirm his belief that the country is now separated politically. Now more than ever it feels like it’s a “us against them” battle.
David Fleming also addresses liberalism and republicanism geographically. While he considers the concept of republicanism more involved in politics than liberalism, it doesn’t mean that liberals aren’t seeking personal benefits. Fleming believes that the liberal approach to “politics often becomes too thin”, since they’re only involved in what they consider beneficial to themselves (27). Geographically, Fleming believes that these groups differ greatly. While republicans strive in public places, liberals are better off in the comfort of their homes or other private spaces. He even labels liberals as “ageographical”, since they lack the social content and participation in public spaces (27).
Overall, the main idea Fleming tries to pass on to the reader at the end of chapter one is that even though the political word is constantly changing, one thing remains the same: space. He labels it as the “persistence of space”, and conveys to the reader that space does in fact matter and that society makes judgments based on different locations (32). This concept together with the two above compose is that politics is constantly changing. As society evolves, so does politics and by analyzing the evolution one can understand trends and events that are happening at this time.
Fleming, David. City of rhetoric: revitalizing the public sphere in metropolitan America. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009. Print.