In this chapter of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Fleming exposes the negative environmental underbelly of the American ideal that every man is responsible for the level of success they achieve in their lifetime. Fleming counters this in a way, noting the environmental advantages and disadvantages of those raised in drastically different environments. Fleming uses low and high income neighborhoods to further his claim. In this segment of the chapter, Fleming adds another layer to the idealistic idea of pure self-sufficiency equating to success. Fleming eludes to the fact that while the individual does act in accordance to their own free will, they are caged by their environment immensely, which limits many.
Fleming also addresses the separation between the person and their environment and how this separation has become further defined in the last few years. Fleming Supports stratification with, “We have therefore learned to treat our ties to the physical world as superficial” (185). In this, Fleming describes the weakened ties between one and their environment and how these weakened ties affect the behavior of an individual. Fleming goes on further this theory regarding behavioral pattern and environment, stating that behaviors no longer hinge on environments for many, and that the actions of an individual in many cases would not differ based on the “background” of their environment.
In section two, chapter six of David Fleming’s, City of Rhetoric, Fleming focuses on the concept of ‘New Urbanism”. Fleming describes the concept of mixed urbanism as the implementation of “socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods” (123). These socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods where introduced through the construction of townhouses with the intention of a mixed buyer market from different socioeconomic levels. Fleming also notes how the emergence of the “mixed-income urban village”(125), creating the first wave of movement towards the city since world war two.
Fleming analyzes a specific example of New Urbanism on the north side of Chicago within the public housing project, Cabrini Green. While this area had been known for its lower socioeconomic population and high level of unemployment, the creeping development of Cabrini Green’s surroundings prompted the city to initiate a project to redevelop the area in a safer, higher socioeconomic image. With the plans of redevelopment for the Cabrini Green, came the massive loss of low-income and public housing in order to make room for the middle-income housing. These forced gentrification and implementation of different socioeconomic housing levels into already low income areas, fleming states, forced many of the low-income residents out, hurting the lower socioeconomic class in the attempts to further bring classes together.
In part one, section three of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, Fleming discusses the neighborhood community as a political tool. Fleming begins this section on the neighborhood by defining said space as, “A smaller democracy, where ordinary individuals can engage in person, in public judgement and decision making, where politics can be the everyday literal enactment of every citizen’s freedom and equality”(43). In this, Fleming adds a non-spacial piece to the definition of a neighborhood, defining it as a place where, on a small scale, the purest form of the democratic process is carried out. Fleming notes that the most civically active neighborhoods and communities are those that fall on the smaller side, population wise. Along with this purity and followed sense of political duty, Fleming states, is the common criticism of the politics done in these neighborhoods. This criticism being that smaller communities that practice their democratic rights through local politics tend to be very homogeneous in their political views.
Fleming introduces an interesting side effect of this homogeneity: the loss of true individual freedom in the democratic process. Fleming notes another side effect of political homogeneity, the lack of “ conflict needed for genuine political engagement” (48). To me, this lack of conflict negates some positive aspects of such an involved democracy, limiting the neighborhoods potential for diversity or progression.
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 2009.
In David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, chapter one, Fleming emphasizes the cultural and geographical implications of the definition of the word ‘citizen’ as well as the difference between politics and political theory. Fleming begins with his discussion of the meaning of a citizen by outlining what it means, on paper of course, to be an American citizen. Fleming quotes the National Standards of Civics and Government, a government document created in 1994 stating that, “The identity of an american citizen is defined by shared political values and principles rather than by ethnicity, race, religion, class, language, gender or national origin”(20). Fleming takes this ideal and brings it into reality, with his argument that it is not political similarities and principles that are the driving forces of America’s citizens, it is much more so their background. The race, ethnicity, gender and age of a person plays a much larger role in who they are as a citizen and how they act, than do the collective founding principles of an American.
This being said, if the citizens political drive is less influenced by the founding principles of the country then it is more founded by their own individual background and culture. This act of individualization proves to negate the generalized definition of ‘the citizen’. Consequently, the citizen becomes less ‘the citizen’ and more ‘a citizen’, acting in a way that is less aligned with each other, and more aligned with their perspective background, therefore dividing a society that is supposedly founded on the same principle values. The question that arises from this division, is how a government is supposed to provide opportunity to a society in which its citizens vary so greatly, and, if the government is able to provide such provisions, will certain groups fall through the cracks?
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY,
SUNY Press, 2009.