In his book City of Rhetoric, Chapter 8: Toward a New Sociospatial Dialectic, David Fleming discusses the rhetorical implications of public discourse and civic education. Fleming believes “we need to look at how the scenes just examined—a low-income African-American ghetto, an affluent white suburb, a mixed-income “urban village,” a high-rise inner city housing co-op, as well as the overall metropolitan environment they (at least partially) constitute—matter for public discourse.” (pg. 179). He proposes many questions regarding these areas and wants us to find the answers by thinking about alternative sociospatial arrangements that could create equality. He uses this chapter to recap his ideas about built environments and social discourse in Chicago at the beginning of the 21st century.
Firstly, Fleming summarizes what the past chapters have discussed. In the first two parts of the book, we learned about how “most privileged persons, families, and institutions have fled what is open, diverse, and complex—our cities—for what is, or at least appears to be, exclusive, homogeneous, and safe—our suburbs,” (pg. 180). These sections helped us understand how social spaces have defied social class and polarized communities. In chapters 2 and 3, Fleming states how he believes that we have failed as society to create diverse living spaces, which doesn’t allow people to learn from conflicts with different types of people and stresses the importance of commonplaces. These chapters helped us understand the repercussions of living isolated from others. In part 2, he uses Chicago as an example of a place that struggles with all the social and political ideals mentioned before. Specifically, Fleming refers to the Cabrini Green public housing project and whites moving to suburbia and both places were “built on prejudice, promote mistrust, and inspire social alienation both within and without.” (pg. 182).
Secondly, Fleming argues the correlation between built environment and opportunities in society. The case study of Chicago taught us how decentralization, fragmentation, and polarization play a large role in our country. “Place matters, and this is as true for rhetoric as for education and employment.” (pg. 184). Society has taught us that success relies on the individual, which is inaccurate when a citizen is surrounded by negativities. Some people even believe that our environments are simply backdrops for activities that could occur anywhere. Through these observations, Fleming proves that people growing up in disadvantaged areas with a lack of jobs, poor schools, and neighbors in the same levels of success will create less of a chance of flourishing. “We might add: apparent variations in the quality of human behavior across space are largely a reflection of differences in the environments in which that behavior occurs.” (pg. 186). Built environments define the resources available for their inhabitants and define futures for most. Also, these communities influence children’s growth and ability to communicate with others of different backgrounds. According to Fleming, people acknowledge that North America is segregated by race and class.
Lastly, Fleming lists three reasons for social discourse in relation to Susan Mayer and Christopher Jencks approach that “the sociospatial environment does indeed affect human outcomes, independent of such variables as income and education,” (pg. 192). Fleming states that built environments play a role in the development of rhetorical habits, but there’s obviously more factors that effect an individuals outcome in life. This idea allows us to create the connection between multiple factors like race, religion, spatial environment, and education etc as reasoning for disadvantaged lives. Next, Fleming points out that the effect of built environments on civic powers are nonlinear. Finally, he states that the influence of someone’s environment will change overtime and will have different effects on their life at different time periods. All of these theories play a role in how built environments and social discourse relate and how we need to try and create more diverse and positive spaces.
Fleming establishes that the effects of space are contingent, nonlinear, and dynamic. By organizing spaces in an opportunistic way, we could try and distribute successful options for more individuals equally. Nothing is a guarantee obviously, but this route would allow more people to have exposure to better resources. He strongly believes in creating spaces to allow more participation for strong publics to support equality.
Bogira, Steve, and Mick Dumke. “The Most Important Issue No One’s Talking about in the Mayoral Race.” Chicago Reader, Chicago Reader, 5 Feb. 2015, www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/still-separate-unequal-and-ignored/Content?oid=16347785.
Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. Print.