Reading Analysis #5: Fleming Chapter 9: Cities of Rhetoric

The urban development of Chicago

In his book City of Rhetoric, in chapter 9: Cities of Rhetoric, David Fleming argues that creating environments that are helpful to human development are a difficult task, yet we keep trying. “But designing for people is not just about ensuring decent housing for the poor and disadvantaged; it is about designing for human beings in general.” (p. 197). In other words, Fleming states that we need to rethink the layout of our cities and how residents interact with their surroundings and one another. There are many factors that can build or break communities like how close citizens are to their jobs, supermarkets, and parks. Therefore, Fleming argues that we need to build our communities in a new way to benefit all inhabitants.

Fleming believes that we need to create “public spheres” that are inclusive to all citizens no matter their differences. In the past, we have failed at this and need to rethink a way to bring people together in public spaces. “But we need something else as well: a new way of thinking and talking about politics that can help us live nonviolently with diverse others and see that cohabitation as natural, even desirable.” (p. 202). Fleming states that we need to appreciate our commonalities, while confronting differences in a positive way. He understands this is a tall order but we’re already making progress in today’s society.

Fleming expands on his idea of “public philosophies” by discussing the 3 obstacles in the way of creating diverse spaces. The first setback is that we chose privilege mobility over stability. He accepts that privilege mobility benefits individuals in a global economy, but does not benefit a community directly and isolates citizens from one another. The second setback is that we associate political position with self-interest. “A healthy sphere in this view would involve a large number of diverse members unified by what they share even when their points of view on that shared a different thing…” (p. 204). Fleming believes that we need to unite in the political sphere with one another to create a well-rounded community. The third setback is that we lack a language that deals with conflict, but doesn’t assimilate or separate us. “We stay together” when we resolve conflict and unite.

Lastly, Fleming confirms that we can prevail over these setbacks by starting at the school level. He states that students need to develop the skills of deliberative democratic politics to work successfully with others and gain skills like listening, how to evaluate evidence, summarize facts, and support their claims. Fleming suggests that through four projects in “civic” education students can gain these important skills for political knowledge. The first is memory; students need to learn about the past in order to better the future of their communities and this project enlightens them to educate themselves on the history of their locations and not repeat conflicts. The second is mapping; by allowing students to map out their built environment they create their own vision of their community based on the things that go unseen and are prominent. The third is judgement; this stimulates students by allowing them to debate with one another and create collaborative ideas. This project applies the skills from project 1 and 2 by allowing students have effective rhetoric. The last project is design, which solidifies the students abilities to apply theories to create a built environment. After completing all these projects, students have explored the political problems in their own city. “The city teaches us.” (p. 210).

Works Cited:

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany: SUNY, 2008. Print.

“Gallery of City Works: Provocations for Chicago’s Urban Future – 4.” ArchDaily,


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