Seeking Common Ground

In David Flemings’ book, City of Rhetoric, he explores the meaning of a common place and the Edward Soja’s sociospatial dialectic. He defines commonplaces as places “ that could balance our often-conflicting needs for unity and diversity, accessibility and power, belonging and anonymity” (Fleming 180). In other words, it is any physical location or structure that houses a group of diverse people allowing them to express their difference and come to a unifying understanding. Fleming genuinely believes that in the world of turmoil there could be places where we can come together and make “the world more open to our reflections, criticisms, and proposals for change” (Flaming 184). In the previous chapters he describes housing solutions and explained why some work better than others. Though none of the proposed solutions managed to have the effect of the desired commonplace. Some lacked density, others lacked diversity and most simply housed people who either homogenous populations or others had nothing in common. According to Fleming, a commonplace must be dense, diverse, and must contain publicly and sovereignty. Density, meaning “the regularity with which community members are thrown into a informal contact with one another”(Fleming). Diversity, representing “how different those members are from one another”(Fleming). Publicity, meaning “the availability of shared space, information, and resources, open to all, for rendering and resolving difference”(Fleming). Sovereignty is defined as “the the extent to which the community freely governs itself, solves its own problems, makes binding decisions about its own affairs, and determines its own past, present, and future”(Fleming). Then Fleming transitions into the idea of sociospatial dialectic, meaning people modify spaces they live in and in turn they are modified by them. This concept is exemplified by “a link between suburban living and obesity”(Fleming 187). I must say that is a strange correlation indeed. It is better explained by the fact that “researchers have found in the suburbs a “mortal minimalism” -in which social confrontation is assiduously avoided -that may have negative costs for the mental well-being of residence there” (Fleming 187). Then the audience may ask, where does the rhetoric come in? Fleming breaks it down and explains that “For a close relationship between physical location and individual and social welfare in our society and thus good reason to think that place and rhetorical well-being are linked as well” (Fleming 184). As a reader being carried through the argument, it tends to make sense, until Fleming mentions that technology has connected us in a way which does not necessarily require for us to be in the same physical location or commonplace (Fleming 185). However, in the end he explains essentially why he is concerned about the solid devide between the poor and the rich, and that is because there is “a clear link between environment and opportunity” (Fleming 193).


Fleming, David. City of rhetoric: revitalizing the public sphere in metropolitan America. Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 2009.

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