Tag: David Fleming

Could commonplaces be the solution?

Reading Analysis 4

In chapter 8, “Toward a New Sociospatial Dialectic,” of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, he argues that the built environment such as public space influences the type of work and people that derive from the particular area. In other words, for Fleming, where you come from shapes what possibilities you have. Therefore, location makes it increasingly difficult for those living in areas lacking resources. Fleming continues to analyze his proposed ideas of communities such as the perfect self-governed group of people around 50,000-100,00. Through interaction, by bringing people together “toward a new sociospatial dialectic,” there is a possibility to overcome the divides amongst a community.

Fleming brings to question, in my opinion his most influential notion that there is a close relationship between physical location and an individual. Furthermore, each town or city has a unique feel to it with both positive and negative attributes. Some places are able to succeed better than others when there is a common goal which everyone shares. This leads to Fleming’s conclusion that place and rhetorical well-being are linked as well (184). Fleming describes that “the only way to build a self-governing community in our society…is to make sure that they are all relatively similar in background and goals” (183). When people come from similar backgrounds it is easier to understand one another right off the bat. Unfortunately, it is difficult for two groups of widely different backgrounds to come and settle in one place. A good example is regarding the Cabrini Green housing projects. Some of the local residents living near the housing project are not fond of the apartment building. They don’t want massive amounts of people moving into their community and look down upon the Cabrini Green residents. This is simply the root of all tension in the community.

Suburbs vs. city life. Many benefits of living in a diverse area rather than being trapped in a bubble on land.

Fleming concludes this section by proposing the concept that poverty is not caused by the “poor people themselves but rather the poor quality of their environments”(194). Some factors of the environments can include the public schools, crime rates, the number of accessible jobs, and racial and economic segregation in the area. In most circumstances it is hard for those born into poverty to escape due to the lack of support from their communities. Simply put…”place matters.” So what’s the solution? Commonplaces. Fleming feels that commonplaces will bring the entire community together and give the residents a common ground to which they can build a relationship (191). However, commonplaces aren’t just physical. Commonplaces can foster a sense of well-being amongst the residents and improve the general atmosphere of a given area.

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Could Escaping City-Life Be the Answer?

Reading Analysis 3

In chapter 5 of David Fleming’s City of Rhetoric, he explains that the solution to Chicago’s unequal housing epidemic is the migration to suburbs. He explains that suburbs have newer housing and the housing markets are more stable, with lower turnover rates. Also, suburbs typically have a smaller range of income inequality in comparison to cities. Fleming explores the idealistic suburban community as one with a responsive local government, well maintained streets and highways, unlimited land, and good schools. He lists and describes six different types of suburban communities in the United States: at-risk segregated suburbs, at-risk older communities, at-risk low-density satellite communities, bedroom-developing communities, and high-end housing communities that are either affluent or very affluent. In other words, not all suburbs are the perfect place for people that are oppressed in city housing. Typically, the economy of the suburb has some relationship to the larger city within proximity. For example, Yonkers, just outside of Manhattan, is infiltrated with minority families but there is an extremely low tax capacity. This ultimately puts the community in a negative position. How can the city generate more money if the residents are simply not able to afford the higher taxes?

However, in many circumstances, escaping city-life does have many positives. Because there are less total people using public areas and facilities, money is distributed differently. Many suburban governments usually spend less per resident and more for the vast majority in the education sector. Simply put, Fleming feels that “…the best hope for residents of Cabrini Green and places like it is to leave the central city and settle where there is less crime, better schools, and more jobs”(93).Therefore, Flemming’s point that the suburbs are somewhat of a “haven” for oppressed families is validated in most cases since students will be more successful due to more advanced education. To back up his argument, Flemming includes evidence from a study that was conducted to determine the effects of growing up in a city versus a suburb. The results concluded that “boys aged eight to fourteen in the suburbs of Boston reported fewer arrests for violent crimes.” The results also states that “Baltimore children from the experimental group showed a slower rate of decline of test scores and improved reading scores when compared with children who stayed in the city”(116). This supports the idea that the education system in suburbs can prove to be beneficial in many respects. In hindsight this all sounds great, but what happens when too many people start moving to the suburbs?

This section is comprised of Fleming’s continuation of outlining the public sphere and proposing a somewhat utopian-esque society or solution to the housing bubble. While Fleming provides strong reasoning for his solution and is very persuasive in his argument, it is important to consider what the physical and socioeconomic impact of moving a family to the suburbs entails.  

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City of Rhetoric and the Evolution of Local Government

Reading Analysis 1

In his first chapter of Part 1, “Placelessness of Political Theory” in City of Rhetoric, David Fleming, argues that the concept of local government has evolved over time starting with Greek republicanism into a wider interconnected global community, but believes we need to have more unified places of interaction in order to solve the problem. David Fleming brings this relevant issue to topic by exploring past and present local governments to determine their effect on people and propose a way forward for community government.

Fleming begins by defining his concept of the citizen which has changed drastically throughout history. He characterizes human beings separate from citizens in that both are vastly different. As Fleming puts it, “In this country, in other words, we bracket our most fundamental worldly difference when we enter the political arena, our identity, there independent of, even transcending, our otherwise divisive particularities” (20). Fleming suggests that ignoring a voter’s personality and humanity is fundamentally at odds with a true democratic process, rather that it tends to follow the existing power structure. These power structures primarily benefit the the wealthy, white, dominant parties they’re associated with. Interestingly, the people who don’t “see race” are most definitely the ones benefiting from the present system. Therefore, Fleming suggests that humans should come together in a public place which he defines as a “commonplace” where both parties can build a relationship and co-function. This will be the basis to overcoming contentious topics within communities. Unfortunately, there is already so much damage in this “political arena” which Fleming describes has torn apart many communities making it hard to turn the current system around.

Subsequently, governments in turn should shift laws benefiting the small elite group of individuals at the top of the wealth pyramid. Instead, representatives should spend more time crafting a society which focusses on local issues for the population of people living in a certain geographical region. This will result in beneficial impacts for the majority of society because local issues will be solved and solutions to problems will be geared towards a specific area.

                                                              Works Cited

Burr, Thomas. “Chaffetz getting gripes from constituents-not Utah, but those in D.C.” The
Salt Lake Tribune. N.p., 01 Feb. 2017. Web. 08 Feb. 2017.

Fleming, David. City of Rhetoric: Revitalizing the Public Sphere in Metropolitan America. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009. Print.

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