The Danger of Suburbs

In the chapter “Suburbia” in his book “City of Rhetoric,” David Fleming argues that suburban neighborhoods and edge cities are not effective solutions for fixing the population problems that occur in cities. He also argues that suburban housing encourages privatism which is danger when trying to create a democratic polis (Fleming 95). The main issue that he sees with suburban culture is that it creates a homogeneous style of life in which all of the residents are like minded and afraid of different opinions.  Fleming claims that these sentiments breed close minded individuals who cannot participate in democratic discussion; which he believes is one of the greatest dangers to society.

According to Fleming some people wrongly believe that the most effective solution to fixing the problems faced within the city is to move them to the suburbs (Fleming 99). This is because of the repeated failure of the government and other organizations to successfully make affording housing for the poor people. He uses the city of Chicago as his primary example and how many failures at building housing and relocating people eventually led to the voucher system, which while effective only managed to help a small portion of the disenfranchised. This sequence of events led to people believing that the most effective way to solve the housing problem was to move these people into suburban spaces and edge cities. The problem with this “solution” is that the people that make up these communities moved out precisely in order to escape the chaos of the city in order to live in “safer” places which are made up of homogenous values and beliefs. This fact in itself will lead to people being placed in an unfavorable environment in which there are differing opinions and philosophies that cannot be discussed because the residents of the suburbs have grown up with a homogeneous view, and thus they are not able to function as a polis that is able to discuss and grow.

 The biggest issue with the suburbs as a solution is the fact that it will form a circular pattern much like the circular pattern that the people stuck in the low socioeconomic status find themselves in. Primarily by moving a substantial amount of people into a suburb it will itself eventually turn itself into a city. A city will migrate with its populous, and therefore migrating from a city to a suburb and clustering it creates a city within itself. And with that, the logical progression of events that occurred in the previous city will occur yet again. Certain groups will be isolated and eventually the affluent will move out of this new city into a new suburb for the same reasons that they did in the first place. Thus moving people to a suburb is simply just postponing the problem and it is not in any way a solution. For all these reasons the suburbs are not the logistic answer. But more importantly they are not the rhetorical solution. Fleming states that suburbs are “ unfavorable to public discussion,” and this is what makes them not only not the solution but also a danger. Forming homogeneous communities is not the answer and this is why the answer lies in the city.

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