Why Place Matters

Bill McClay and Ted McAllister’s new book challenges us to think in a tech-heavy age.

A while back, I contributed an essay to a book called “Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America,” which is a collection of pieces edited by Bill McClay and Ted McAllister. It just got published this month.

My piece is called “The Rise of Localist Politics.” The editors introduce it thus:

“Like William Schambra, Brian Brown sees the potential for a transformation of political life and a revitalization of our democracy flowing from newly revitalized local institutions. The failure of ‘rational planning’ has, he believes, created the preconditions for such revitalization to be not only desirable but necessary. Brown sees the widespread longing of young people for a sense of place as an indication that, even when rational planning has been materially successful, it has failed to address the psychological and spiritual needs of the whole person. Brown sees the political Left as having pioneered such issues, though their growth has ultimately been stymied by the Left’s tendency to default to centralized control. Interest in localism is now rising on the Right, though as yet lacking political expression, and faced there with other kinds of coalitional obstacles. Yet Brown holds out the possibility of a serious reconfiguration of our politics, flowing from the recovery of the local.”

But I don’t post this purely as self-promotion (I’m actually not financially connected with the book at all). Take a look at some of the other (better) essays in the book:

  • “I Can’t Believe You’re From L.A.!” (Dana Gioia)
  • The Demand Side of Urbanism (Witold Rybczynski)
  • A Plea for Beauty: A Manifesto for a New Urbanism (Roger Scruton)
  • Place and Poverty (William Schambra)

There’s some really good stuff. One of my favorites is a piece by Ari Schulman about how GPS reconfigures our brains to think differently about places. And there’s other challenging material that forces you to think about how recent technology has changed our relationship to what we call “home,” with both pros and cons.

You can look more closely at the book (or order it) here:


This post was originally published on The Social Fundraiser.

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