Thursday, July 17, 2008

Suburbia

It's often tempting to see (for me at least) to see short-term crises as symptomatic of major change, but as I've noted before I think we are at the beginning of a real change in the American culture as a result of the end of cheap oil. It looks as though high gas prices are triggering the end of the suburban America in which the Baby Boom and subsequent generations have lived our entire lives. It seems possible that 10 or 20 years American cities will look very different from the sprawling middle class suburbs we are used to, with the rich in center cities, the poor occupying the outer ring of abandoned middle class subdivisions, and the various middle class strata arranged in rings between them.

3 comments:

kateg said...

if there is anything worse than living in an inner-city ghetto, i think that it has to be living in a suburban ghetto.

Anthropologist Mike Davis has written a book about this as a global trend, called Planet of Slums. It is a good book.

Texan By Chance said...

Of course NYC is already organized on this basis, at least within the city limits.

rachel said...

After spending 6 consecutive days in the suburbs of Detroit (ahh!) and now being back in the inner city, it is hard for me see this happening. One thing I've noticed suburban folk like is space (and lawns. They really like their lawns). The farther out you go (and in my neck of the woods, the farther out you are, the more affluent you are), the more people seem to like their space and privacy.

In the neighborhood I grew up in, inter-family relationships were based on their kids and their schools, so there was some sense of community, although pretty loose. In some of the more affluent Northern suburbs, like Troy, it's a lot of people driving home from work in their cars, pulling into their garages, and shutting their doors behind them. I worked as an organizer for an environmental group in my late teens, and out in Troy you would get comments like "Honey, we've worked hard to move out here and be left alone. Please get off my porch."

Living back in Detroit for a week, it's hard for me to imagine these folks who are so invested in their isolation and space on their terms coming back into the cities and living right next to each other in tightly built inner-city neighborhoods. Unless of course they bought up the whole block and kicked everyone else out ...