Monday, October 10, 2016

Richard C. Schragger's "City Power"

Richard C. Schragger is the Perre Bowen Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, where he has taught for almost fifteen years. His scholarship focuses on the intersection of constitutional law and local government law, federalism, urban policy and the constitutional and economic status of cities.

Schragger applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, City Power: Urban Governance in a Global Age, and reported the following:
City Power is a book about the possibilities of the exercise of city power and the potential for cities to affect social and economic change. Page 99 is quite representative of the book, for it discusses how progressive reformers in the beginning of the twentieth century championed the city as an ideal site for democratic governance. For some early progressive reformers, city power was an antidote to state legislative corruption, a means to achieve important social ends, and the embodiment of participatory government. On page 99, I discuss Frederic Howe’s 1905 book, The City: The Hope of Democracy. Howe served in the Ohio Senate and on the Cleveland city council, and later in the Roosevelt administration. His book was directed at those urban reformers who viewed the city as a problem of management, to be governed by businessmen and so-called “expert” boards and commissions. Howe argued that urban reformers were suppressing urban democracy and that they “had voted democracy a failure.” As he argued, in a quote that serves as an epigraph for City Power: “Distrust of democracy has inspired much of the literature on the city.” Howe’s quote captures the current skeptical approach to city power, both in the politics and economics literatures. Those literatures tend to assume that cities are relatively powerless to affect their economic and regulatory fates. Footloose capital and mobile residents call the shots and cities sing the tune. City Power describes why this is not so. The book’s other epigraph looks toward the future. It is a 1967 quote from political scientist Robert Dahl: “Is it too much to hope that we might be on the verge of the age of the democratic city within the democratic nation-state?” The urban resurgence of the last decades and cities’ aggressive adoption of progressive social welfare legislation portends a coming urban renaissance—culturally, politically, and economically.
Learn more about City Power at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue