Dossier Society

Cities, Centers of our Time
A Selection of Essays and Reviews

by Cristelle Terroni , 21 December 2012

During the Christmas season, Books and Ideas offers a selection of reviews and essays that tackle the subject of cities and the issues they raise as complex centers of urban life: how could we live better in them? How to reduce the inequalities they create? Can they become more sustainable? The following texts cast a new light on all of these questions.

As increasingly dense and complex centers of human life, our cities generate new frames of analysis for sociologists and geographers, presented in this dossier.

In The Spirit of Cities, Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit adopt a non-positivist way of envisioning cities, highlighting their “ethos” or “spirit”, a method discussed by Alexander Tzonis in a review selected below. With a completely different method of analysis, the sociologist Saskia Sassen explains that megaregions and global cities are two new spatial formats that can change our way of thinking about environmental sustainability. On the subject of energy, Sabine Barle also raises the question of sustainability and discusses the contradictions of urban self-sufficiency.

The question of social inequalities is at the heart of many studies seeking to break some clichés about urban centers. Eric Charmes explores the now widespread territories of gated communities and wonders whether they really are what they seem to be, i.e. ghettos for the rich, while Marco Oberti compares the processes of selection of the elite in Paris and Chicago, two cities marked by geographical segregation. Finally, Michel Grossetti, Hélène Martin-Brelot and Denis Eckert reassess the impact of the “creative class” on the development and growth of attractive urban centers.

Daniel A Bell, “Comparing Urban Ethos”, published on Books and Ideas, March 2012

Alexander Tzonis, “Cities’ Collective Mentalities”, published on Books and Ideas, March 2012

Saskia Sassen, “Novel spatial format for Urban Inclusion”, published on Books and Ideas, May 2012

Sabine Barle, “Are Cities Parasites or Resource Pools?”, published on Books and Ideas, April 2012

Eric Charmes, “Gated communities, Ghettos for the rich?”, published on Books and Ideas, October 2012

Marco Oberti, “Two Cities with school segregation”, part one, “Two Cities with school segregation”, part two, published on Books and Ideas, April 2012

Michel Grossetti, Hélène Martin-Brelot & Denis Eckert, “The Creative Class To The Rescue of Cities?”, published on Books and Ideas, November 2012

by Cristelle Terroni, 21 December 2012

To quote this article :

Cristelle Terroni, « Cities, Centers of our Time. A Selection of Essays and Reviews », Books and Ideas , 21 December 2012. ISSN : 2105-3030. URL :

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