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Chapter Summary

Frug, Gerald E. 1999. City Making: Building Communities without Building Walls. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Chapter 6)

As the previous chapters have illustrated, boundary lines have come to define who we are. In order to successfully dismantle such boundaries and build a stronger sense of community, Frug argues that individuals will need to overcome and accept the differences in people unlike themselves. Chapter 6 explains the importance of community building, which Frug contends should further four kinds of normative values associated with city life:

1. Social differentiation without exclusion: the formation of groups based on affinity in a setting that encourages intermingling.

2. Variety : the differentiation in neighborhoods through a variety of activities and the formation of a unique sense of place.

3. Eroticism : pleasure and excitement from the unusual or the surprising.

4. Publicity : a persons feeling upon entering a public space, which exposes one to an experience different from ones own.

By embracing these values, residents of all areas will be able to develop relationships built upon the capability to accommodate and appreciate differences.

To understand better how the current situation of central cities and homogeneous suburbs came to be, Frug explores the psychological, sociological and political underpinnings:

Psychological : Frug uses Richard Sennetts theory regarding peoples desires for homogeneous communities, which fosters both a collective identity and protection from the unknown. One consequence is that reliance on stability can undermine ones capability to absorb and benefit from the variety and complexity that the world offers us and diminishes ego strength (the confidence to deal with the unexpected).

Sociological : Frug asserts that cities are often stereotyped as threatening bastions of complexity, grit, and otherness, while suburban living is romanticized as a pleasant countryside experience. In this view, the urban condition attracts the wrong kind of people, namely immigrants, minorities, and the poor. This atmosphere promotes undesirable changes in human behavior, contributing to what Frug calls the metropolitan type of individual. This urban persona is categorized as being artificial, heartless, capitalistic, and overly analytical.

Political : Frug notes that the boundaries created between neighborhoods, suburbs, and the city divide residents by ethnic and class lines. Frug asserts that twentieth century American urban policy at every level of government - has dispersed and divided the residents of cities while also reducing the public spaces where strangers interact. Federal efforts (such as the Federal-Aid Highway Act and the mid-20th Century Housing Acts), coupled with state and local programs, have reinforced the homogeneity of some areas while destroying it in others. Frug argues that such policies have extremely destructive effects on American life by creating spatial segregation and decreasing opportunities for strangers to interact.

These foundations are deeply ingrained in American life. However, by cultivating the primary function of a city - the traditional arena for human association we may be able to gradually foster individuals tolerance towards disparity in a world of strangeness. Frug argues that current urban policy is forged on the perception of two extremes: either separation or togetherness. However, there is a middle ground of tolerance, where people learn to live with people unlike themselves. This requires an ongoing balance between peoples natural desires for both engagement and withdrawal and can only be achieved through community building.