Monday, March 9, 2020

Palaces for the People

Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg

Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University, examines how our social structures--from the library to schools to community gardens--can help mitigate problems and challenges of our divided civic life. He posits that neighborhoods, regardless of economic or over-all social standing, which have strong social infrastructure do better at taking care of one another when crises strike and also do better at resisting crime and other negative social impacts.

This was an interesting thesis, which once thought about made a great deal of sense to me. I was very interested to dive in and see what research he did and how the research supported (or didn't) his theories. However, as with other readers on Goodreads (I peeked at reviews when I finished the book), I found the chapter on libraries the most interesting and most compelling. The other chapters seemed to treat their focus in a much more cursory way and managed for the most part to loop back to talking about libraries.

Klinenberg seems very invested in libraries--and why not, libraries are very important to communities. But it seems to me that he would have done well to either rein in his enthusiasm for libraries in a book with a broad premise (such as this one purported to be) and give more thorough, organized attention to the other social structures OR, perhaps, to write a book that focused only on libraries and their importance to the social infrastructure of their communities. He also spent far less time than I anticipated on how these social structures help address inequality. ★★

Pick Your Poison: Check Out Those Lists (Show Us Your Books Favs 2018--from Jana's list of favorite nonfiction books)

1 comment:

Christophe said...

I have not read the book, but based only on your description, I would be concerned about reverse causality (or 'endogeneity' to use a fancier term): perhaps it is civic-minded communities where people care about each other that invest more money in infrastructure, including libraries.