Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

An eminent sociologist and bestselling author offers an inspiring blueprint for rebuilding our fractured society. We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn't seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come tog...

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Title:Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
Author:Eric Klinenberg
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Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life Reviews

  • T.L. Cooper

    Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civil Life by Eric Klinenberg delves into the connections that form when infrastructure is designed to bring people together to support building community. Klinenberg writes in way that feels like a story unfolding that explores the decline of community by the decline of social infrastructure as well as the solutions to bring community together. Palaces for the People delves into how lib

    Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civil Life by Eric Klinenberg delves into the connections that form when infrastructure is designed to bring people together to support building community. Klinenberg writes in way that feels like a story unfolding that explores the decline of community by the decline of social infrastructure as well as the solutions to bring community together. Palaces for the People delves into how libraries bring people together, community gardens create not only food but fellowship, and how storm walls can be built to double as gathering places among other structures built with the people who will use them in mind. Klinenberg presents research that shows how community changes when infrastructure supports the community. He examines the myths and the realities surrounding how infrastructure succeeds and fails. Palaces for the People offers an honest assessment of infrastructure, communities, and the polarization that infiltrates attempts to create both better infrastructure and community written in an easy to read, engaging, and hopeful manner.

  • Jeff Zell

    The book begins with an interesting case study. The summer of 1995 brought a life threatening combination of heat and humidity to Chicago. Many people died as a result. But, the deaths were not uniformly placed in the city, even within poor neighborhoods. Two neighborhoods with similar inhabitants that are right next to each other experienced different outcomes from the heat. Why the difference? Klinenberg argues that the difference lies in the fact that one neighborhood still had open shops and

    The book begins with an interesting case study. The summer of 1995 brought a life threatening combination of heat and humidity to Chicago. Many people died as a result. But, the deaths were not uniformly placed in the city, even within poor neighborhoods. Two neighborhoods with similar inhabitants that are right next to each other experienced different outcomes from the heat. Why the difference? Klinenberg argues that the difference lies in the fact that one neighborhood still had open shops and restaurants where the other did not. In the neighborhood with shops and restaurants, people were out more, checked in on the elderly more, and had more contact with one another. Even when people did not know each other directly, they were familiar to one another. The neighborhood without places for people to meet and mingle had more deaths.

    Klinenberg then leads us on a fascinating look at communities and the places where people gather, meet, and form relationships. He explores the role and significance of libraries, parks, community gardens, pools, sports clubs, and the Internet.

    Klinenberg is an engaging storyteller. He helps us look at our communities in a critical way. Are there places to gather? Can relationships between people who are truly different develop? Are spaces being used in ways that foster community development? How can things be changed?

    Palaces for the People is a sociological study that reads like the good, thought-provoking, creative non-fiction that it is. Klinenberg’s observations and studies lead the reader to think about how the way our community itself is laid out affects our relationships and lives. Klinenberg is also concerned about how our community’s infrastructure improves or hinders our ability to cope with natural disasters and our future with global warming.

  • Trish Tomes

    I was excited when I won this book on Goodreads. I want to thank them and Putnam books to get a pre-publication copy of it. It is an excellent book for activists who what to improve their :communities.

    Most of the examples given are from big cities, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Singapore. The surprising entry was from Iceland but nothing like that is possible in the US. Their communal swimming pools reminded me of the baths of ancient Rome and Greece that still are popular in Turkey and Hun

    I was excited when I won this book on Goodreads. I want to thank them and Putnam books to get a pre-publication copy of it. It is an excellent book for activists who what to improve their :communities.

    Most of the examples given are from big cities, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Singapore. The surprising entry was from Iceland but nothing like that is possible in the US. Their communal swimming pools reminded me of the baths of ancient Rome and Greece that still are popular in Turkey and Hungary. Will this be a trend that catches on?

    I think many cities and towns are catching on to the need to better serve the social aspects of their cities. Not just the elected officials taking action but churches, too, are stepping up to address the need.

    Still, it will be difficult to fully integrate new immigrants into our society as they tend to cluster together, you know, birds of a feather . . . There is comfort in the familiar: their foods, their churches/mosques/synagogues/temples. They can interact at work and social clubs, then return to their comfort zones.

  • Paige

    ***I received this book for free from the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.***

    In "Palaces our the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life," Eric Klineberg adroitly argues the importance of social infrastructure, a phrase he defines as, "the physical conditions that determine whether social capital develops" (5). The book, which is divided into six chapters--not including the introduction and conclusion--a

    ***I received this book for free from the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.***

    In "Palaces our the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life," Eric Klineberg adroitly argues the importance of social infrastructure, a phrase he defines as, "the physical conditions that determine whether social capital develops" (5). The book, which is divided into six chapters--not including the introduction and conclusion--are divided topically (health concerns, climate change, political polarization, etc). Within each chapter, Klineberg discusses various types of social infrastructure that relevant, although it quickly becomes clear that libraries are his favorite, as they make an appearance in nearly every chapter.

    In hardly more than 200 words, "Palaces for Our People" presents a compelling argument for bolstering social infrastructure. The book is well-researched, with Klineberg utilizing personal research, in addition to other scholarly sources. Additionally, it's an easy read and very well-written. As someone who picked up this book knowing very little the topic, I now feel well-versed in the various benefits of social infrastructure. I'm not sure if I buy the author's argument that it is AS important as "hard" infrastructure, but I can appreciate his point of view.

    Still, I'm giving this book four out of five stars for several reasons. Klineberg's chapters can be redundant. As previously mentioned (appreciate my irony here), Klineberg returns to his precious library examples on numerous occasions, and while the institutions certainly have multiple purposes, he reiterates his points. Given that I read this in [nearly] one sitting, this was unnecessary and rather annoying. Moreover, he spent nearly four pages describing a bowling game in excruciating detail--thankfully this stylistic choice was not repeated in any other chapter.

    Another issue I had with the book was Klineberg's tendency to climb on a political soap box. Although social infrastructure and its continued funding is, without a doubt, a political issue, his arguments would slide into partisan rhetoric. The author often redirected the discussion before it strayed too far from his argument, but I believe his points at such sections could have been more carefully argued.

    Finally, my one other contention is less the fault of the author and on the publisher. The copy I was given lacked page numbers beside chapters in the 'Contents' and 'Notes' sections. The index was completely blank.

    -x-

    TLDR; It was a good book--well-written and thoroughly researched. I learned a lot about social infrastructure. 4/5 stars because 1) author can be redundant at times, 2) author occasionally veered too far into political discussions that weren't as pertinent to his argument, and 3) the publisher messed up some printing stuff.

  • Carol

    Gives perspective and case studies regarding social infrastructure. Especially relevant to public libraries and other civic institutions looking for ways to be more welcoming and responsive to their community. Very timely and useful.

    I took a star off because I found the text somewhat rambling and roundabout. I thought it would be much more useful to divide chapters by type of institution, so those reading for institutional purposes could easily find what they're looking for. I did see an indicat

    Gives perspective and case studies regarding social infrastructure. Especially relevant to public libraries and other civic institutions looking for ways to be more welcoming and responsive to their community. Very timely and useful.

    I took a star off because I found the text somewhat rambling and roundabout. I thought it would be much more useful to divide chapters by type of institution, so those reading for institutional purposes could easily find what they're looking for. I did see an indication that the finished copy will have an index, so that should help.

    I received an advanced copy from the publisher via Netgalley for review consideration.

  • Mike Stolfi

    Yes!

    Let's fund libraries again because people need them, & a lot more social infrastructure as well.

    A virtual life pales in comparison to an actual one.

  • Doni

    I enjoyed his tribute to libraries; was skeptical of his pro-corporate solutions such as Gates' donations to create smaller schools. Liberal, not radical, and therefore insufficient targeting of capitalism's fundamental flaws.

  • John

    Klinenberg makes a compelling argument that social infrastructure enriches and saves lives within diverse communities. Libraries, parks, public housing, schools all play a decisive role in bringing individuals together and allowing for support networks to develop for those in our society who are most at risk.

    All in all Klinenberg it refashioning Ray Oldenberg's theory of the "third place." Updating it slightly with a bit more humanism and urgency, but "social infrastructure" is just a new way to

    Klinenberg makes a compelling argument that social infrastructure enriches and saves lives within diverse communities. Libraries, parks, public housing, schools all play a decisive role in bringing individuals together and allowing for support networks to develop for those in our society who are most at risk.

    All in all Klinenberg it refashioning Ray Oldenberg's theory of the "third place." Updating it slightly with a bit more humanism and urgency, but "social infrastructure" is just a new way to say "third place." Where the book really falls down on reconfiguring this worn idea into a new one is when Klinenberg takes on global warming and electronic social networks. Both chapters feel tacked on, a bit underdone, and dissatisfying - mostly because Klinenberg only wants to rail against the negative aspects of social media.

    Overall, this book was really inspiring to me since it reminded me why libraries remain importantly vital and why my daily grind at work is so meaningful. It is easy to forget that the service libraries provide is more than just pedagogy and free access to information/books/et al. Libraries alleviate isolation, provide comfort to the forgotten, and a safe (professional neutrality) social space for all ages.

    At times, inspiring, but mostly thought-provoking.

  • Vanessa (splitreads)

    3.5. Overall, the ideas Klinenberg poses and the research he references are interesting and gets one thinking of what we need to do to create a better future society. Social infrastructure is a philosophy I can get behind and the stories he shares from fieldwork (especially more personal vignettes) were insightful. But I will say I wish this was structured differently. After listening to the first chapter, which is exclusively about libraries, I expected (and wanted) the rest of the chapters to

    3.5. Overall, the ideas Klinenberg poses and the research he references are interesting and gets one thinking of what we need to do to create a better future society. Social infrastructure is a philosophy I can get behind and the stories he shares from fieldwork (especially more personal vignettes) were insightful. But I will say I wish this was structured differently. After listening to the first chapter, which is exclusively about libraries, I expected (and wanted) the rest of the chapters to focus on a singular infrastructure (parks, community gardens, schools, etc.). Instead, it was more jumbled and mixed. I understand that these stories can be intertwined in different infrastructures, but didn't like how we'd be talking about gardens and then we'd be back to libraries. Maybe it's because some chapters would be slimmer than others, but it seemed to me less focused and in need of a bit more editing/organization. I think the first chapter is the most worth-it part of this book.

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