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 together; to find common purpose. But exactly how can this be done?
In Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial and sometimes life-saving connections are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”. When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves
Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology and the director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University and the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller Modern Romance. Klinenberg’s previous books include Going Solo: The Extraordinary RiseandSurprising Appeal of Living Alone, Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, and Fighting for Air: The Battle to Control America’s Media. In addition to his books and scholarly articles, Klinenberg has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Wired, and This American Life.