Can Cities Make Us Better Citizens?

The New Yorker reviews Richard Sennett’s new book “Building and Dwelling” which connects socioeconomic mixing, civic engagement and design. In it Sennett asks: Can the way one designs a park or shapes a city block make us better citizens?

He sees meeting strangers as a civic duty and “one of the “ethics” referred to in the book’s subtitle is a city’s ability to normalize encounters with the Other.”

“Ethically, an open city would of course tolerate differences and promote equality,” he writes, “but would more specifically free people from the straitjacket of the fixed and the familiar, creating a terrain in which they could experiment and expand their experience.”