In America, in contrast to almost anywhere else in the world, the good life means traveling a long distance to get to work. How and why this came to be our cultural norm is the subject of this long-awaited book. Because more than two-thirds of all dwellings are single family homes surrounded by an ornamental yard, suburbia is the most distinctive physical characteristic of modern American society. Crabgrass Frontier is the first book to trace the growth of suburbs in America from their origins in the 1820's--in Brooklyn Heights opposite Manhattan--until the present day. Combining social history with economic and architectural history, the book discusses suburban communities in every section of the country as well as making comparisons with Europe and Japan. Jackson considers such intriguing questions as why transportation technology changed the shape of American cities more than European ones, why the family room and the television set replaced the stoop and the street as the focus of social interaction, how the evolution of the garage reflected increasing affection for the automobile, how federal housing programs undermined inner city neighborhoods, and how government policies insured the collapse of the nation's once superb mass transit system. The book shows not only that Americans have long preferred a detached dwelling to a row house, rural life to city life, and owning to renting, but also that suburbanization has been as much a governmental as a natural process. About the Author: Kenneth T. Jackson is a Professor of History at Columbia University and the author of The Ku Klux Klan in the City.
Jackson fluctuates between seeing suburbs as symbiotic and parasitic, with parasitism dominating recent decades. He sees suburbs as a drain on cities, offering very little in return. He appears completely hostile to the car, which is his primary villain in 20th century suburbanization, as it combines mobility and status. Yet he sees hope for the future as land and construction prices go up. Although most of his analysis has become the standard, his predictions have not held up as well. Twenty years later, suburbanization continues with little change in sight.
Very interesting and depressing reading; published in 1984, Jackson makes some predictions about the future of suburbanization that, a quarter-century later, have mostly not been borne out, though they haven’t been disproved either.
It is an interesting read (however, that is a subject that I truly love, so take this review with a grain of salt)
The writing is a little dry, can't really expect much from it, but it was very informational and makes me want to move out of the suburbs and despise it more =)