The Politics of Cities and Suburbs

  • Nigel Bowles
Part of the Comparative Government and Politics book series (CGP)


The subject of this chapter is the nature of politics and policy in America’s Metropolitan Areas, and the cities and suburbs that comprise them. The theme is that, with the exception of their solid electoral support for Democratic Presidential and Congressional candidates, the condition of America’s cities is strikingly varied. Consistent with this theme, a threefold categorization into declining; diverse; and dynamic cities is developed and applied. Although suburbs reveal some differences of condition, development, and prospect, the factors that unite them are more powerful than those that divide them. More recent phenomena than cities, the causes of suburbs’ growth are strikingly similar, and their social and political significance comparable. This chapter will show that the politics of racial segregation, for so long a rural southern question, has in the twentieth century also become an urban and suburban one: suburban development has taken the form it has at the speed it has in part because urban areas, especially those in the north and east, have attracted huge inward black migration. In their political attachments, suburbs remain areas of Republican strength, Clinton’s qualified successes in his Presidential campaigns notwithstanding.


Central City Public Transport Metropolitan Statistical Area American City City Government 
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Further Reading

  1. The web-site run by the Bureau of the Census, a Federal agency within the Department of Commerce, contains excellent sources of data on demographic change. The Bureau also publishes periodically the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, a rich source of statistics on sub-Federal government.Google Scholar
  2. Lineberry and Fowler’s paper “Reformism and Public Policies in American Cities”, American Political Science Review (1967), remains a useful account of the variants of mayoral systems.Google Scholar
  3. Federal sponsorship of suburban growth is compellingly examined by Jackson in Crabgrass Frontier, while the failure of mass transport to accommodate new spatial circumstances is the subject of Kain’s excellent paper “The Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis: Three Decades Later”, Housing Policy Debate, vol. 3, no. 2 (1992).Google Scholar
  4. The location and distribution of power are explained in different ways by, among others, Hughes and Sternberg in The New Metropolitan Reality; Dahl in Who Governs?; Hunter in Community Power Structure; Stone in Regime Politics; Schattschneider in The Semi-Sovereign People; and Crenson, in his stimulating book The Unpolitics of Air Pollution. Katznelson’s fine City Trenches is a stimulating attempt to develop a Marxist account of urban politics, while Paul Peterson’s City Limits is a structuralist argument of a different, public choice, sort. Mollenkopf’s The Contested City, and Phoenix from the Ashes, are outstandingly fine analyses which accord to political activity its appropriately full place.Google Scholar
  5. Lemann’s The Promised Land explores the hopeful migration of southern black citizens to northern cities and the evaporation of their hopes in northern ghettoes. While Banfield’s The Unheavenly City Revisited held out in 1974 the prospect of qualified optimism about the future of cities, Leon Dash’s fine and closely-focused study of the appallingly severe deprivation suffered by the poorest urban black Americans, Rosa Lee, holds out little.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Nigel Bowles 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nigel Bowles
    • 1
  1. 1.CharlburyUK

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