The City as a Legal Concept

  • Gerald E. Frug
Part of the Environment, Development, and Public Policy book series (EDPC)


American cities today do not have the power to solve their current problems or to control their future development. Their impotence is expressed in their legal status. Under current law, cities have no “natural” or “inherent” power to do anything simply because they decide to do it. Cities have only those powers delegated to them by state government, and traditionally those delegated powers have been rigorously limited by judicial interpretation. Moreover, city authority exercised pursuant to unquestionably delegated powers is itself subject to absolute state control. In an attempt to curb this unrestrained power, most state constitutions have been amended to grant cities “home rule,” but local self-determination free of state control is still limited, even in those jurisdictions, to matters “purely local” in nature. These days, little, if anything, is sufficiently ”local” to fall within such a definition of autonomy. State law, in short, treats cities as mere “creatures of the state.”.


Legal Concept Business Corporation Corporate Power Local Autonomy Private Corporation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald E. Frug
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard Law SchoolCambridgeUSA

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