|W W NORTON & CO|
the guardian Sat 13 December 2008
Richard Sennett was 25 when his first book, The Uses of Disorder, was published in 1970. Reissued with a new preface, this prescient study of class, city life and identity celebrates the dynamism and diversity of metropolitan life and calls for an urban renaissance. He castigates the middle classes for retreating to the "secure cocoons" of the suburbs: "Suburbanites are people who are afraid to live in a world they cannot control." In their flight to the more socially homogeneous suburbs, people are choosing a morally and psychologically impoverished environment. Only in "dense, disorderly, overwhelming cities", with their rich mix of different classes, ethnicities and cultures, do we learn the true complexity of life and human relations: "The jungle of the city, its vastness and loneliness, has a positive human value." Sennett speaks eloquently of the benefits to individuals and society of diverse, even "anarchic", urban communities. His argument remains powerful and relevant, an inspiration to a new generation of urbanists.