Boston University Sociologist Challenges Major Contemporary Views on Citiesin New Book “The American City, A Social and Cultural History”

in College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Humanities/Social Science, News Releases
November 15th, 1999

Contact: Sarah Godbout, 617-358-1240 | sgodbout@bu.edu

(Boston, Mass.) — Does America have a sense of community and a vital civic culture? Are disparate groups capable of uniting as a single people? Do Americans help each other for the common good?

Boston University Professor of Sociology Daniel J. Monti, Jr., confronts these central issues of our society in his most recent book, The American City, A Social and Cultural History. Monti argues that American cities are not the social disaster zones that many critics claim they are. Instead, he says, they work well, offering safety, community and opportunity.

Monti looks at these questions in this wide-ranging volume spanning three hundred years of American civic life and finds answers that go against the common beliefs of society.

Monti reconciles the views of liberals and conservatives to show that Americans are indeed a “community of believers,” a community of people with strong common beliefs about what is right and what it takes to be in the world together. He also shows that a viable and vital urban culture exists in the United States despite notions of division and apathy.

In a series of portraits of thirty-five small, medium-sized, and large American cities, Monti discovers urban aspects of America that place it in a positive light, a place where people work together for the common good.
According to Monti, “We are a bourgeois people dedicated to becoming prosperous and cultivating orderly habits. These are the bedrock principles of our way of life, which happens to be fundamentally urban in character. We barely notice how these principles are put into practice everyday; but once in a while we openly celebrate these ideas and routines that give them life.” In using the term “bourgeois,” Monti uses it in its literal sense, to mean a collective accomplishment, a state of being or a set of ideas that embrace the principles of prosperity and order.

Stephan Thernstrom of Harvard University says of the book, “The American City explores big questions about how we live now with a tantalizing mix of historical and sociological analysis. Although Monti addresses weighty matters that have inspired deep reflections from major social theorists, he does so in a simple, modest, and personal style that is exceptionally engaging.”

Daniel J. Monti Jr. is Professor of Sociology at Boston University. He has written extensively on American ethnic relations, educational reform, civil unrest, youth gangs, and urban affairs. His other titles include Wannabe: Gangs in Suburbs and Schools (Blackwell, 1995) and Race, Redevelopment and the New Company Town (1990).

Boston University is the third-largest independent university in the United States, with an enrollment of nearly 30,000 students in its 15 school and colleges. The University offers an exceptional grounding in the liberal arts, a broad range of programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and professionals areas, and state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research.

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