Palaces for the People

Palaces for the People

How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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"An eminent sociologist--and coauthor, with Aziz Ansari, of the #1 New York Times bestseller Modern Romance--makes the provocative case that the future of democratic societies rests not only on shared values but also on shared "social infrastructure": the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, coffee shops, pools, and parks that promote crucial, sometimes life-saving connections between people who might otherwise fail to find common cause"-- Provided by publisher.
"An eminent sociologist and bestselling author offers an inspiring blueprint for rebuilding our fractured society. We are living in a time of deep divisions. Americans are sorting themselves along racial, religious, and cultural lines, leading to a level of polarization that the country hasn't seen since the Civil War. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done? In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the 'social infrastructure': When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves. Klinenberg takes us around the globe--from a floating school in Bangladesh to an arts incubator in Chicago, from a soccer pitch in Queens to an evangelical church in Houston--to show how social infrastructure is helping to solve some of our most pressing challenges: isolation, crime, education, addiction, political polarization, and even climate change. Richly reported, elegantly written, and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People urges us to acknowledge the crucial role these spaces play in civic life. Our social infrastructure could be the key to bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides--and safeguarding democracy."--Dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : Crown, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781524761165
Branch Call Number: 307.7609 KLINENB
Characteristics: 277 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Eric Klinenberg's most recent book has a radically reasonable premise: common spaces support the common good. He argues this premise with data and anecdotes and champions those things we all love most in our communities like schools and libraries and community gardens.

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Mar 28, 2020

An insightful and optimistic prescription for how to knit our divided nation back together through investments in social infrastructure, such as public spaces and libraries.

JessicaGma Feb 04, 2020

This is an excellent read for anyone interested in urban planning, civic life, or cities. Eric Klieneberg writes about parks, libraries, and other shared spaces that makes cities great and help with so many other issues faced by communities today. The very things we chose to not fund are those that make communities vibrant and safe.

Feb 03, 2020


Feb 17, 2019

Do you believe in the common good? Do you mourn the loss of social capital? Do you want to know how to bring people together in your area? Do you want to make your community safer when disaster strikes? Do you want to help people who feel isolated come back into the community? Are you starved for human interaction in person, not on screens? Do you want to reduce crime in your community? Do you love libraries?

If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, this is a book you absolutely must read!

“Social infrastructure” is shared spaces where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. It includes places like public libraries, churches, schools, day care centers, playgrounds, parks, athletic fields, swimming pools, community centers, pubs, cafes, community gardens, sidewalks, courtyards, bookstores, etc.

The book opens by describing two poor Chicago neighborhoods and how they responded during a terrible heat wave in 1995. They looked very similar on paper: 99% African American, with similar proportions of elderly residents. But Englewood had 33 deaths per 100,000 residents, while Auburn Gresham had only 3 deaths per 100,000 residents, making it one of most resilient places in the city. Why the big difference?

The difference was the social infrastructure in Auburn Gresham, while many people in Englewood were isolated and afraid to leave their homes. In 1995, the people of Auburn Gresham walked to local diners, parks, barbershops and grocery stores. They were members of block clubs and churches. They knew their neighbors because they interacted with them regularly; even if they were not close friends, they knew each other and they knew who might need help. The author notes, “with heat waves becoming more frequent and more severe, living in a neighborhood with a social infrastructure like Auburn Gresham’s is the rough equivalent of having a working air conditioner in every home.”

Wow! That is powerful! People are not only happier where they interact with their neighbors, but they are safer too.

There is a lot to like about this book. First, it is a love letter to public libraries, which create some of the best social infrastructure in any community. There are wonderful stories about libraries and their impacts on adults, children and communities. They are free and open to all, and they offer an amazing array of services.

Second, the stories in this book are beautiful and powerful. Many brought tears to my eyes as I read.

There is so much more in this book; I have only scratched the surface. I highly recommend this book to one and all! You will love it!

Dec 31, 2018

Should be required reading for anyone in local government.

Nov 28, 2018

The author offers a roadmap towards a less polarized society as he extols the importance of our civic institutions - libraries, churches, parks and greenspaces, and civic associations- and their importance in a democratic society. Very inspiring!

Oct 20, 2018

Explains the increasing importance of libraries in the 21st century as social infrastructure as well as the increasing need for emergency planning in communities and responsible building codes.


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Dec 31, 2018

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