Cover image for City making : building communities without building walls
City making : building communities without building walls
Frug, Gerald E., 1939-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
256 pages ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1430 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HT167 .F78 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



American metropolitan areas today are divided into neighborhoods of privilege and poverty, often along lines of ethnicity and race. City residents traveling through these neighborhoods move from feeling at home to feeling like tourists to feeling so out of place they fear for their security. As Gerald Frug shows, this divided and inhospitable urban landscape is not simply the result of individual choices about where to live or start a business. It is the product of government policies--and, in particular, the policies embedded in legal rules. A Harvard law professor and leading expert on urban affairs, Frug presents the first-ever analysis of how legal rules shape modern cities and outlines a set of alternatives to bring down the walls that now keep city dwellers apart.

Frug begins by describing how American law treats cities as subdivisions of states and shows how this arrangement has encouraged the separation of metropolitan residents into different, sometimes hostile groups. He explains in clear, accessible language the divisive impact of rules about zoning, redevelopment, land use, and the organization of such city services as education and policing. He pays special attention to the underlying role of anxiety about strangers, the widespread desire for good schools, and the pervasive fear of crime. Ultimately, Frug calls for replacing the current legal definition of cities with an alternative based on what he calls "community building"--an alternative that gives cities within the same metropolitan region incentives to forge closer links with each other.

An incisive study of the legal roots of today's urban problems, City Making is also an optimistic and compelling blueprint for enabling American cities once again to embrace their historic role of helping people reach an accommodation with those who live in the same geographic area, no matter how dissimilar they are.

Author Notes

Gerald E. Frug is the Louis D. Brandeis Professor of Law at Harvard University. He is the author of Local Government Law .

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Has it become all too easy to fight City Hall? Why can't cities and suburbs get along? And how can we fix the laws that set them at odds? Where other urban reformers concentrate on bricks and mortar, or jobs and welfare, Harvard Law School professor Frug (Local Government Law) shows how American laws and legal traditions have hurt many cities, keeping them hobbled by state government and favoring suburbs at cities' expense. Zoning laws can undermine diversity and aggravate segregation, separating the poor from the rich and placing valuable services beyond reach of the poor. Writing as a legal academic, Frug takes welcome account not only of the relevant court decisions but also of urban history, sociology and political and literary theorists, from Hannah Arendt to Judith Butler. His commanding abstractions produce plausible policy recommendations, too. Recognizing how hard it would be to change how states and businesses operate, Frug recommends that American cities "transform city services into vehicles for community building," using schools, police forces and other government functions to help citizens recognize mutual interests. Residents ought to learn to think of themselves as political and ethical actors, rather than as mere consumers; policy makers can help them do so. Frug argues saliently that a city's character is shaped as much by its residents' perceptions of their civic responsibilities as by its built environment. If his prose is less than action-packed, his points come through clearly: they're all worth making, and readers who find his first chapters too theoretical will be happier later, when he gets down to cases. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Frug, a top Harvard legal scholar and urban affairs expert, makes a pathbreaking effort to document how government policies have shaped the fragmentation of the American metropolis. Frug is particularly effective at demonstrating that the divided urban landscape is the product of legal rules that guide these policies, and not merely the accumulated result of individual residential and nonresidential location decisions. The 11 chapters of this tight, well-written analysis are organized into four parts: the city as a legal concept; decentering decentralization; the geography of community; and city services. Throughout, Frug combines his sharp eye and legal mind to identify problems and recommend alternatives to dismantle the barriers to their solution. In the end he calls for nothing less than a new legal definition of cities that will strengthen community building by encouraging the forging of closer ties among the municipalities that constitute a metropolitan mosaic. Although unsupported by needed illustrations, the book does offer valuable notes and a detailed index. Highly recommended for urban studies collections and all law libraries. All levels. P. O. Muller; University of Miami

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
City Makingp. 2
Introductionp. 3
Part 1 The City as a Legal Conceptp. 15
1 City Powerlessnessp. 17
2 A Legal History of Citiesp. 26
3 Strategies for Empowering Citiesp. 54
Part 2 Decentering Decentralizationp. 71
4 The Situated Subjectp. 73
5 The Postmodern Subjectp. 92
Part 3 The Geography of Communityp. 113
6 Community Buildingp. 115
7 City Land Usep. 143
Part 4 City Servicesp. 165
8 Alternative Conceptions of City Servicesp. 167
9 Educationp. 180
10 Policep. 196
11 Choosing City Servicesp. 208
Afterwordp. 219
Notesp. 225
Indexp. 247