Andrew's Reviews > The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects

The City in History by Lewis Mumford
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Sep 16, 10

bookshelves: urbanism
Read in September, 2010

Mumford is, in many ways, a total precursor to the postmodernists. He maintains a skepticism towards Enlightenment as well as a strong respect for the subjective, vital forces of humanity. Like any good contemporary social thinker, he recognizes that the parsing of culture into numeric bits and pieces is only one among many methods of attaining knowledge.

There's a certain Eurocentrism which is to be expected for a writer from his era, but what troubles me more is what I deem "urbanocentrism." He has a way of viewing all history through the lens of the city, thus excluding the discourse of societies beyond the city-- which was, until a few years ago, most of the world's population-- and consequently only seeing a sliver of humanity. However, if we read Mumford as a meticulous analyst of the course of development of the Western city, we get a much stronger narrative.
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