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The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  117 ratings  ·  8 reviews
The distinguished social critic Richard Sennett here shows how the excessively ordered community freezes adults—both the young idealists and their security-oriented parents—into rigid attitudes that stifle personal growth. He argues that the accepted ideal of order generates patterns of behavior among the urban middle classes that are stultifying, narrow, and violence-pron ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 17th 1992 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1970)
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Apr 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Without question, one of the most important books I have ever read. The fact that it's been virtually ignored over the past 40 years is a shame given its incredible social revalence in our current political climate. Essential reading. ...more
This is genuinely one of the best books I've ever read. Despite the language being slightly outdated at times (referring to all people as 'men' all the time gets annoying after a while) the concepts have changed my worldview so much. (Sennett has an amazing brain!)

By combining analysis of the psychology of people, and the uses of a city, Sennett makes a convincing case for 'disorder' (anarchy?) in a way that seems intuitive and not at all radical - it seems like a city constructed on disorder a
David Sasaki
Dec 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mario Hernandez
Recommended to David by: Evgeny Morozov
It's difficult to believe that Sennett published this book when he was just 27-years-old. The book, written during the aftermath of the urban race riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in the summer of 1968, examines how the residents of cities form their identities amid so much chaos and and diversity. The book was also written at the beginning of what journalist Bill Bishop has termed "The Big Sort," when urban centers of the US became increasingly diverse and White m ...more
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. What Sennett has to say here about the structuring of cities, of the necessity of indeterminate structures that leads to creative combinations of people and positive conflict, is all great and very valuable insight. That he uses a bunch of psychoanalytic gobbledegook that trades in overly simplistic understandings of human development and maturation to get there is a bit unnecessary.
John Jr.
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
To put it simply, Richard Sennett in this book argues that cities are good for people precisely because of the unexpected encounters that tend to happen in cities. To put it another way, Sennett proposes that unpredictable experiences are good for people and that cities, with all their diversity, randomness, and disorder, are where such experiences occur. This makes his book something of a corollary to Jane Jacobs's Death and Life of Great American Cities, which had argued some 10 years earlier ...more
Jun 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Full disclosure: I did not finish this book.

For me, this book was more interesting as a historical document, and (perhaps) as a reminder of how embarrassing our young selves can be when viewed through older, wiser eyes. I believe those are the eyes through which the author, Richard Sennet, viewed his own work years later when he wrote the preface to my edition in 2008, some 40 years after it was originally published. He points out that this is a book that was written when he was 25, and that it
University of Chicago Magazine
Richard Sennett, AB'64
Aya Nassar
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Fresh. as could be expected by a 25 year old Sennett, fresh from an incomplete revolution. Always makes me fall in love with the strains a city like Cairo put on its inhabitants.
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Richard Sennett has explored how individuals and groups make social and cultural sense of material facts -- about the cities in which they live and about the labour they do. He focuses on how people can become competent interpreters of their own experience, despite the obstacles society may put in their way. His research entails ethnography, history, and social theory. As a social analyst, Mr. Sen ...more

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