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The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City Paperback – Aug 22 1996

3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (Sept. 20 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 041513255X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415132558
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 1.7 x 29.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 458 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #706,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

The New Urban Frontier is an important book. Not only does it lucidly describe an important contemporary problem, it focuses on finding alternatives and solutions
.
Harvard Design Magazine

... beautifully written and illustrated ... In pulling together this collection of essays, Smith has done an extraordinary job of weaving together materials written over the course of 15 years ... The New Urban Frontier is much more than the essays that comprise it ... [T]his is a wonderful book that connects gentrification to the broad processes shaping and reshaping our cities.
The Professional Geographer

A formidable synthesis that deserves a respectful hearing.
Journal of American History

The New Urban Frontier is brimming with fascinating city case studies, imaginative historical allusions, forceful arguments, and good humor; it is a tour de force that merits serious attention from both the interested novice and the more seasoned scholar in urban studies.
Population and Development Review

Neil Smith has been the most prolific and perhaps the most eloquent theorist of gentrification since the late 1970s ... The New Urban Frontier is brimming with fascinating city case studies, imaginative historical allusions, forceful arguments, and good humor; it is a tour de force that merits serious attention from both the interested novice and the more seasoned scholar in urban studies.
Population and Development Review

About the Author

Neil Smith is professor of Geography and acting Director of the Center for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture. An urban geographer and social theorist, he has written extensively on gentrification, the history of geography, and the production of nature. He is author of Uneven Development (Blackwell 1991) and of the forthcoming The Geographical Pivot of History: Isaiah Bowman and the American Century (John Hopkins Press).

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Format: Paperback
I have to be careful when writing about the book that has become the backbone to my undergraduate dissertation. Smith goes where others have not dared by suggesting the real reasons behind change in New York and other western cities. His ideas are sound, but as with so many reactionary books I got the impression that he had decided on the answers before asking the questions. Research has little balance at all, and you begin to worry about its values when the book somehow manages to link revanchism to such wide ranging issues as "the organized murder of street kids in Rio de Janeiro, the Hindu massacres in Bombay, the pre-election slaughter of South Africans in Durban, the mayhem in Baghdad streets after the barbaric US bombing in 1991". However once he gets down from his socialist soapbox, the theories of revanchism can be useful for interperating change in western inner-cities. Not a book you will put down easily, but also one not to taken at face value...
If you are interested in this subject check out M. Davis (1990) City of Quartz, H. Liggett & D. Perry (1995) Spatial Practices, and P. Knox (1992) The Restless Urban Landscape.
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Format: Paperback
The most useful part of the book in terms of understanding cities is the chapter on the economic theory of gentrification, that economic incentives force landlords in a declining residential area to under-maintain their building, causing further deterioration of the neighborhood's housing stock until the buildings are so undercapitalized relative to the land value underneath that capital swooshes back in with rich people. (OK so this is kind of complicated for us non-economists but it's an important theory) The role of artists and the rhetoric of "urban pioneers" is very interesting too.
The downside that I kept thinking about in later chapters is that it's a shame that left-wing authors' writing tends to be very academic in tone compared to those of establishment thinkers. The content in this book is interesting if you can get past that. If you just want a good left-wing view of cities, Mike Davis' City of Quartz is much a more crisply-written and compelling read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0xa1b5bbd0) out of 5 stars 7 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e22630) out of 5 stars Fairly good overview of gentrification theory Nov. 28 2002
By Chris Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The most useful part of the book in terms of understanding cities is the chapter on the economic theory of gentrification, that economic incentives force landlords in a declining residential area to under-maintain their building, causing further deterioration of the neighborhood's housing stock until the buildings are so undercapitalized relative to the land value underneath that capital swooshes back in with rich people. (OK so this is kind of complicated for us non-economists but it's an important theory) The role of artists and the rhetoric of "urban pioneers" is very interesting too.
The downside that I kept thinking about in later chapters is that it's a shame that left-wing authors' writing tends to be very academic in tone compared to those of establishment thinkers. The content in this book is interesting if you can get past that. If you just want a good left-wing view of cities, Mike Davis' City of Quartz is much a more crisply-written and compelling read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e22684) out of 5 stars Essential and Current Critique of Urbanization as a Tool of Capital Feb. 20 2009
By Daniel Lobo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The New Urban Frontier remains a cogent, essential, and hard critique of the mechanisms that shape urbanization as a process of capital, through means that impose, and expand social inequality and exclusion.

Unapologetically it offers critique from the left that is supported by one of the most lucid analysis of gentrification to date. Given its depth on, it often requires careful reading and analysis, and heated questioning as it calls for a reevaluation of the built environment and the predominant discourses that often coat urban life.

Written in 96, the book might benefit from an update to cover the following 10 years, something that Smith has done to some extent in his following work and teaching. However, if anything comes clear well over a decade after its publication is how current, and pointed his critique is, having been reproduced and expanded in a new cycle of gentrification, exclusion, decorated with the dogma of urban frontiers, pioneering, renewal, that hardly ever touches with any compromise social equity and environmental justice as the funding principles of its being.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e22abc) out of 5 stars beyond uneven development Dec 23 2009
By M. Ghazal - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'll start with the bad news: If you're familiar with Neil Smith, you'll realize, as he mentions in the Acknowledgments, that most of these chapters aren't new. The majority are revamped mashings of a variety of articles he wrote. Nonetheless, new work still fills a lot of New Urban Frontier. His considerations for the cultural production/consumption of gentrification (i.e. frontier discourse) are rather new and important, considering previous articles where he rejects social emphases (and his following article in 1999 with James DeFilipis where he re-affirms the priority of economic analyses). The book also attempts to negotiate with gentrification on a global context, considering, for example, the intricacies of uneven dev. at the global level, and `three European cities'. Also, and I felt this was a treat, two chapters discuss other theories of gentrification and urban (re)development on local (US?) and global levels. Personally, I would recommend this book as a great example of gentrification studies - the book attempts to open up the many facets of this phenomenon (local-global economic trends, social correlations, cultural aspects, and even a little bit on future resistance). It's also quite ideal for anyone being introduced to the field, as Smith makes helpful attempts to survey the many opposing positions. Personally, I preferred the articles.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e22e7c) out of 5 stars Gentrification: A structural and cultural analysis Dec 9 2009
By M. Macias - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Trained as a geographer, Neil Smith is currently a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at CUNY Graduate School, and the Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. In the intellectual tradition of David Harvey, Smith brings a Marxist perspective to issues of contemporary political economy, urban social theory, and the theory of geography. The New Urban Frontier represents a collection and revision of many of his earlier writings on the subject. Though the book reads like separate essays rather than a cohesive narrative, it provides a theoretical framework and brief history lesson for anyone interested in understanding the complex political and economic conditions that have given rise to gentrification. Additionally, Smith's analysis of frontier imagery, and his premise of "revanchism" of the state, which book-end the collection, offer rich critical material for a deeper understanding of the cultural context for this phenomena.

Smith's main argument is that the cycles of the economic system and the needs of capital are the main drivers of gentrification, not the social or "demand-side" factors often cited. However, this does not mean that he ignores the deeply powerful cultural narrative that has facilitated these economic processes. In the introduction, Smith discusses the image of the frontier in the U.S. national imagination, and how it has been employed in the narrative of gentrification. Smith's clear-eyed view of how the central city has been explicitly marketed to "urban pioneers" as a terrain to be explored, conquered, and civilized theorizes gentrification as a "frontier": a process of violence, appropriation and displacement sanitized by a narrative of individualized struggle and triumph. Furthermore, Smith contends that this urban frontier is not the object of a "return to the city" by a cultural elite that has rejected the suburbs, which is also a strong theme in the gentrification narrative. Smith uses empirical data to show that the majority of gentrifiers are not from the suburbs, but city residents of other neighborhoods drawn by cheap housing and new public and private investment. Though this evidence would be stronger if there were a more current study to draw from, his critique rejects the idea that gentrification is inherently anti-suburban: "Albeit a reversal in geographic terms, the gentrification and redevelopment of the inner city represents a clear continuation of the forces and relations that led to suburbanization. (p. 87)"

Smith is at his strongest in his explanation of these forces and relations that lead to gentrification. He provides an historical context and relies on case studies (Philadelphia's Society Hill, New York's Lower East Side, Harlem, Budapest, Amsterdam and Paris) to advance his case for a theory of gentrification. He clearly illustrates how experiences of gentrification, though they may be different, share common characteristics of uneven development, cycles of divestment and reinvestment, and displacement. From here, Smith proposes a Rent Gap theory of gentrification. Rent Gap theory is based on an understanding of the cyclical nature of capitalism, which requires underdevelopment and redevelopment (driven by the needs of capital, not consumer choice). According to Smith, neighborhoods decline when the built environment in which capital is invested reaches a point in their life cycles where there is more value in decline (for future new use) than in maintenance. Gentrification happens when there is a sufficient gap between capitalized ground rent under present use and potential ground rent. This spurs both private and public investment and provides a new cycle of investment and profit for private capital.

Smith acknowledges that there are weaknesses in his theory, particularly in terms of how social conditions, cultural shifts, and demand-side factors also contribute to neighborhood changes. At the time of his writing, Smith predicted that gentrification would continue but at a slower pace, when in fact the housing boom of the late 1990s was in large part tied to massive redevelopment of downtowns and central cities. However, the housing bubble also perfectly illustrates that on which his analysis is based: the cyclical nature of capitalism prescribes exactly these flows of increased investment and ebbs of divestment, punctuated by periodic crises.

While Smith analyzes gentrification as a predominantly market-driven process, throughout the book he implicates the state for its role in protecting and advancing the interests of private capital and the upper class. Using the term "revanchism" (an allusion to the French nationalist "Revanchists" that sought to punish those who "stole" France during the Revolution), Smith paints a picture of "a divided city where the victors are increasingly defensive of their privilege, such as it is, and increasingly vicious defending it (p. 227)." He points to the criminalization of the poor and homeless, the policing of public space, and the militarization of law enforcement as examples of the increasing vengefulness of the state against the least powerful. While Smith was writing during a time of intense "revanchism" in federal policy (Welfare Reform and the Rockefeller Drug Laws provide two good examples), this analysis is just as powerful and relevant today, particularly in relation to gentrification and the reclamation of the inner city for the upper class. While gentrification is still being spun as benign at worst and benevolent at best, the poor, homeless, and working class bear the brunt of inadequate social services ,"quality of life" ordinances, police harassment and other punitive policies that serve to enforce a vision of the city that does not belong to them.
18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1e22f60) out of 5 stars Great ideas spoilt by the style Feb. 25 2001
By James Davies - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have to be careful when writing about the book that has become the backbone to my undergraduate dissertation. Smith goes where others have not dared by suggesting the real reasons behind change in New York and other western cities. His ideas are sound, but as with so many reactionary books I got the impression that he had decided on the answers before asking the questions. Research has little balance at all, and you begin to worry about its values when the book somehow manages to link revanchism to such wide ranging issues as "the organized murder of street kids in Rio de Janeiro, the Hindu massacres in Bombay, the pre-election slaughter of South Africans in Durban, the mayhem in Baghdad streets after the barbaric US bombing in 1991". However once he gets down from his socialist soapbox, the theories of revanchism can be useful for interperating change in western inner-cities. Not a book you will put down easily, but also one not to taken at face value...
If you are interested in this subject check out M. Davis (1990) City of Quartz, H. Liggett & D. Perry (1995) Spatial Practices, and P. Knox (1992) The Restless Urban Landscape.


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