Palaces for the People: Book summary and reviews of Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg

Palaces for the People

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

by Eric Klinenberg

Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg X
Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg
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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An illuminating examination...Klinenberg's observations are effortlessly discursive and always cogent...He persuasively illustrates the vital role these spaces play in repairing civic life." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. If America appears fractured at the national level, the author suggests, it can be mended at the local one. This is an engrossing, timely, hopeful read, nothing less than a new lens through which to view the world and its current conflicts." - Booklist

"Fine reading for community activists seeking to expand the social infrastructure of their own home places." - Kirkus

"Eric Klinenberg combines a Jane Jacobs-eye on city life with knowledge of the latest research and practical ideas to address the crucial issues of the day - class division, crime, and climate change. This is a brilliant and important book." - Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land

"Reading Palaces for the People is an amazing experience...To create good places for people is essential, and this is what I share with Klinenberg: We both believe that beauty, this kind of beauty, can save the world." - Renzo Piano

"In an age where the push for disembodiment and never leaving the house and fearing and avoiding strangers and doing everything as fast as possible is so powerful, this book makes the case for why we want to head in the opposite direction. It's both idealistic and, in its myriad examples, pragmatic, and delightfully readable." - Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me and A Field Guide to Getting Lost

"Wow. A comprehensive, entertaining, and compelling argument for how rebuilding social infrastructure can help heal divisions in our society and move us forward. I can't wait for people in my ideological bubble to ignore it!" - Jon Stewart

"At a time when polarization is weakening our democracy, Eric Klinenberg takes us on a tour of the physical spaces that bind us together and form the basis of civic life...his wonderful book shows us how democracies thrive." - Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, authors of How Democracies Die

"Eric Klinenberg believes that social life can be designed well, just as good buildings are...He is a major social thinker, and this is a beautifully written, major book." - Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics

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Author Information

Eric Klinenberg

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller Modern Romance and the author of the acclaimed books Going Solo and Heat Wave. He has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and This American Life.

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