Thursday, February 24, 2011

The City As Metaphor: Marketing To The American Multi-Culture

By Alain Groenendaal, MediaPost

For as long as there have been cities, they have been maligned as soulless vortexes that pollute and overwhelm, irresistibly dragging innocents towards them, sucking up their aspirations and hopes when they get there. The cities of the Old Testament -- Babylon, Gomorrah -- were places you desperately wanted to avoid rather than go visit. Dante even located his Inferno below the city of Jerusalem: one funnel-like, ever more degrading series of rings from which people never escaped, condemned to repeat their sins without hope of breaking the cycle. In the 20th century, the city became the place where runaways were lost, old people abandoned, and everybody in between stressed beyond endurance.

Yet now comes along a Harvard professor of economics, of all things, to radically upend this traditional view. In his new book, Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier, Edward Glaeser posits that cities are the true motors of human innovation. Far from oppressing creativity, cities increase it exponentially. They attract and bring together people of very different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and talents, make it easier for them to interact, push them to compete and become even better, thus encouraging entrepreneurship and social and economic mobility. Unlike suburbs, which separate and alienate us from each other, cities raise us up rather than bring us down.

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