Why Cities Flourish and Fail

HNR 360 - Why Cities Flourish and Fail

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2016
Class #: 15306
Section: M002
Credits: 3

Prof. Carl Schramm

Counts toward:
HNR Soc Sci, Interdisciplinary

Course Time(s):
MW 2:15 - 3:35 p.m


Course Description:

As of 2010, over half of the world's populations lives in cities. This seminar explores the phenomenon of the life cycles of cities. It examines the dynamics of urban expansion and decay through literature, media (including movies), and field studies. Students will investigate the life cycle of three American cities: Buffalo, New York and Detroit. The ongoing histories of London, Rome and Mumbai will be referenced. The emergence of the Silicon Valley as an iconic model of growth based on the interplay of entrepreneurs, Stanford/UC Berkeley/UCSF/UC Davis, existing companies and venture capital funds will be studied. The rise of the city-state Singapore will be examined as will be the disparate rates of growth in China’s costal and inland cities and its relationship to the presence or absence of private initiative v. state ownership of land, housing and businesses. The objective of the course is to present the student with a rigorous intellectual examination of one of the most important aspects of how civilization is organized. Aspects of urban dynamics that will be explored include immigration, economic ecology, innovation and entrepreneurship, the role of universities and libraries, improvements in public health, the shifting identity of hospitals, secular trends in architecture and each city's aesthetics and their relation to factors such as public land use planning, and city finances and larger state/national tax and trade policy. The course begins with a study of the Kelo decision regarding government’s power to take private property for presumed better uses. The history of urban planning is discussed with emphasis on the contributions of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. The construction of Brasilia and the Empire State Plaza in Albany are considered. The course will also examine changes in civic morality as measured through both the changing mix of religious institutions and shifts in their doctrinal messages, crime, and political corruption. We will explore historic tensions among city elites and democratizing forces and the shifting locus of decision making from mayors/city legislatures to federal bureaucracies, especially as regards housing, transportation, education and healthcare. The course will examine several visual models of cityscapes. The city as the subject of political art will be explored as well. One American novel on city life will be considered. Each session considers one song describing life in a specific city. The course requires five short essays (500 words) one term paper (3500 words) or a studio project. Students interested in architecture, history, art history, business history, public policy, urban planning, literature and economics will find the course of particular interest.