Production, Governance, and Lived Experience in Suburbia

There is extensive literature dealing with suburbia in the United States. In the 1950s, when massive suburbanization was undergoing, scholars and media were very critical of the suburb. The suburb was characterized as a homogeneous community for white middle-class conformists. Besides this stereotype of the suburb, Wood’s (1958) classic study of suburbia criticized the fragmentation of the suburban politics—too many independent governments within an interconnected region—that made efficient distribution of resources and meaningful political participation impossible. Studies in the 1960s were more positive about suburbia. Scholars began to refute the stereotype of the suburb—the American suburbs were not homogenous; suburbanites were not conformists. Gans’s 1960s study of the Levittowners stressed that Americans moved their habits to the suburb, and suggested that class and other structural factors influence people’s daily activities rather than the place per se. Moreover, Gans argued that community life in the suburbs was vibrant—people worked collectively to solve problems such as school issues and local zoning.

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.