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The Spirit of Cities:
Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age
Daniel A. Bell & Avner de-Shalit

Hardcover | 2011 | $45.00 | £37.95 | ISBN: 9780691151441
360 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 10 halftones.
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Cities shape the lives and outlooks of billions of people, yet they have been overshadowed in contemporary political thought by nation-states, identity groups, and concepts like justice and freedom. The Spirit of Cities revives the classical idea that a city expresses its own distinctive ethos or values. In the ancient world, Athens was synonymous with democracy and Sparta represented military discipline. In this original and engaging book, Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit explore how this classical idea can be applied to today's cities, and they explain why philosophy and the social sciences need to rediscover the spirit of cities.

Bell and de-Shalit look at nine modern cities and the prevailing ethos that distinguishes each one. The cities are Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance), and New York (ambition). Bell and de-Shalit draw upon the richly varied histories of each city, as well as novels, poems, biographies, tourist guides, architectural landmarks, and the authors' own personal reflections and insights. They show how the ethos of each city is expressed in political, cultural, and economic life, and also how pride in a city's ethos can oppose the homogenizing tendencies of globalization and curb the excesses of nationalism.

The Spirit of Cities is unreservedly impressionistic. Combining strolling and storytelling with cutting-edge theory, the book encourages debate and opens up new avenues of inquiry in philosophy and the social sciences. It is a must-read for lovers of cities everywhere.


"The affinity and intimacy recalled here inevitably evoke memories of and comparisons to one's own city experiences. The scholarly knowledge is often enlightening and instills the urge to go deeper into many of the urban histories that the authors place in front of the reader. . . . After reading their city portraits, one is inclined to 'stroll' through one's own city with newly opened eyes, ready for surprises and the unraveling of hidden historic layers."--Florian Kossak, Times Higher Education

"For this city lover their book was a passionate, profound and inspiring journey to the heart of the contemporary urban experience."--City-Lit Café

"The call 'city-zens of the world unite' symbolizes the enduring importance of and unique characteristics associated with cities able and willing to withstand the pressures of globalization. Rather than suggesting the rise of uniformity fostered by globalization across cities, Bell and de-Shalit offer a series of fascinating and convincing case studies that counter this view. . . . Personally familiar with Jerusalem, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Oxford, Berlin, Paris, and New York, in their findings the authors describe unique ethes ranging from religious conviction in the case of Jerusalem to ambition in the case of New York."--Choice

"This highly readable book . . . is academically informed but will not strike the general reader as academic."--Sunder Katwala, British Future

"The Spirit of Cities is a strange book, in a good way. . . . [F]ascinating and informative. . . . Bell and de-Shalit have created an admirable study that offers insight into all cities."--Stephan Delbos, Prague Post

"Bell and de-Shalit put forth a provocative thesis, and they present it in a rich brew of insights, anecdotes, and ideas that can benefit anyone with a stake in the urban environment."--Stanley Stark, Oculus


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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: Civicism 1
Jerusalem: The City of Religion 18
Montreal: The City of Language(s) 56
Singapore: The City of Nation Building 78
Hong Kong: The City of Materialism 111
Beijing: The City of Political Power 140
Oxford: The City of Learning 161
Berlin: The City of (In)Tolerance 191
Paris: The City of Romance 222
New York: The City of Ambition 249
Notes 279
Bibliography 321
Index 333

This book has been translated into:

  • Chinese (Complex)

Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Daniel A. Bell:

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Avner de-Shalit:


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File created: 7/11/2017

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