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Democratic ideals and the urban experience

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The test of civilization is the power of drawing the most benefit out of cities."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

What is the role of the urban experience in the construction of American democratic ideals? By looking at the disparate visions of a just society advanced by Jefferson and Hamilton, this paper will attempt to provide an account of the historical role of the urban experience in the construction of the American vision of democracy. Then, through the works of John Dewey and Lewis Mumford (and Robert Westbrook's account of their continuing disagreements), the essay will address some of the issues stemming from the role of urban experience in the processes of moral development. Then, through the work of Whitman, it will be argued that the urban experience is a necessary condition for the adequate development of democratic ideals. The essay will conclude with a brief analysis of some of the important elements of the urban experience, and their respective contributions to the construction of democratic values.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Queensborough Community College/City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

Publication date: 2003-08-01

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