Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States

9780815791072: Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States

Gated communities are a new "hot button" in many North American cities. From Boston to Los Angeles and from Miami to Toronto citizens are taking sides in the debate over whether any neighborhood should be walled and gated, preventing intrusion or inspection by outsiders. This debate has intensified since the hard cover edition of this book was published in 1997. Since then the number of gated communities has risen dramatically. In fact, new homes in over 40 percent of planned developments are gated n the West, the South, and southeastern parts of the United States. Opposition to this phenomenon is growing too. In the small and relatively homogenous town of Worcester, Massachusetts, a band of college students from Brown University and the University of Chicago picketed the Wexford Village in November of 1998 waving placards that read "Gates Divide." These students are symbolic of a much larger wave of citizens asking questions about the need for and the social values of gates that divide one portion of a community from another.

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In their efforts to find a safe, quiet, traffic- and crime-free place to live, more and more Americans are turning to gated communities--self-enclosed developments barricaded off from surrounding neighborhoods, often using security guards to prevent intruders and screen visitors, sometimes even privatizing services traditionally left to local government. In Fortress America, authors Edward Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder analyze what this gating trend--what they call "forting up"--portends for America as a whole. "What is the measure of nationhood when the divisions between neighborhoods require guards and fences to keep out other citizens? When public services and even local government are privatized, when the community of responsibility stops at the subdivision gates, what happens to the function and the very idea of a social and political democracy? Can the nation fulfill its social contract in the absence of social contact?"

Their answer, unfortunately, is no. Blakely and Snyder argue that gating further divides our already fragmented society; it isolates segments of a community from one another and does nothing to address the social problems that barricades attempt to shut out. Instead, they suggest using crime prevention, traffic control, and community-building efforts to achieve the same effects. In Fortress America, Blakely and Snyder have produced a trenchant analysis that's only slightly marred by its wooden prose. Anyone concerned about the future of American communities should read this book.

From the Publisher:

Copublished with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

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