11. City-state

A world power is not the way most Bostonians today would describe their hometown.  Indeed,  150 years after Brookline said no,  that is still the widespread response alike of the core cities neighborhoods and what  James C. O’Connell calls the  “Boston-phobic suburbs”.  Is it dysfunctional,  I wonder,  Bostonian denial in this respect?  There is surely something  almost paranoid about Boston’s self-understanding — misunderstanding.  How can the same citizenry  so routinely  “think so  small”  and at the same time create and sustain what has,  in fact,  become a world economic power in the league of New York,  Los Angeles and Chicago.  Never mind that University of Toronto’s Richard Florida reports that “together New York,  Los Angeles,  Chicago,  and Boston have a bigger economy than all of China.” Let’s organize a block party.  And stop that new skyscraper going up.

This is not the same thing as when President Obama talks about  “living over the store”.  Tongue in cheek is not a Bostonian gift.  Denial at this scale is paranoid.  But paranoia,  like anything else,  can be detailed.  And has been in a comprehensive study of six years ago which debuted at one of the enduringly successful Boston College Citizen Seminars courtesy of the venerable but ever alert Boston Foundation.  Thus it was in May of 2004 that some Bostonians at least first learned — were confronted by,  if you will — that they were the citizens,  however more  relunctantly than proudly,  of one of the world’s foremost city-states.

By then the study’s author’s,  urbanologists Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson,  had shaken up quite afew American cities with their ways of looking at things:  “citistates”,  they declared,  insisting on an edgier spelling   from their well received book similarly titled,  had become  “how metropolitan regions have begun to operate.”

Theirs is decisively an economic gospel,  related much less to ward politics,  for example, than to the Boston Media Market — what’s that,  Virginia? — the extent of which only dawns on most Bostonians when they are flooded every four years with political advertisements during the New Hampshire presidential primary.  “A citistate is reality”,  Johnson and Peirce insist — shades of James Jackson Storrow’s  “real Boston”  of 1910 —  “a labor market,  a broadcast area . . . a citistate is what the economy does”.  Maybe Brookline’s Boston Brahmin’s of a century and a half ago,  who created no less  a tax shelter than an Olmstedian arcadia,  knew something most of us today still don’t.  “Political boundaries are increasingly outmoded,”  trumpet  Johnson and Curtis,  and so on.  The text,  to quote from  a more recent discourse,  is really,  “it’s the economy,  stupid.”  And Curtis and Johnson did,  indeed,  “call upon Boston to meet its destiny by becoming a world-leading citistate”.

T H E    B U S I N E S S     O F    H O N E Y    F I T Z

“World-leading” —  a boosterish phrase it would be  most places —  was meant in Boston to be challenging;  as was  “Boston Unbound”,  as this comprehensive study is called.  ” Hidebound”   might have been a better choice.  Especially insofar as Boston’s “leadership structure”  is concerned,  which  the study found,  was  “fragmented,  exclusionary and adversarial,  or as [one  source] told us:  we’ve made a lot of progress in Boston,  but tribalism  [another word for localism;  all politics are tribal is  pundit Pat Buchanan’s gloss on U.S. House  Speaker  Tip O’Neil’s  famous aphorism about politics] parochialism and aversion to cooperation  [this time a trait famously associated with the patrician  Adamses]  still stop us from getting things done.”

The report goes on,  in discussing surely the greatest Bostonian setback since the loss of the United Nations world headquarters to New York in the 1940s,  to   ask the same question as did  Vivek Wadhwa in  “The Valley of My Dreams:  Why Silicon Valley Left Boston’s Route 128 in the Dust?”  “It wasn’t so long ago that Silicon Valley was considered a poor cousin of Boston’s tech center . . . . In the 1980s . . . if you were betting on one you’d have been wise to bet on Route 128 because of its longer industrial history and proximity to to a large number of high quality educational institutions,” Wadhwa writes,  adding,  “now  [in 2009] aside from big biotech breakthrough’s,  Boston is a distant second nationally to Silicon Valley.”

Wadhua’s question — “So,  what happened to Boston?” —  is answered by Peirce and Johnson pointing toward Berkeley professor Anna Lee Saxenian’s book, ” Regional Advantage:  Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128″.  Though pulished by Harvard University Press,  it is not a book many Bostonians read,  hymning as it does the  “meritocratic openness,”  for example,  of Silicon Valley,  as opposed to Boston’s more  “corporate”  and  “hierarchical”  culture.

“Rigidity”,  influential Boston talk-show host David Brudnoy,  as conservative a pundit as not,  told Peirce and Johnson was the problem;  to which the authors of  “Boston Unbound”  added Bostonians’ sense of  “superiority”  and  “complacency”.  Neither,  to be sure,  is entirely unfounded.  Wadhwa admits  “the Route 128 community remains the second biggest in the U. S. [and] in some respects,  such as biotech,  Boston may even rival Silicon Valley.”  And both Johnson and Peirce observe oveall that  “for repeated waves of  economic rebirth and innovation few other regions  compete with Boston.”   But their conclusion as to what was essentially the problem of Boston was both devastating and penetrating, not before put so baldly I believe:  “this is a region”,  they declare,  “that takes its politics much more seriously than its economy.”

It is the genetic code of The Gods of Copley Square.  And thereby emerges the most telling definition of global Boston and local Boston.  If local Boston is overwhelmingly about the core cities political culture  (or by extension its sports culture,  of which more later),  global Boston is supremely about the metropolitan  economy which fuels very different extensions,  learning and the arts.  Nor is that to say,  historically,  that I’m suggesting  “local Boston”  is code for Irish-Catholic or  “global Boston” for Yankee Protestant.  The response of John F.  Fitzgerald,  President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s grandfather,  is a case in point — of how a ten year old immigrant kid from the slums got the point a hundred and more years ago that so many Bostonians today resist.

As it happens,  “Honey Fitz”  as a boy hawked newspapers every day on the corner of Beacon Street at the corner of Park Street on Beacon Hill, and not to improve his character either;  his family lived in a North End tenement and his earnings meant a great deal to their welfare.  His was a coveted stand,  just opposite the gold-domed Massachusetts State House.  But young John gave little or no heed to the politics swirling all around him according to his best biographer,  Doris Kearns Goodwin,  and paid most attention instead to the Beacon Street palazzi of the great aristocratic families and to the splendid carriages and equipages of the Brahmin grandees,  and how it all connected in his mind with the massed China clippers crowding Boston Harbor.  The romance of the economy,  not politics,   is what got Honey Fitz going.  Indeed,  it was only the family finances that pulled him away after Boston Latin School from Harvard Medical School, forcing  him into local politics.

H O N E Y    F I T Z:   M E E T    J A N E    J A C O B S

Not the Jane Jacobs who hopelessly neo-romanticized Boston’s North End tenement quarter,  which Honey Fitz knew for what it was and at the earliest moment moved away from.  (He opted,  by the way,  for Olmstedian Ashmont; the railroad suburb a la Brookline,  not the streetcar suburb on nearby Dorchester Avenue; and at one point even for rural Concord).  Not either the Jane Jacobs Boston’s fiercely anti-urban renewal activists canonized;  all of which is to affirm that I am not absolutely an admirer of Jacobs.

Her idea of  “eyes on the street” was just the sort of small-town thing I as a youth sought out the city to thwart.  Nor,  either,  do I find H. H. Richardson’s archiecture  “oppressive.”  And though I deplore the smothering of Back Bay in a positively countrified shroud of overgrown trees and bushes,  I am much drawn to the idea of both the city beautiful and the garden city.  But to the extent that it is carried to the extreme Jacobs feared,  of attacking the sort of density the city thrives on in my view,  I’m with Jacobs in being anti-garden city;  indeed,  more so than she,  for Jacobs favored only low rise density.  I love skyscrapers and by no means value sunlight more than shade;  rather the shifting profiles of a delicate urban chiaroscuro.

There is,  however,  a Jane Jacobs I read quite carefully;  not the canonical  “The Death and Life of American Cities”,  an early and rather alarmist book,  but her later books of the 1980s wherin her thinking about cities evolved.  It is true Jacobs was  “not an advocate of . . .creating elaborate schemes for metropolitan government”,  but her reasons were not what might be supposed.  She thought  “city regions should be more politially autonomous”.

City regions?  This term arose in the wake of the emergance in the 1990s of what is sometimes called  “post-metropolis”  or  “mega-city”  thinking,  in which  “global cities”,  as defined by urbanologist Saskia Sassen,  became the preferred term in the case of top tier cities,  themselves sorrounded by global city regions and reconceptualized as such.

This concept particularly influenced Sam Bass Warner Jr.,  who notes that Jacobs’s idea of the city region has been central to all his later work,  especially in his influential book,  “Greater Boston”,  which he defines as including all of eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.  Especially interesting to me is Jacob’s understanding of such city regions as more economic than political communities;  in fact anticipating Peirce and Johnson’s  concept of the “citistate”.

Writes University of Western Ontario urbanologist Andrew Sancton:  Jacobs did not mean that  “each [region should have only one municipal government”.  Indeed,  she favored what I have called here Boston’s  “Brookline model” over New York’s  “Brooklyn model” ,  and the fact that,  never mind the  “stats”,  Boston’s political unity did not impair its economic unity argues for her point of view.  “Jacobs never confuses the municipality as an institution of local government”,  Sancton continued,  “with the city region as a incubator of economic activity.”

What Jacobs did advocate,  in the case of Toronto  (where she lived in her later years)  was that it secede from the province of Ontario and become its own province !  As urbanologist Jane Butzner has pointed out,  Jacobs argued for  “the city-state over the nation-state”  in  “Cities and the Wealth of the World”.  And she  she argued as well for a global network of city-states.

Actually,  as it turns out,  this idea in the case of Boston,  of its being some sort of state on its own,  is not new.  Readers of The Wall Street Journal recently were doubtless startled to learn that Boston shares with Chicago,  New York and Washington, D. C.,the distinction — if that’s what it is — of having been proposed as independent states;  failed proposal’s of course.  In Boston’s case it was a case of a state-wide tax the Massachusetts capital saw no benefit to itself in that generated the proposal in the state legislature in 1919 for Boston to secede.  (As it happens,  Massachusetts is the only state in the union which has ever willingly assented to the secession to form another state of a part of its territory,  which is now the state of Maine).

Nor have serious observers always discounted the idea.  Such were the complexities of life in Boston by the 1940s,  a period of relatively little growth and widespread stalemate,  that eventual PBS  journalist and pundit Louis Lyons,  best known as the centennial historian of The Boston Globe,  declared that Boston had effectively become a state on its own, but  “a state”,  protested Lyons,  “without a government.”

The reasons all these glimmerings of statehood so intrigue me is that Peirce and Johson particularly,  and Jacobs too,  are in their emphasis on economics over politics reflecting quite a long standing tradition in Western European history.  Leonidas Polopolous,  an historian on the faculty of the University of Florida,  has observed that a metropolitan political structure — of just the sort we have seen Bostonians twisting and turning to avoid since the 1870s — was really beside the point,  which from our perspective here is to credit Brookline’s 19th century Boston Brahmins with very great acuity  indeed. 

Furthermore,  once one puts the matter in the sort of global context Polopolous does,  it is not hard to see the significance of his point that  “city-states ruled world trade for centuries,  beginning with ancient Greece” and that only in comparitively recent years had city states lost out to the nation state. And it is too often forgotten that wheras  “nation-states are mainly political units,”  in Polopolus’s words,  “city-states are primarily  economic units .”  When both,  moreover,  economics always trumps politics.

H O N E Y    F I T Z:    M E E T   J O H N    A D A M S

If young Johnny Fitzgerald’s thoughts on Beacon Street were more economic than anything else,  they were paralleled on his walk home —  in the neighborhood of the Old North Church — by more political ruminations,  ruminations which reflected a certain conflictedness already evident in the Boston psyche.

On the one hand there was the town’s leadership role in the American Revolution,  as a result of which  “during the last quarter of the eighteenth century a provincial and wholly peripheral outpost of Western Civilization somehow managed to establish a set of ideas and institutions that,  over the stretch of time”,  Joseph Ellis has written,  “became the blueprint for political and economic success for the nation-state in the modern world”.  On the other hand,  there was the fact,  increasingly being rediscovered today,  that  “the best way to understand Boston’s history from its founding is to think of it”,  in the words of another historian,  Mark Peterson,  “as a quasi-independent city-state, not unlike Venice . . . . with its own hinterland” — that’s the suburban part of the embronic metropolis we’ve been charting the history of in this series — “and with a large and complex network of international trading,  political  and cultural connections.”

I say newly discovered because I am quoting by permission of the author from the manuscript of a forthcoming book by  Peterson,  a University of California at Berkeley associate professor of history, a book the title of which may startle more than one Belmont dowager,  never mind Brighton graduate student:  “The City-State of Boston:  Ebb and Flow in the Atlantic World,  1630 – 1865”.  Of the Atlanticist aspect more will be said here in the final column of this series.  Sufficient at this point to notice the continuity and persistence of this idea of the Boston city-state.  The mid- to late-20th century work of Jane Jacobs effectively updated  (though it did not address its historicity)  not only an idea Professor Peterson  will argue is  “the best way to understand the history of Boston since its founding [in the 17th-century]”  to the late 19th-century,  but an idea equally vital to Boston’s future in the 21st-century,  or so the author’s of the  “Boston Unbounded”  study argue in their reimagining of the Boston   “citistate” of today.

In calling upon Boston to fully accept its  “world-leading”  role  in this respect,  William James’s truism that   “life is lived forward,  but understood backward”  can be seen as never more apt.  And understood that way Peirce and Johnson surely point toward the likely resolution of the  conflictedness I suggest Honey Fitz’s ruminations disclosed.  It is a conflictedness not just between the economy on the one hand and politics on the other,  but between global Boston and local Boston;  between,  so to speak,  thinking big and thinking small.

In aid of the more expansive perspective — one this site,  dedicated to Boston-Centric Global Studies,  constantly urges — I  always like to quote the work of two old Boston Phoenix writers,  Chris Wright and Cammile Dodero,  in a British-based guide to Boston (one can never go too far afield for such sources) of which Wright was the consulting editor.  “The  [American] Revolution is,  afterall,  Boston’s defining moment.  The city sits on an historical faultline,  the fissure which marks the breaking away away,”  Wright asserts,  “of the Old World from the New.”  Adds Dodero:  “[Boston is thus ]  the founding city of the most powerful nation on earth;”  facts so baldly put by both writers I have suggested before here theirs is the only sort of what we’d call today “boosterism” that  any dyed-in-the-wool old Brahmin would accept.

But what magnificant self-destructiveness !  One of America’s leading city-states is thus seen as creating the most powerful of all the modern nation-states that would supercede the citystate in the modern period.  But perhaps it was also a most  “creative destructiveness”.

I am put in mind of British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead’s observation,  with which Ellis declares himself in agreement,  that there were  “only two instances in the history of Western Civilization when the political leaders of an emerging nation behaved as well as anyone could reasonably expect. The first was Rome under Caesar Augustus and the second was America’s revolutionary generation [of Adams,  Jefferson,  Madison and Washington].” 

 Nor are we talking only about the Boston Tea Party or the Battle of Bunker Hill.  Those key early events are not the only reason by any means that Boston keeps company with Rome in Whitehead’s or Ellis’s thought.  It was,  writes Ellis,  John Adams,  before his disastrous presidency ruined his repute for generations,  who  “successfully lobbied for Washington to head the Continental Army and personally selected Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence”;  never mind  that it was Adams’s Bostonian earnestness (“almost painful”} and  “Harvard degree”  (even then,  one can hear anti-elitists groaning)  that were key to why Adams  “dominate[d] the sessions [of the Second Continental Congress]”.  Indeed,  Adams’s speech on July 1, 1776,  in David McCullough’s words,  “the most powerful and important speech heard in the Congress since it first convened”,  a speech Jefferson asserted was  “not graceful,  nor elegant,  nor remarkably fluent”,  but showed  “a power of thought and expression that moved us from our seats”,  was so crucial to the decision to cut ties with Great Britain that  “to Richard Stockton,  one of the delegates  from New Jersey,  Adams was  ‘the Atlas of the hour,  the man to whom the country is most indebted for the great measure of independency””  that was agreed to three days later.

Never since,  nor is it likely ever,  will the Boston city-state’s role on the world stage surpass its weight in affairs centuries ago now  as the incubator and leading shaper of American independence.  In consequence,  politics is forever primary in Bostonian self-understanding.  And,  moreover,  a politics that were  as local in the beginning as they were global in the end,  and local not only to Boston Town Meeting but to those of all the satellite towns of what Peterson calls the  “hinterland”  of the Boston city-state of those days.  Ellis again:  “New England farmers,  artisans and laborers had rallied to the [revolutionary] cause in a glorious display of patriotism.”  However,  the same historian notes,  it was a display that  “at its most primeval level  was rooted in a stubborn and fiercely independent spirit.  At its nub,  that spirit resented and resisted anyone telling them what they must do.”

It is instructive  that the anti-annexionists and anti-metropolitanizers of the 1870s were in many cases the grandsons and grand daughters of those revolutionaries of the 1770s.  When Brookline said no,  founding father John Adams had been dead for only 47 years;  President John Quincy Adams barely 25.  Three or four generations of Yankee  “piety of place”,  to borrow Yale historian Vincent Scully’s lovely phrase,  had already built up quite a head of steam.

Furthermore,  that as many of the divisive 18th-century class issues as so much of the united revolutionary spirit  had survived and,  indeed,  grown stronger in the wake of the great 19th-century wave of Irish immigration,  is clear in the actions,  for example,  of President John Quincy Adams’s grandson in beating the same retreat to bucolc suburbs from core Boston pressures, keenly felt on the city’s southern border in the Town of Quincy.   Charles Francis Adams Jr., a longstanding member of Quincy Town Meeting,  responded by moving away in 1893 from his ancestral seat to the western suburb of Lincoln,  not least because he was as strong a believer of his fathers in the  “beneficience of government by the best people”,  in Jack Shepherd’s words,  and was quick to notice when it became evident in the 1870s and ’80s that  “workingmen now held the political power in Quincy,  not the Adamses”.

Adams,  to be sure,  as we have seen here already,  did his civic duty and in most positive fashion fought overmuch development as he saw it by responding to Charles Eliot’s urgings and leading the Boston park commission fight.  He also built a grand Commonwealth Avenue town residence.  But that was,  so to speak, the Buckingham Palace of America’s royal family.  Balmoral was in Lincoln.  For Adams,  like his Brahmin cousins in Brookline,  though the idea of Boston remained their brightest star,  core Boston had become too intense an experience for 24/7 residence,  even in the Back Bay.

Yet out of this arose rather a sophisticated metropolitan sensibility,  natural heir to the way the capital and the hinterland of the city-state always related to  each other.  Not for nothing had Thomas Handasyd Perkins,  Boston’s great merchant prince of the China Trade,  established the custom of residing as quietly and happily in Brookline  as he worked hard and busily at his Boson Harborfront countinghouse.  And the number of his core Boston benefactions — the Massachusetts General Hospital,  the Perkins Institute for the Blind and the Boston Athenaeum — went on and on.

Afterall,  no Brahmin saw such “divided”  living and working  ( as it would come to seem to ‘locals’,  they of the ‘residency requirement’, itself the antithesis of the polity of the city state)) as compromising in the least their identity or status as Bostonians. I often think as I take in the names of great Bostonians in the vaults of the Boston Public Library entrance hall how few would have passed the residency requirement!  If an Adams even in Piladelphia  (founding father John) or Washington D. C.  (historian Henry) or an Eliot in St. Louis  (T. S. Eliot’s father)  remained unarguably a Boston Brahmin,  a  Sears or a Lowell or a Lawrence or a Forbes  in the  “Boston towns” as Charles Eliot called them  of Lincoln or Cambridge or Milton  seemed safe from any crisis of identity.

The fact that the investment in core Boston on the part of the suburban-residing Brahmins did not lessen documents all this.  Notable was  their continued support and,  indeed,  leadership,  not just of the suburban side of the culture of the metropolis — the park system, for instance — but of  the urban side as well.  The art museum and public library Charles  Eliot was so apt to compare his parks to did not suffer any Brahmin neglect.    Brahmin Boston conceived and built the great new civic center of Copley Square — the new art musuem of 1874-76,  for instance,  and the cathedral-like Trinity Church of 1873-5 — in exactly the same period that anti-annextionist sentiment crested and triumphed. And when one adds to museum and cathedral in the 1865-1915 period the square’s educational institutions — MIT,  Harvard Medical,  the Museum School,  Massachusetts Art,  Emerson College and both  Northeastern and Boston Universities,  both of which lauched their flowering from Copley Square — just to name the leaders of the great New World agora of faith and learning,  arts and sciences whereby Boston sought to consolidate itself as the American intellectual capital — I am reminded of something else said by Alfred North Whitehead, also quoted before here.

His comparison of late 18th-century Boston,  politically,  with  ancient  Rome has just come up.  But equally,  if not more important,  was the fact that the British philosopher  also compared late 19th- and early 20th-century Boston with medieval Paris,  when he  (from our point of view here)   went far to resolve the conflictedness we have been discussing  by calling   Boston in the modern period the capital city of learning of  the Western World,  learning fueled,  of course,  like the arts,  by the economy.  It was a nice touch,  moreover,  that the Copley Square insitution Whitehead pronounced judgement in was,  as it happens,  the American Accademy of Arts and Sciences  then based  on Newbury Street.  It was while John Adams was  in Philadelphia,  which did not impress him,  that he conceived of founding an institution in Boston such as one in Philadelphia that impressed very much.   The American Academy was the result.  And that its first purpose-built headquarters was a center of the intellectual life of the new civic center  brought perhaps not only politics and economics but revolutionary Boston and Philadelphia and  ancient Rome and medieval Paris into useful focus  in Copley Square,  the fulcrum  in a sense of a city-state that was waxing,  not waning,  at the dawn of the modern American experience. 

V A C U U M

What the Brahmins did not perhaps forsee was that newcomers to Boston,  whether to city,  suburb or satellite city,  would not over time identify so  strongly with Boston and would narrow their sights so as to identify( as Brahmins really did  not)  to only the small town or neighborhood they resided in,  forgetting they were citizens of Boston overall,  whether the capital or the hinterland of the city-state.   More and more Boston was not the city-state;  when something like it was meant a modifier was  (and is often still) necessary — “Greater” Boston.  Without the modifier  “Boston”  became only the city of Boston,  the core city and its few annexed suburbs, an utterly artificial and historically accidental  municipality,  and its residents the only “Bostonians”. “True Bostonians”.    And the emphasis on that Boston,  of course,  as it declined more and more,  from America’s fifth largest city in 1900 to,  eventually,  the 20th,  inevitably generated  a self-defeating mindset;  so much so that for people who thought about it New York’s  “Brooklyn model”  seemed more of a success than Boston’s  “Brookline model”,  which had led to so Balkanized a Boston its citizens spoke,  not with one voice,  but many  and often conflicting voices.  New York had learned the folly of that before annexing Brooklyn when Chicago  “stole”  the  World’s Fair from them in the 1890s;  just the way New York would  “steal”  the United Nations world headquarters from Boston in the 1940s.

The psychological mindset of a profoundly fragmented Boston,  in turn,  had an effect which struck me with particular force while editing an early version of this column when I received an e-mail from a friend with whom I was invloved in rather a controversial public issue alerting me to how careful one had to be about making enemies in a small town.  Good advice from a good friend in that context,  when I turned back to this column,  at just the point where I was quoting Richard Florida about the economies of Boston,  Chicago,  New York and Los Angeles being together larger than all of China’s,  my friends use of  “small town”  for Boston seemed a glaring example of what I’m now talking about here.

Florida’s point in his influential book,  “Where the Brains Are”,  is put forth strikingly.  He sees the world metaphorically,  as a place of  “peaks”  (the creative centers),  “hills”  (the supporting manufacturing areas)  and   “valleys”  (everywhere else),  and one understands at once his point that Boston is one of the world’s  “peaks”.  Whence,  then,  my friends  “small town”?  But does not one understand that at once too?

When I brought all this up to him my friend protested he meant musical Boston as the small town and of course it’s true we all make our professionl circles into such communities.  Still,  I do not recall hearing Londoners or Chicogeans referring to small towns of any sort.  The truth is that my friend was  being as metaphorical as Professor Florida;  Boston’s not physically a mountain any more than it’s a small town.  But the two metaphors disclose at once very different mindsets about the place, do they not?

As I have said before in this column the loss of the Brahmin to Boston is rather like the loss of the Jew to Vienna,  and I suspect the loss of gays would have been to the Episcopal Church had it succumbed to its conservative minority.  Such losses alter the whole flavor,  and put not a little of the esse of something at risk.  Boston’s Brahmin caste,  as I hope to  detail in another series later this year,  saw Boston through long centuries and endowed it with a great civilization,  only to fade as it seemed in a day.  Moreover , for “post-Brahmin”  many would prefer  “anti-Brahmin”,  and not without justification.  So undistinguished,  so ignoble,  was their decline and fall in the wake of the Sacco / Vanzetti case after World War I,  in which the Brahmin ascendency seemed totally to lose its nerve in a complete moral collapse,  it  surely was for many every bit as disillusioning as the fall after World War II of the Irish ascendency,  when  the regime of those philistine and corrupt partners in crime,  Mayor Curley and Cardinal O’Connell,  passed mercifully  into history.

Boston !  An orphan;  long adrift and suddenly hostage to fortune !  It was a vacuum not even the prophetic voices after the warof the academy —  of the likes of F.  O.  Matthiessen and Robert Lowell —  could redeem.  The  “small town”  virus my friend had caught a whiff of lingering in the 2000s,  surged then virulently.  Next time:  “Boston noir”.

comments|shand-tucci@comcast.net

S  O  U  R  C  E  S

Butzner, Jane.  “Jane Jacobs” in THE INDEPENDENT (3 June 2006)  www.Independent.co.uk

[Chicago World’s Fair].  Larson, Eric. THE DEVIL IN THE WINDY CITY (Vintage) 2004

Dobero, Camille.  “History” in TIME OUT: BOSTON  (Penguin) 2001

Ellis,  Joseph.  AMERICAN CREATION  (Random House) 2007

Ellis, Joseph.  FOUNDING BROTHERS (Vintage) 2002

Florida, Richard.  “The World is Spiky”  THE ATLANTIC (October 2005)

Florida, Richard.  THE RISE OF THE CREATIVE CLASS (Basic Books) 2002

Goodwin, Doris Kearns.  THE FITZGERALDS AND THE KENNEDYS

James, William.  James is quoting the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard: “life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards>”

Jacobs, Jane.  THE DEATH AND LIFE OFGREAT AMERICAN CITIES (Random House) 1961

Jacobs, Jane.  CITIES AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS  (1985)

[Lyons, Louis].  quoted in Norman, R. T. “The Harvard Plan for Metropolitan Boston” in WESTERN POLITICAL QUARTERLY (September 1963)

O’Connell,  James C.  “Thinking like a Region” in GOVERNING GREATER BOSTON (Rappaport) 2002

Peterson,  Mark.  THE CITY-STATE OF BOSTON: EBB AND FLOW IN THE ATLANTIC WORLD 1630-1865 (Yale) forthcoming

Polopolus,  Leonidas.  “Athens, Greece” at www.elas.ufl.edu

Sancton, Andrew.  “Jane Jacobs” in JOURNAL OF URBAN AFFAIRS (Vol. 22)

Sassen,  Saskis.  THE GLOBAL CITY (Princeton) 2001

Saxenian,  Anna Lee.  REGIONAL ADVANTAGE (Harvard) 1996

Shepherd, Jack.  THE ADAMS CHRONICLES (Little, Brown) 1975

Soja, Edward W.  “On the Concept of Global City Regions” in ART-e-FACT (01-02-03) www.artefact.mi2.hr/_a04/lang_en/theory/_soja.en.htm

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