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Driving Detroit
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Driving Detroit
The Quest for Respect in the Motor City

George Galster

320 pages | 6 x 9 | 26 illus.
Paper 2014 | ISBN 9780812222951 | $26.50s | Outside the Americas £19.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the series Metropolitan Portraits
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"An insightful history of Detroit from its accidental birth to its tortured present."—Planning

"An immensely readable and personal book. Underlying [Galster's] fine analysis of how the city went from arsenal of democracy and engine of America's manufacturing might to its current state of terrible decay is a deep knowledge of its streets, its music, its history, and its people."—Urban Affairs

"Driving Detroit is replete with interesting insights on the social history of one of America's most troubled cities. George Galster has done a remarkable job of revealing how powerful elements in the Detroit metropolitan area created over time intense race and class polarization and a pronounced city-suburban dichotomy. There are lessons to be learned from this compelling study of a dysfunctional metropolitan region. Indeed, Galster's illuminating analysis is a must-read."—William Julius Wilson, Harvard University

"George Galster cares deeply about Detroit—as should we all. In this clever and highly readable book, he draws upon history, social science, music, poetry and art to build a compelling case that bitter, unresolved conflicts have trapped the region in a zero-sum game, undermining the well-being of its people and communities—past, present, and future. Although Detroit is unique in many respects, the conflicts that bedevil it are not. There's a lot to learn here for anyone who cares about 21st-century urban America."—Margery Austin Turner, The Urban Institute

"Like a good documentary, Driving Detroit expertly guides us through a fascinating yet grim and sad urban reality while exposing the deeper historical impact of economic restructuring, enduring racism, and selfish politics. And yet the insights connected to this extreme case are not confined only to Detroit. This book should be compulsory reading for urbanists in the U.S. and beyond who are searching for adequate responses to the challenges of their own cities."—Sako Musterd, University of Amsterdam

For most of the twentieth century, Detroit was a symbol of American industrial might, a place of entrepreneurial and technical ingenuity where the latest consumer inventions were made available to everyone through the genius of mass production. Today, Detroit is better known for its dwindling population, moribund automobile industry, and alarmingly high murder rate. In Driving Detroit, author George Galster, a fifth-generation Detroiter and internationally known urbanist, sets out to understand how the city has come to represent both the best and worst of what cities can be, all within the span of a half century. Galster invites the reader to travel with him along the streets and into the soul of this place to grasp fully what drives the Motor City.

With a scholar's rigor and a local's perspective, Galster uncovers why metropolitan Detroit's cultural, commercial, and built landscape has been so radically transformed. He shows how geography, local government structure, and social forces created a housing development system that produced sprawl at the fringe and abandonment at the core. Galster argues that this system, in tandem with the region's automotive economic base, has chronically frustrated the population's quest for basic physical, social, and psychological resources. These frustrations, in turn, generated numerous adaptations—distrust, scapegoating, identity politics, segregation, unionization, and jurisdictional fragmentation—that collectively leave Detroit in an uncompetitive and unsustainable position.

Partly a self-portrait, in which Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories, Driving Detroit offers an intimate, insightful, and perhaps controversial explanation for the stunning contrasts—poverty and plenty, decay and splendor, despair and resilience—that characterize the once mighty city.

George Galster is Clarence Hilberry Professor of Urban Affairs in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University in Detroit.

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