Page 19 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 41

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BAUMGARTEN / URBAN FAILURES
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because he had left behind everything tha t had to do with his
merely ‘private’ concerns — those governed by the standards o f
utility as well 'is those un d e r the sway o f necessity. Here alone he
found himself released from the need both to rule and to be
ruled . Here alone did the opportun ity to reveal his individuality,
to distinguish himself from all others, fully presen t itself.”7 Bel­
low’s nuanced and subtle articulation o f the values o f
the polis
p a r ­
allel the exposition o f its meanings central to the work o f H annah
A rend t, a colleague o f his in the Committee on Social T hough t at
the University o f Chicago, Like A rendt, Bellow speaks for the
values o f urbanism , the condition by which we live with all kinds,
not ju s t ou r own, in a public space conducive to the expression o f
the varied aspects o f ou r personalities. Not to live in the city is to
lose ou r sense o f reality and become “entirely private . . . deprived
o f seeing and hearing others, o f being seen and being heard by
them .” As A rend t points out, this brings us to “the end o f the com­
mon world . . . ” U nde r these circumstances, the city becomes a
wilderness.8T he force and subtlety o f the analysis o f both A rend t
and Bellow thus honors tha t o f their predecessors — the Chicago
school o f social science — o f Jane Addams, Louis Wirth, and Rob­
e r t Park .9They make us aware o f the ways in which the epic city o f
n ine teen th and twentieth century culture continued to fulfill the
grea t ideals o f the Greek
polis.
Nevertheless, it is important to dis­
tinguish between them.
T he Greek City was in size and population no more than a good
sized village, enclosed by a city wall. It was culturally and socially
homogeneous, depended upon slaves for many o f its economic
functions, denied citizenship to women, whose activities were lim­
ited to the domestic sphere, and tended to link the political and
sexual spheres th rough homosexuality. By contrast the grea t city
o f the industrializing cultures o f the n ine teen th and twentieth
cen tury was an expand ing space, with grea t social, cultural, and
hum an diversity, rapidly replacing the labor o f slaves with
machines (and resources approp ria ted from colonies abroad),
7 Peter Fuss, “Hannah Arendt’s Conception o f Political Community,”
Hannah
Arendt: The Recovery of thePublic World,
edited by Melvyn A. Hill, New York: St.
Martin’s Press, 1979, pp. 166-168.
8 Quoted by Fuss, op. cit., p. 166.
9 For a useful selection of their work, see
Classic Essays on the Culture of Cities,
edited by Richard Sennett, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
1969.