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Detroit: A Biography [Format Kindle]

Scott Martelle

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Présentation de l'éditeur

At its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit's status as epicenter of the American auto industry made it a vibrant, populous, commercial hub—and then the bottom fell out. Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America's great cities and one of the nation's greatest urban failures. This authoritative yet accessible narrative seeks to explain how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from nearly two million residents in 1950 to less than 715,000 some six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deeply ingrained racism. Drawing from U.S. Census data and including profiles of individuals who embody the recent struggles and hopes of the city, this book chronicles the evolution of what a modern city once was and what it has become.

Detroit was established as a French settlement three-quarters of a century before the founding of this nation. A remote outpost built to protect trapping interests, it grew as agriculture expanded on the new frontier. Its industry took a great leap forward with the completion of the Erie Canal, which opened up the Great Lakes to the East Coast. Surrounded by untapped natural resources, Detroit turned iron from the Mesabi Range into stoves and railcars, and eventually cars by the millions. This vibrant commercial hub attracted businessmen and labor organizers, European immigrants and African Americans from the rural South. At its mid-20th-century heyday, one in six American jobs were connected to the auto industry, its epicenter in Detroit. And then the bottom fell out.

            Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America’s great cities, and one of the nation’s greatest urban failures. It tells how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 only six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deep, thick seams of racism. And it raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past or its future?

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1337 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 306 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 156976526X
  • Editeur : Chicago Review Press; Édition : Reprint (1 mars 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00I7IVYG6
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  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°412.303 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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62 internautes sur 78 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Get this as a Beginning on Detroit, then dig Deeper 10 mars 2012
Par Richard J. Gibson - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
In one sitting, I enjoyed reading this little book. I think other Detroiters, and ex-Detroiters will too. Outsiders from far away might get it and see their future while nearby suburbanites could learn from it, but if history means anything, they probably won't and won't care. It's a four star effort and worth the read.
That said, I paid my dues in Detroit: born by the bridge, four generations back on my mother's side, family buried in Elmwood, WSU grad, spent half my adult life in the city living at 7 Mile and the Lodge, mostly, working in the schools and for DSS, watching the city disintegrate, leading the resistance to organized decay.
I have only encountered one "Detroit book" that I really hated but have been frustrated by some others; Detroit Dissembled for example, where the text sullies the photos. Detroit Bio could have inverted that by offering one hell of a lot more pictures. But that is a small quibble.
My bigger spat with the author is that he fails to capture the feel of the glory days of Detroit, and the affect of its wreckage. And, as an empire-thinker who doesn't notice the failures of US capitalism and imperialism, able to bribe sections of the mostly white working class for years, then betraying them as it always must, there is a bigger whole he does not witness.
Once, driving or riding a bike down Jefferson, or a walk on Washington Blvd, winter or summer, was to pass through the beauty of the connection of nature, immense trees or white white snow, with the industrial age-magnificent buildings to huddle, or cool off, inside. Then Jefferson became a hub for pre-teen crack whores selling themselves along an avenue of ruined hulks just blocks from the RenCen and Washington became and urban embarrassment with an idiot neon overlay.
Olympia! Where you could nearly touch Gordie, Maurice the Rocket, the Pocket Rocket, and some many greats, and beloved Tiger Stadium with the Bless You Boys summer of Willie, Al, Mickey and so many more. The author seems to not know what it is to have your next door neighbor bang on the door shouting that his lovely neighbor, a beautiful well educated black woman with two delightful kids, has just shot and killed her husband in the middle of the street and still has the gun.
He hasn't seen the hundreds of desperately poor people wandering the halls of 640 Temple, only to meet some, a few, social workers who were as strung out as they were.
I kicked up a pheasant while searching for what was my mother's home, a lovely single family bungalow on Hibbard. Detroit once had more single family homes than any city in the US-thanks to the UAW and the sacrifices of thousands. Now, Hibbard is a field.
Last, he cites as solutions many of the same outside liberals, like the Skillmans, who have failed Detroit repeatedly over decades, well meaning but bumbling. Bing's decades old scheme to shut down sections of the city and force people to move is undoable on the face of it. Who is going to pay?
The CPUSA is a shadow figure in this book when, in reality, that organization controlled large portions of the city council for years, failing in its liberalism and opportunism over and again.
What of the betrayals of the UAW bosses and the other unions in, say, the newspaper strikes or the Mack Avenue Chrysler sit-down led, interestingly, by a grandson of on of the creators of Taylorism?
The schools are only mentioned in the closing epilogue but, clearly, the schools are the source and solution to the problem, now far more serving as a source. Thomas Sugrue did a great job on that, so perhaps Detroit Bio passed in appreciation.
Detroit's great tragedy, beyond the obvious which Detroit Bio rightly notes is racism, is that the city has failed to produce a cadre of honest and competent leaders for about 30 years, maybe more.
Detroit, of course, was always corrupt and Detroit Bio nods to that fact, but doesn't grasp its depth: remember the Little Black Book in Greektown?
White corruption, however, thrived as the city thrived and there was still some booty to share out. Black corruption probably never exceeded white, but when Coleman Young (best thing that every happened to Detroit's real rulers who played him more than he played them, while he played the population) came to power, there was less to pass around every year-eventually nothing but selling drugs and bodies.
The schools bear considerable responsibility for the absence of indigenous Detroit leaders (Detroit Bio might have hammered Dave Bing as what he is, a rich suburbanite way over his head). Taken over repeatedly by stupid, fearful and crooked suburbanites, DPS is now run by an aged former boss at Government Motors-a better example of the failures of US capital and today's corporate state would be hard to find, other than Goldman Sachs. Nobody should expect elites to solve Detroit; they have no interest in it.
But the school workers' force might have, and they have not. Led by a series of inept union bosses, the DFT oversaw the organized ruin of DPS, and did nearly nothing. With thousands of members laid off, with even the elite schools witnessing an exodus of the best teachers, it may be too late to salvage the DFT and DPS as well.
The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of perpetual war and booming color coded inequality met by the potential of a mass, class conscious, integrated social movement for equality and justice--one that learns from the mistakes of, say, the CPUSA. In the absence of that: barbarism worldwide-and Detroit stands as an example. So, buy the book, check the excellent resources at the end, and dig into Detroit before it catches you.
16 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A lesson for the future 20 mai 2012
Par Stephen Sykes - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
This is an important book, and I encourage you to read the epilogue first. Ask yourself how a city could get so bad that an intelligent and thoughtful author would conclude that the future is essentially hopeless. If nothing else, the book demonstrates that greed, hate and discrimination are failing social strategies.

I was born and raised in Detroit. I suspect most of the readers of the book will have been, as well. In my case, I lived a significant part of this story without understanding any of the particulars. I just thought this was how life was supposed to be. It wasn't until I moved away that I fully comprehended how unchecked corporate greed and deeply embedded racism had turned the city into a decaying rat hole.

I was born during the post-war boon, experienced the riots in my teens, and left just before the Arab oil embargo slashed a gaping wound in the auto industry. I can't imagine what it must have been like for the author to move to Detroit in the 1980s. Surely, he expected a gentrified city with nice residential areas, some lively nightlife and at least a few good restaurants. But, by then Detroit had turned into a dark and angry place.

Scott Martelle correctly outlines the big picture. The fundamental structure of the auto industry created a two class system. There was no need for educated workers, because the work itself was mind-numbingly dumb. Initially, there was a blue collar/ white collar divide. Eventually, it became a black/white divide.

Henry Ford, the father of the assembly line, was no patron saint. He didn't want his workers educated, and the author notes that there is no Henry Ford University. Ford and his brethren worked his people like pack animals and created giant auto assembly factories whose depravity would make Calcutta look like Beverly Hills. Did you ever see the River Rouge plant in its heyday?

Unions took over and initially fought for worker rights, creating a prosperous middle-class in the process. It wasn't just auto workers who were unionized; in Detroit, nearly everyone was unionized. I had better benefits as a teenage A&P bagger than I later did as a Federal research scientist. But, eventually the auto industry moved away, and unions grew corrupt to the point where workers had two blood-sucking leaches attached to their livelihoods - management and union leaders. It's a part of the story that the author missed.

He gets a lot of things right, though. He correctly discovered the real estate point system that quietly kept everyone in their place. It kept the blacks in the city, the Poles in Hamtramck, the Jews in Oak Park, the auto executives in Grosse Pointe and the mob bosses in Bloomfield Hills. The protection of real estate values is a central component of the story. In fact, the real estate divide is perfectly captured in the Renaissance Center, whose fortress-like design had no chance of reaching out and revitalizing the city.

Most importantly, however, the author captures one regional element that you'd never guess - the irrational optimism of Detroiters. I can't explain it, but if there is one clear personality characteristic of a Detroiter, it's his sense that anything is possible and that tomorrow will be a brighter day. So, while the author probably correctly predicts that Detroit will continue to spiral downward, I'll bet no Detroiter believes that.
14 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 cottage industry? 6 juin 2012
Par Michigan Reviewer - Publié sur
Tis surely a shame that the city of Detroit doesn't get some kind of royalty from all the books written about its demise. I know I have read a whole lot of them. The author gives a good overview of Detroit from the early days with the French up to present times. Nothing really new here, although his study into the negative effects of the rampant racism in Detroit are eye opening. I had a deed for my first home in western Michigan that had a restrictive clause in it. I was amazed. The realtor did point out that it would not hold up in court. I also liked his insight into the thought processes of the car company execs after WWII to return to autos at the expense of staying with the "arsenal of democracy" route. His theory is that had the auto execs remained on that track perhaps Detroit would not have been subject to as many of the economic vagaries that plagued it under the auto industry. His vignettes of actual Detroit citizens are also interesting, albeit a little on the short and shallow side. I had forgotten about the Erroll Flynns. Seems like such a long time ago. He is a little harsh, I believe, on some of the theories for reinventing Detroit. I, personally, think bulldozing neighborhoods with few inhabitants and moving them to other neighborhoods makes perfect sense. Economies of scale. Same thing happened in Flint. He also seems flippant about the idea of urban agriculture. Why not? Obviously what is happening now is not doing much good now, is it? I do respect the author for his defense of public schools and public school employees. From what I have read the teachers have very little to work with in order to turn out a quality product. The author also takes issue w Rick Snyder's new seemingly dictatorial powers in terms of naming emergency managers. Overall, not a bad read. Worth the time. If you have read other books of this genre you will probably not learn a whole lot more, but if you have read this type of book you obviously do have an interest and affinity for Michigan's once great metropolis. He correctly points out that what made Detroit, the automobile, also killed it. Like Detroit, so very ironic.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Wish I had read the book instead of listened to it! 24 avril 2013
Par DGreen - Publié sur
I am fascinated by the history of this underrated city to the south of me. I give this book 4 stars since I really enjoyed the factual account of the city's history and the extent to which the author went to cover as much of it as possible.

However, it was VERY distracting to listen to the narrator mispronounce street, city and county names over and over again. Some were so horribly butchered that it wasn't until I had heard the names mentioned in another context that I figured out what he was saying!! Shame on everyone involved in the production of the audio version of this book for not researching something so basic as the pronunciation of names.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 A good beginning 13 novembre 2013
Par Steve - Publié sur
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I wanted to like this book. So I kept reading and reading, finally I had to set it down.

Each chapter began with some statistics, antidote and an attempt at a story somehow relating to that chapter. Then another chapter would begin the same way not relating at all to the previous. This started the frustration to the point it was hard to understand any point the author was trying to convey. Good, then bad location for a metropolis, social inequality, racial tension and/or flight into and out of Detroit.

There was some good information about the beginning of Detroit and a clif note here and there about Detroit's changes, but there was never an engaging story. I felt like I was reading a bunch of complied news articles that had one thing in common, location; Detroit. If this was truly a "Biography" as the title suggests, the book fails. Detroit is so much more than this.
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