Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life by Eric Klinenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I had been looking forward to reading this book since it came out and finally cracked it on summer vacation. It’s an excellent popular sociology volume that mixes original research with literature review and journalistic storytelling. The core argument of the value and importance of our social infrastructure is inspirational to folks who design spaces and try to cultivate community through their work. It’s also a beautiful love letter to libraries, one of our best examples of social infrastructure. The value we place on libraries in the United States is really uneven. Like K-12 schooling, everyone has opinion about what libraries are good for because they went to one as a kid and it either was important to them or it wasn’t or they believe it worked for them in one way and that’s how it always should be or all libraries are like that and thus irrelevant today. We make a lot of assumptions about our social infrastructure in general. It’s hard to analyze one’s own environment. Thankfully, Eric Klinenberg helps us see what’s there and what’s not and what the potential of good social infrastructure design is. I highly recommend it!