History, Mark Twain is supposed to have said, doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. Once again, the President of the United States is a Republican who lost the popular vote. Once again, he was abetted by shadowy agents who manipulated the news. And once again Democrats are in a finger-pointing funk.
Journalists, congressional committees, and a special counsel are probing the details of what happened last fall. But two new books contend that the large lines of the problem are already clear. As in the eighteen-seventies, we are in the midst of a technological revolution that has altered the flow of information. Now, as then, just a few companies have taken control, and this concentration of power—which Americans have acquiesced to without ever really intending to, simply by clicking away—is subverting our democracy.
Whether you’re a dolloper or a Jackson Pollocker, a plate of chips just isn’t the same without a good squirt of ketchup. But why does it make chips taste so much better? It’s the same reason Iberico ham is more moreish than the boiled stuff and why a sprinkle of parmesan makes a bowl of pasta that much fresher. The answer is the Japanese word for “savoury” or “deliciousness”, the fifth and most elusive of tastes: umami.
Taste isn’t only about deliciousness. Your tongue, like a little blind gatekeeper, uses taste to control what gets in.
The competitive accumulation of material goods, a cornerstone of the American dream, dates to the post-World War II economy, when returning veterans fled the cities to establish homes and status in the suburbs. Couples married when they were young, and wedding gifts were meant to be used — and treasured — for life.
But for a variety of social, cultural, and economic reasons, this is no longer the case. Today’s young adults tend to acquire household goods that they consider temporary or disposable, from online retailers or stores like Ikea and Target, instead of inheriting them from parents or grandparents.
It’s no secret that the lack of gender diversity is an issue for the architecture and development world. It’s also an issue for elected officials who initiate policy: Among U.S. cities with populations of over 30,000, only 20 percent of mayors are women. A 2015 report by the American Planning Association not only notes the lack of gender diversity in urban planning careers—the field is 42 percent female—but also the fact that women are more likely to be affected by urban affordability issues: Up to three-quarters of households living in public housing are solely headed by females.
It turns out that the absence of women from the conversation about how cities have been made, and remade, over the last 50 years has directly fed their wealth disparity and urban displacement.