IPK Director Eric Klinenberg in The Economist: Populism can be beaten back by libraries. Really
On May 31, 2019, The Economist shares an interview with IPK Director Eric Klinenberg about his new book Palaces for the People, as well as an excerpt. Read an excerpt below and the full piece on The Economist website.
MANY IDEAS have been put forward to explain the rise of populism in the West: economic insecurity, a backlash against immigration and fake news, to name but a few. Another on the list might be the lack of shared spaces where people from different walks of life can meet and mingle. If politics has become tribal, perhaps that is a result of people being walled off from others—in some cases literally—eroding the sense of commonality and community.
That is the intriguing message of a recent book by Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University and the author of “Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life” (Crown, 2018). The title comes from a phrase used by Andrew Carnegie, an American steel baron of the early 20th century, to describe the thousands of public libraries he helped build with his donations.
To Mr Klinenberg, social infrastructure is the public spaces which bring people together so that bonds can form. In his book, he documents how it produces benefits ranging from economic growth to better governance, at a time when social media seem to pull people apart.
Below, The Economist’s Open Future initiative is publishing an excerpt from the book on what the design of university campuses means for the ethos of students and the wider community. It is followed by a short interview with Mr Klinenberg on social infrastructure in the 21st century, and in particular, libraries.