American Sociological Association

“Progress and Perfectability”: Urban Policy, Model Cities, and Community Control in the Shadow of Newark

Positioning itself against arguments that claim that the Model Cities program (initially known as the 1966 Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act) was either an unmitigated failure, an attempt to co‐opt activists, or an effort to introduce the “carceral state” nationwide, this paper examines the implementation of Model Cities in a historically integrated suburb and argues that while the program was assuredly only a “limited success,” it did provide both funding and social space in which residents could forge intergenerational and cross‐racial alliances, as well as launch challenges to federal urban renewal policy and notions of community control. As such, this case is illustrative of the role of federal monies in responding to urban dislocation and unrest, and exemplifies the ways in which urban residents can forge bonds of solidarity even in the face of bureaucratic regulations and political obstructions meant to discourage citizen participation.


Amy Foerster





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