News & Politics

Book Review: The Great Inversion by Alan Ehrenhalt

A look at America's ever-changing cities.

In The Great Inversion, urbanologist Alan Ehrenhalt puts the redevelopment of downtown DC and suburbs such as Clarendon in the context of a larger shift: the reversal of the post-World War II assumption that Americans “moved ahead in life by moving farther out.” 

The reasons for this urban return? “They are settling in cities–those who have a choice–in large part to experience the things that citizens of Paris and Vienna experienced a century ago: round-the-clock street life; café sociability; casual acquaintances they meet on the sidewalk every day; merchants who recognize them.” 

Ehrenhalt explains how New York attracted families to lower Manhattan in the wake of 9/11, how Vietnamese immigrants helped resuscitate Arlington, and how Philadelphia’s rowhouse heritage has made revitalization there all but impossible. He’s curious to see if the overhaul of Tysons Corner will float or fail: “If the effort . . . somehow succeeds, it will become a national model for retrofitting suburbia for the millennial generation.”

Alan Ehrenhalt



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