Palaces for the People

How to Build a More Equal and United Society

Book launch hosted by Centre for London and LSE Cities

We are living in a time of deep divisions. Pundits and politicians are calling for us to come together, to find common purpose. But how, exactly, can this be done? In Palaces for the People the sociologist and best-selling author Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward through a simple but transformative idea: that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces – our libraries, parks, markets, schools, playgrounds, gardens and communal spaces.

Too often we take for granted and neglect these spaces, but decades of research now shows that ‘social infrastructure’ can have an extraordinary effect on our personal and collective wellbeing. Why? Because wherever people cross paths and linger, wherever we gather informally, strike up a conversation and get to know one another, relationships blossom and communities emerge – and where communities are strong, people are safer and healthier, crime drops and commerce thrives, and peace, tolerance and stability take root.

Klinenberg takes us around the globe—from a floating school in Bangladesh to an arts incubator in Chicago, from a soccer pitch in Queens to an evangelical church in Houston—to show how social infrastructure is helping to solve some of our most pressing challenges: isolation, crime, education, addiction, political polarisation, and even climate change. Through uplifting human stories and an illuminating tour through the science of social connection he shows that properly designing and maintaining social infrastructure might be our single best strategy for a more equal and united society.

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    Eric Klinenberg

    Eric Klinenberg is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute of Public Knowledge at New York University. His pioneering research into the power of social infrastructure led to his appointment in 2013 as Research Director for President Obama's $1 billion programme to rebuild the region affected by Superstorm Sandy. He is the multi-award winning author of several books including, as co-author, the recent number one bestseller Modern Romance.

    Holly Lewis

    Holly Lewis is a registered architect who co-founded We Made That in 2006. She has led a unique range of urban projects for the practice, from pioneering industrial intensification work through to comprehensive high street regeneration projects. Holly also leads the research portfolio of the practice, which has included studies of local economies and placemaking across London. She was shortlisted for the AJ Emerging Woman Architect of the Year Award 2012. She is a CABE Built Environment Expert and recently appointed as a Mayor’s Design Advocate.

    Fran Tonkiss

    Fran Tonkiss is Professor of Sociology, and Deputy Head of Department. Her research and teaching is in the fields of urban and economic sociology. Her research interests focus on urban inequalities, urban development and design, social and spatial divisions, and the socio-economic organisation of urban space.  Publications in these fields include Cities by Design: the social life of urban form (Polity, 2013), Space, the City and Social Theory (Polity, 2005), and Contemporary Economic Sociology: Globalisation, Production, Inequality (Routledge, 2006). She is currently managing editor of Economy and Society; she was previously an editor of the British Journal of Sociology, and remains a member of the editorial board.

    Ben Rogers

    Ben Rogers is the Director of the Centre for London. He is a writer and policy thinker, with a particular focus on cities, citizenship, social capital, public service reform, and the built environment. Prior to founding Centre for London in 2011, Ben was an Associate Director of IPPR from 2003 – 2007 and has subsequently led strategy teams in Haringey Council, DCLG and The Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.