Kotkin starts Section VI of The Coming of Neo Feudalism (2020) by pointing to Chicago – our quintessential class stratified neo-feudal city. Chapter 16 (The New Gated City) explains how cities have grown increasingly “bifurcated, with oligarchs and the upper clerisy living in the gentrified urban core, surrounded by propertyless and often impoverished masses on the periphery”. Chapter 17 (The Soul of the New-feudal City) discusses political polarization and the war on the suburban middle class family being waged by the leftist clerisy. Chapter 18 (The Totalitarian Urban Future) shows us a new “surveillance society” in which elites subjugate city dwellers with constant monitoring and control.
The “war on suburbs” is a hot button political dispute these days but the neo-feudal order of cities is indisputable. What has developed is a “new class of urban serfs who are forced into small apartments and work sporadically, often remaining dependent on subsidies”. One of the subsections in Chapter 18 is “Global Cities of the Damned”. I am vividly familiar with the stratification of Chicago because I often travel downtown, navigating my way through beggars and squalor to get to Court. No need for me to become informed about Lake Shore Drive – ‘from rags on up to riches fifteen minutes you can fly’; I drive it a lot.
Leftist writers believe the war on suburbs isn’t real or is just racist. Incoherent deceptive political arguments notwithstanding, the war is real. Kotkin ends Chapter 17 with this:
…“urban planners have a long history of ignoring or even disdaining middle-class aspirations for a suburban lifestyle. … the motive is often “class based”, an effort to revive the patterns of the premodern past, with defined hierarchies and limited opportunity for upward mobility or for improving the condition of those outside the upper classes. The attack on suburbia is, in effect, a way of socially deconstructing the middle class. Even as middle-income families are squeezed out of the urban core, planners wish to close off alternatives that majorities in fact prefer.”
Next week, we get to the final section of Kotkin’s book to find out if all of this is inevitable. Are there any more ideas that we, the embattled yeomanry, can put into our Estate Planning War Chests to protect our families from oligarchs above or revolting peasants below?