In this book, Sean Safford compares the recent history of Allentown, Pennsylvania, with that of Youngstown, Ohio. Allentown has seen a noticeable rebound over the course of the past twenty years. Facing a collapse of its steel-making firms, its economy has reinvented itself by transforming existing companies, building an entrepreneurial sector, and attracting inward investment. Youngstown was similar to Allentown in its industrial history, the composition of its labor force, and other important variables, and yet instead of adapting in the face of acute economic crisis, it fell into a mean race to the bottom.
Challenging various theoretical perspectives on regional socioeconomic change, Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown argues that the structure of social networks among the cities’ economic, political, and civic leaders account for the divergent trajectories of post-industrial regions. It offers a probing historical explanation for the decline, fall, and unlikely rejuvenation of the Rust Belt. Emphasizing the power of social networks to shape action, determine access to and control over information and resources, define the contexts in which problems are viewed, and enable collective action in the face of externally generated crises, this book points toward present-day policy prescriptions for the ongoing plight of mature industrial regions in the U.S. and abroad.
An innovative work of scholarship, in method, phenomenon, and theory.
A fascinating study of the determinants of regional competitiveness in the U.S., Why the Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown has important lessons for scholars and policymakers interested in economic adaptation.
Safford's work represents a clear advance in understanding the importance of networks for industrial and community development. He presents his case very effectively.
Safford offers a compelling account of the very different paths taken by Allentown and Youngstown in response to the 'rust belt' crisis of the 1980s. More generally, he contributes to the emerging institutional perspective on strategic action. Situated at the intersection of social movement and organizational theory, this body of scholarship is emerging as an influential and fundamentally sociological challenge to rational choice and other theories of collective action. Safford advances this tradition even as he draws on its insights.
This extraordinary look inside the fates of two down-and-out Rust Belt cities—how one came back from decline and the other went into a death spiral—has lessons for cities everywhere. It challenges the benefits of being a tight-knit community and shows, instead, that the people who bridge and connect among a city's networks prove most valuable. So who are your city's connectors? If you don't know, you'd better find out.
- 224 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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