This chapter introduces the key concepts of the book and explores the various ways in which we might think about the city. After a skeletal history of the US city, it considers how we might distinguish them from non-cities, how we imagine life there, and the fuzziness of their physical and functional boundaries. It treats the city as both known and mysterious. The four contradictions – wealth/poverty, environmental destruction/sustainability, democracy/oligarchy, and tolerance/intolerance – are then briefly described.
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