Richard C. Schragger

Cities on a Hill?: Forum Response

Boston Review


The past two decades have celebrated the idea of “the city resurgent.” Cities in the United States and around the world have seen their populations stabilize and their wealth increase. Moreover, a new and emerging city-led urban liberalism has been touted as our best hope in the face of regressive and reactionary policies at the state and national level. The city “triumphant” has been held up and lionized, its progressive possibilities encouraged. 
But despite this recent narrative, U.S. cities remain relatively weak institutions, operating within the contours of a state-based federalism that severely limits their policy choices. In the last five years, for instance, at least twenty-five states have adopted laws that preempt local minimum wage ordinances. States exercise plenary — and often punitive — power over their political subdivisions, and limited legal defenses are available to cities faced with overweening state and federal governments. Federalism in the United States is deeply anti-urban.


Richard C. Schragger, Cities on a Hill?: Forum Response, Boston Review (February 14, 2018).

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