The Public Interest

The city as reservation

Norton E. Long

Fall 1971

MAX WEBER said that when the city lost its walls, the city ceased to be. With this characteristic exaggeration, Weber pointed to what he took to be the central meaning of the city. It was a bounded association, literally enclosed by walls that deafly marked it off from the outside society. Within these walls it had a life in common and a shared common purpose.  Its leaders could command the loyalty of citizens who saw in the city a means of their common defense and sustenance. The medieval and early modem city had liberties that entitled it to a substantial measure of self-government and freedom. “Stadt Luft maeht frei” (city air confers liberty). This power of self-direction was at the core of a home role whose vigorous and public-spirited exercise seems worlds apart from the present anemic meaning of the term. 

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