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Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology and director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University. He is the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller Modern Romance and the author of the acclaimed books Going Solo and Heat Wave. He has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and This American Life. @EricKlinenberg.

Dorian T. Warren is President of the Center for Community Change Action and Vice-President of the Center for Community Change. He is also a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and Co-Chair of the Economic Security Project. He previously taught for over a decade at the University of Chicago and Columbia University. Warren also worked at MSNBC where he was a Contributor, fill-in host for Melissa Harris Perry and Now with Alex Wagner, and Host and Executive Producer of Nerding Out on MSNBC’s digital platform. He has also written for The Nation, Huffington Post, Newsweek, Salon, Washington Post, New York Times, Medium, Ebony, and Boston Review. Warren is co-author of The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy and co-editor of Race and American Political Development. In 2013, he was included on the list of NBC’s theGrio’s 100 people making history today.

In Palaces for the People, Eric Klinenberg suggests a way forward. He believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the “social infrastructure”: When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.

Klinenberg takes us around the globe—from a floating school in Bangladesh to an arts incubator in Chicago, from a soccer pitch in Queens to an evangelical church in Houston—to show how social infrastructure is helping to solve some of our most pressing challenges: isolation, crime, education, addiction, political polarization, and even climate change.

Richly reported, elegantly written, and ultimately uplifting, Palaces for the People urges us to acknowledge the crucial role these spaces play in civic life. Our social infrastructure could be the key to bridging our seemingly unbridgeable divides—and safeguarding democracy.