The Dying City

Postwar New York and the Ideology of Fear

By Brian L. Tochterman

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3306-0
    Published: June 2017
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3305-3
    Published: June 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-3307-7
    Published: May 2017

Studies in United States Culture

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In this eye-opening cultural history, Brian Tochterman examines competing narratives that shaped post–World War II New York City. As a sense of crisis rose in American cities during the 1960s and 1970s, a period defined by suburban growth and deindustrialization, no city was viewed as in its death throes more than New York. Feeding this narrative of the dying city was a wide range of representations in film, literature, and the popular press--representations that ironically would not have been produced if not for a city full of productive possibilities as well as challenges. Tochterman reveals how elite culture producers, planners and theorists, and elected officials drew on and perpetuated the fear of death to press for a new urban vision.

It was this narrative of New York as the dying city, Tochterman argues, that contributed to a burgeoning and broad anti-urban political culture hostile to state intervention on behalf of cities and citizens. Ultimately, the author shows that New York’s decline--and the decline of American cities in general--was in part a self-fulfilling prophecy bolstered by urban fear and the new political culture nourished by it.

About the Author

Brian Tochterman is assistant professor of sustainable community development at Northland College.
For more information about Brian L. Tochterman, visit the Author Page.


“Mines a wide array of cultural sources . . . . Presents interesting and counterintuitive insights.”--Journal of American History

“Ambitious, thoughtful, and important.”--Journal of Social History

“There is no other study that brings together so many disparate yet well known New York voices under one narrative roof. Brian Tochterman’s The Dying City is an insightful, engaging, and provocative introduction into new ways of understanding New York.”--Eric Avila, University of California, Los Angeles

"Brian Tochterman forcefully shows how New York City has become a capital of contradictions: super-rich yet impoverished, safer and yet more perilous for its marginalized residents, a creative metropolis and a city whose artists can no longer afford to live there. This immersive, multifaceted history places New York at the center of wider cultural and political debates about American cities, showing how ideas about urban crisis in the late twentieth century persist and inform debates that continue to rage today."--Janet M. Davis, University of Texas at Austin