Morality Politics in American Cities
Elaine B. Sharp
Topless bars, casino gambling, needle exchange programs for drug addicts—theres no question, morality issues remain front and center in urban politics.
Presenting a systematic analysis of culture-war issues at the local level, Elaine Sharp shows how American cities deal with these ongoing concerns. Drawing on a sample of ten strategically chosen cities, she explains differences in how municipalities respond to controversies surrounding sex business, abortion clinics, legalized gambling, gay rights, and drug use. By analyzing the relative importance of subculture, economics, and institutional arrangements in the disputes, she points the way toward richer and more complete understanding of how different cities respond differently to these hot-button issues.
“Sharp very ably demonstrates the significance of a variety of political conflict that, up to this point, has not received much attention from specialists in urban politics.”
—Perspectives on Politics
“A series of rich and fascinating mini-case studies that provide a historical and political context not possible in quantitative analysis.”
—Political Science QuarterlySee all reviews...
“An excellent analysis of a cutting edge issue and a must read for all students of American politics, whether interested in urban politics, public policy, political institutions, or mass behavior.”
—Kenneth J. Meier, author of The Politics of Sin
“A splendid book that brings the study of the city back into the heart of political science and its intellectual traditions. . . . Demonstrates that city politics is intimately connected to the politics of the nation and in ways more complicated than we had supposed.”
—Dennis R. Judd, author of City Politics and The Tourist City
“A fascinating book that demonstrates persuasively that conflicts rooted in moral differences are central to urban politics and public policy.”
—Kenneth D. Wald, author of The Politics of Gay RightsSee fewer reviews...
Far more than a statistical study, Morality Politics in American Cities is a collection of fascinating stories of real people grappling with down-to-earth issues and real-life drama—richly informative case studies that will captivate students and interested citizens alike. Mayors, public health directors, activists, and others speak their minds about the pros and cons of these controversies. Here are officials in one city confronting the Vatican over funding for abortion services, those in another battling a local university over its refusal to provide health benefits to gay partners of faculty members, and still others mounting a massive, community-sponsored attack on topless clubs.
These stories provide detailed evidence to support classifications needed for comparing cities experience with each of the five morality issues. They also corroborate inferences drawn from the comparisons by showing what considerations were in play as local officials grappled with these issues. Overall, the study shows that cultural factors usually dominate policymaking in local politics—except when specific economic interests are at stake—and also observes that county-level governments are more important than previously thought in terms of morality-issue decisions.
As provocative as it is informative, Morality Politics in American Cities demonstrates that such issues—same-sex marriage, for example—are multidimensional and often difficult to resolve. Its conclusions, however contingent, mark an important step in the ongoing process of understanding important differences in approaches to these issues and clearly show how moral conflicts continue to define American politics.