Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics

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Henry Holt and Company, Apr 18, 2017 - History - 320 pages
11 Reviews

PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST

An epic, riveting history of New York City on the edge of disaster—and an anatomy of the austerity politics that continue to shape the world today

When the news broke in 1975 that New York City was on the brink of fiscal collapse, few believed it was possible. How could the country’s largest metropolis fail? How could the capital of the financial world go bankrupt? Yet the city was indeed billions of dollars in the red, with no way to pay back its debts. Bankers and politicians alike seized upon the situation as evidence that social liberalism, which New York famously exemplified, was unworkable. The city had to slash services, freeze wages, and fire thousands of workers, they insisted, or financial apocalypse would ensue.

In this vivid account, historian Kim Phillips-Fein tells the remarkable story of the crisis that engulfed the city. With unions and ordinary citizens refusing to accept retrenchment, the budget crunch became a struggle over the soul of New York, pitting fundamentally opposing visions of the city against each other. Drawing on never-before-used archival sources and interviews with key players in the crisis, Fear City shows how the brush with bankruptcy permanently transformed New York—and reshaped ideas about government across America.

At once a sweeping history of some of the most tumultuous times in New York's past, a gripping narrative of last-minute machinations and backroom deals, and an origin story of the politics of austerity, Fear City is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the resurgent fiscal conservatism of today.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - foof2you - www.librarything.com

I found this book extremely interesting on subject that I knew little about. The bankruptcy of New York City was a story I remember in the mid 70's and remember people talking about this. This story ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lindapanzo - LibraryThing

Many readers, including this particular reader, would not think of a book on business history to be a page turner. This book, focusing on the fiscal crisis facing New York City in the 1970s, is ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
The Gap
28
The Neighborhood Bookkeeper
46
Sounding the Alarm
60
Things Fall Apart
73
Washington Politics
89
Big Mac
111
Fear City
129
Pastrami and Rambouillet
190
State of Emergency
205
The Peoples Firehouse
227
The College in the Tire Factory
241
A New New York
256
The Final Storm
283
Epilogue
303
Notes
317

The Facts of Life
145
On the Brink
162
Drop Dead
177
Acknowledgments
382
Copyright

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About the author (2017)

Kim Phillips-Fein is the author of Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal. She teaches history at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, and has written for The Nation, Dissent, The Baffler, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

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