Banfield Redux

James Cramer, Harvard Crimson, September 15, 1975.


Not many undergraduates around here have heard of Edward C. Banfield. Unless you’ve taken an urban studies class you probably don’t even know his name. And that’s just the way Banfield wants it when he returns to Harvard this spring after a three-year hiatus from Cambridge at the University of Pennsylvania.

But it probably won’t stay that way very long. Banfield is like the professional athlete that gets dubbed “controversial” early in his career: nobody knows for sure how he earned the tag, but he’s been struck with it since. Now all the city-to-city moves he can make won’t let him dodge it.

The professor of urban government and Nixon’s chief adviser on the problems of the cities is controversial largely because of a book he wrote while at Harvard in 1970, two years before he left for Penn–The Unheavenly City. In it Banfield defines what he sees as the real issues that make up the urban crisis–none of which would be controversial except that he reaches the conclusion that there is no urban crisis at all, and that time can handle most problems that do exist.

Harvard Crimson