The spirit of cities

Cities define us. They shape the outlooks, opportunities and lives of billions. Yet most contemporary political thought neglects their role. The Ancient Greeks, by contrast, thought that every city had its own ethos and values that helped to determine its institutions, political systems and the lives of its citizens. Daniel Bell thinks it is time to revive the thinking of the Greeks and rediscover the spirit of cities.

In a conversation with Grattan’s Cities Program Director, Jane-Frances Kelly, Professor Bell explored the findings of his book, The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age (co-written with Professor Avner de-Shalit). The book looks at nine cities – Jerusalem, Montreal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Oxford, Berlin, Paris and New York – and shows how the ethos of each is expressed in its political, cultural and economic life, and how the character of each city works against the excesses of nationalism on the one hand, and the sameness of globalisation on the other.

Watch a recording of the event