Reforming Philadelphia examines the cyclical efforts of insurgents to change the city’s government over nearly 350 years. Political scientist Richardson Dilworth tracks reformers as they create a new purpose for the city or reshape the government to reflect emerging ideas. Some wish to thwart the “corrupt machine,” while others seek to gain control of the government via elections. These actors formed coalitions and organizations that disrupted the status quo in the hope of transforming the city (and perhaps also enriching themselves).
Dilworth addresses Philadelphia’s early development through the present day, including momentous changes from its new city charter in 1885 and the Republican machine that emerged around the same time to its transformation to a Democratic stronghold in the 1950s, when the city also experienced a racial transition. Focusing primarily on the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, Dilworth evaluates the terms of Mayors Frank Rizzo, Wilson Goode, and Ed Rendell, as well as John Street, Michael Nutter, and Jim Kenney to illustrate how power and resistance function, and how Philadelphia’s political history and reform cycles offer a conceptual model that can easily be applied to other cities.
Reforming Philadelphia provides a new framework for understanding the evolving relationship between national politics and local, city politics.
“In this elegant book, Richardson Dilworth combines a historian’s attention to detail with a political scientist’s concern for how and why it matters. Reforming Philadelphia, 1682–2022 offers not only a compelling account of one city’s rich political history but also a convincing argument about the enduring power of institutions in urban politics.” —Thomas J. Sugrue, Professor of History and Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University, and author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
“Reforming Philadelphia, 1682–2022 is an essential book for anyone wanting to learn more about Philadelphia politics while also developing a deep understanding of its history. Richardson Dilworth provides useful ways of thinking about Philadelphia politics that probably haven’t occurred to many politicians. As a reform mayor myself, I now have a better appreciation of how I fit into Philadelphia’s political past and future.”—Michael A. Nutter, Ninety-Eighth Mayor of Philadelphia
"(A) clear, concise, and accessible introduction to the evolution of Philadelphia’s municipal politics over the course of its 340-year history.... (Dilworth) offers valuable insights into the structural conditions that led to significant changes in Philadelphia city government. His contributions to our understanding of the city’s political culture as well as the broader understanding of urban politics in the United States should receive a wide readership among political scientists, historians, and all others interested in Philadelphia and urban political development."—Journal of Urban Affairs
Political Lessons from American Cities
Social Capital in the CityEdited by Richardson Dilworth