Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost And Found In New York's Underground Economy

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Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost And Found In New York's Underground Economy

by Sudhir Venkatesh

Penguin Press (HC) | September 17, 2013 | Hardcover

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost And Found In New York's Underground Economy is rated 4 out of 5 by 1.
"[A] fascinating X-ray of the city...Venkatesh''s engrossing narrative dissects the intricacies of illegal commerce." --Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)

New York is a city of highs and lows, where wealthy elites share the streets with desperate immigrants and destitute locals. Bridging this economic divide is New York’s underground economy, the invisible network of illicit transactions between rich and poor that secretly weaves together the whole city.

Sudhir Venkatesh, acclaimed sociologist at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day, returns to the streets to connect the dots of New York’s divergent economic worlds and crack the code of the city’s underground economy. Based on Venkatesh’s interviews with prostitutes and socialites, immigrants and academics, high end drug bosses and street-level dealers, Floating City exposes the underground as the city’s true engine of social transformation and economic prosperity—revealing a wholly unprecedented vision of New York.

A memoir of sociological investigation, Floating City draws from Venkatesh’s decade of research within the affluent communities of Upper East Side socialites and Midtown businessmen, the drug gangs of Harlem and the sex workers of Brooklyn, the artists of Tribeca and the escort services of Hell’s Kitchen. Venkatesh arrived in the city after his groundbreaking research in Chicago, where crime remained stubbornly local: gangs stuck to their housing projects and criminals stayed on their corners. But in Floating City, Venkatesh discovers that New York’s underground economy unites instead of divides inhabitants: a vast network of “off the books” transactions linking the high and low worlds of the city. Venkatesh shows how dealing in drugs and sex and undocumented labor bridges the conventional divides between rich and poor, unmasking a city knit together by the invisible threads of the underground economy.

Planting himself squarely within this unexplored world, Venkatesh closely follows a dozen New Yorkers locked in the underground economy. Bangledeshi shop clerks like Manjun and Santosh navigate immense networks of illegal goods and services, connecting inquisitive tourists with sex workers and drug dealers. Hispanic prostitutes like Angela and Carla feel secure enough in the new city to leave their old neighborhoods behind in pursuit of bigger money, yet abandon all the safety they had when their clients were known locals. Rich uptown women like Analise and Brittany have the changing city at their beck and call, but both turn to sex work as an easy way to make ends meet without relying on their family fortunes. Venkatesh’s greatest guide is Shine, an African American drug boss based in Harlem who hopes to break into the elusive, upscale cocaine market. Without connections among wealthy whites, Shine undertakes an audacious campaign of self-reinvention, leaving behind the certainties of race and class with all the drive of the greatest entrepreneurs. As Shine explains to Venkatesh, “This is New York! We’re like hummingbirds, man. We go flower to flower. . . . Here, you need to float.”

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy chronicles Venkatesh’s decade of discovery and loss in the shifting terrain of New York, where research subjects might disappear suddenly and new allies emerge by chance, where close friends might reveal themselves to be criminals of the lowest order. Propelled by Venkatesh’s numerous interviews and firsthand research, Floating City at its heart is a story of one man struggling to understand a complex global city constantly in the throes of becoming.

Booklist
"Venkatesh brings to life the underground economy of New York, where rich and poor and varying ethnicities and backgrounds meet and function while they “float.” An enlightening book."


Kirkus
"Displays a piercing sense of empathy and ability to translate dry sociological principles into an understanding of the difficult lives of the urban poor... Venkatesh has established a singular voice in urban sociology, and his immersive research and insights remain penetrating and unique.
"
 

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 304 pages, 9.55 × 6.37 × 1.01 in

Published: September 17, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Press (HC)

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594204160

ISBN - 13: 9781594204166

Found in: Biography and Memoir

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Floating City had me Floating Away :) Wow. I really enjoyed this novel. I am NOT a sociologist or anything even remotely academic like this, BUT the best thing about this novel is that you don't need to be. I was a little hesitant to pick it up at first because it seemed like it would be a heavy read and most of the content would go right over my head. Not the case. This non-fiction book reads like a fiction-novel. Venkatesh writes using layman's terms that we can all understand and doesn't get too 'sciencey' on us, so the reader stays interested instead of feeling stupid. I picked this book up because the cover looked cool and because I had been watching a lot of old Law & Order episodes, so New York was intriguing to me. The characters in this book are so real (they really are real) and human, with ups and downs and struggles and wins. You really start to feel for them, even though they are all criminals. One of the most interesting facets of this book is the struggle that Venkatesh himself goes through, trying to maintain his "observer' status rather than helping out or intervening. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to learn more about New York's underbelly, without getting into statistics or academic definitions.
Date published: 2014-07-09

– More About This Product –

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost And Found In New York's Underground Economy

by Sudhir Venkatesh

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 304 pages, 9.55 × 6.37 × 1.01 in

Published: September 17, 2013

Publisher: Penguin Press (HC)

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594204160

ISBN - 13: 9781594204166

Read from the Book

We reached a dark staircase in the back of the strip club; he pushed me up one flight, then pressed me against the wall with his massive palm while his other hand rapped on a metal door. Inside sat three extras from a John Cassavettes movie – a young woman in lingerie and two middle-aged men with gaunt faces and greased black hair combed back over their heads. One of them had a calculator in his hand, the other played with a small rubber band. Both had unbuttoned shirts and silver chains in their chest hair. Both shot me bored looks as the half-naked girl continued with what she was saying. “The best thing about me, I don’t flake out like some girls. I’m dependable .” “I wouldn’t even know what that means, sweetheart,” said the man with the calculator. “I’ll be here,” she continued. “I’ll show up when I say I’m gonna show up – and I’ll be ready to do my thing.” Unimpressed, the man with the rubber band looked at the security guard, then at me. “Who’s this guy?” The guard tightened his grip on my arm. “He’s been snooping around.” “I’m a sociologist,” I said. “I’m doing a study of sex work in New York, and how people make money in clubs.” The man with the calculator laughed. The man with the rubber band shook his head. “What is it with you people?” He turned to his partner. “Must be, what, the fourth
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From the Publisher

"[A] fascinating X-ray of the city...Venkatesh''s engrossing narrative dissects the intricacies of illegal commerce." --Publishers Weekly (STARRED review)

New York is a city of highs and lows, where wealthy elites share the streets with desperate immigrants and destitute locals. Bridging this economic divide is New York’s underground economy, the invisible network of illicit transactions between rich and poor that secretly weaves together the whole city.

Sudhir Venkatesh, acclaimed sociologist at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day, returns to the streets to connect the dots of New York’s divergent economic worlds and crack the code of the city’s underground economy. Based on Venkatesh’s interviews with prostitutes and socialites, immigrants and academics, high end drug bosses and street-level dealers, Floating City exposes the underground as the city’s true engine of social transformation and economic prosperity—revealing a wholly unprecedented vision of New York.

A memoir of sociological investigation, Floating City draws from Venkatesh’s decade of research within the affluent communities of Upper East Side socialites and Midtown businessmen, the drug gangs of Harlem and the sex workers of Brooklyn, the artists of Tribeca and the escort services of Hell’s Kitchen. Venkatesh arrived in the city after his groundbreaking research in Chicago, where crime remained stubbornly local: gangs stuck to their housing projects and criminals stayed on their corners. But in Floating City, Venkatesh discovers that New York’s underground economy unites instead of divides inhabitants: a vast network of “off the books” transactions linking the high and low worlds of the city. Venkatesh shows how dealing in drugs and sex and undocumented labor bridges the conventional divides between rich and poor, unmasking a city knit together by the invisible threads of the underground economy.

Planting himself squarely within this unexplored world, Venkatesh closely follows a dozen New Yorkers locked in the underground economy. Bangledeshi shop clerks like Manjun and Santosh navigate immense networks of illegal goods and services, connecting inquisitive tourists with sex workers and drug dealers. Hispanic prostitutes like Angela and Carla feel secure enough in the new city to leave their old neighborhoods behind in pursuit of bigger money, yet abandon all the safety they had when their clients were known locals. Rich uptown women like Analise and Brittany have the changing city at their beck and call, but both turn to sex work as an easy way to make ends meet without relying on their family fortunes. Venkatesh’s greatest guide is Shine, an African American drug boss based in Harlem who hopes to break into the elusive, upscale cocaine market. Without connections among wealthy whites, Shine undertakes an audacious campaign of self-reinvention, leaving behind the certainties of race and class with all the drive of the greatest entrepreneurs. As Shine explains to Venkatesh, “This is New York! We’re like hummingbirds, man. We go flower to flower. . . . Here, you need to float.”

Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy chronicles Venkatesh’s decade of discovery and loss in the shifting terrain of New York, where research subjects might disappear suddenly and new allies emerge by chance, where close friends might reveal themselves to be criminals of the lowest order. Propelled by Venkatesh’s numerous interviews and firsthand research, Floating City at its heart is a story of one man struggling to understand a complex global city constantly in the throes of becoming.

Booklist
"Venkatesh brings to life the underground economy of New York, where rich and poor and varying ethnicities and backgrounds meet and function while they “float.” An enlightening book."


Kirkus
"Displays a piercing sense of empathy and ability to translate dry sociological principles into an understanding of the difficult lives of the urban poor... Venkatesh has established a singular voice in urban sociology, and his immersive research and insights remain penetrating and unique.
"
 

About the Author

SUDHIR VENKATESH is the William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology and a member of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. His most recent book is Gang Leader for a Day, a New York Times bestseller that received a best book of the year award from The Economist. Venkatesh’s writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. He lives in New York City.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day

 “Riveting.”
—The New York Times

“Compelling . . . dramatic. . . . Venkatesh gives readers a window into a way of life that few Americans understand.”
—Newsweek

“An eye-opening account into an underserved city within the city.”
—Chicago Tribune

“A rich portrait of the urban poor, drawn not from statistics but from vivid tales of their lives and [Venkatesh’s], and how they intertwined.”
—The Economist (A Best Book of the Year)