Private Property and Public Power: Eminent Domain in Philadelphia

Paperback | September 24, 2014

byDebbie Becher

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When governments use eminent domain to transfer property between private owners, Americans are outraged - or so most media and academic accounts would have us believe. But these accounts obscure a much more complex reality in American conceptions of property. In this book, Debbie Becher presents the first comprehensive study of a city's eminent domain acquisitions, exploring how and why the City of Philadelphia took properties between 1992 and 2007 and which takings led to protests. She uses original data - collected from city offices and interviews withover a hundred residents, business owners, community leaders, government representatives, attorneys, and appraisers - to explore how eminent domain really works.Becher surprises readers by finding that the city took over 4,000 private properties, or one out of every hundred such properties in Philadelphia, during her study period. Furthermore, these takings only rarely provoked opposition - a fact that established views on property are ill-equipped toexplain.To investigate how Americans judge the legitimacy of eminent domain, Becher devotes several chapters to two highly controversial sets of takings for redevelopment projects. The American Street takings were intended to win popular support for redevelopment and initially succeeded in doing so, but itended as a near total failure and embarrassment. The Jefferson Square takings initially faced vociferous opposition, but they eventually earned residents' approval and became a political showpiece.Becher uncovers evidence that Americans judge eminent domain through a social conception of property as an investment of value, committed over time, that government is responsible for protecting. This conception has never been described in sociological, legal, political, or economic scholarship, andit stands in stark contrast to the arguments of libertarian and left-leaning activists and academics. But recognizing property as investment, Becher argues, may offer a firm new foundation for more progressive urban policies.

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When governments use eminent domain to transfer property between private owners, Americans are outraged - or so most media and academic accounts would have us believe. But these accounts obscure a much more complex reality in American conceptions of property. In this book, Debbie Becher presents the first comprehensive study of a city'...

Debbie Becher is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Barnard College, Columbia University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:September 24, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199322554

ISBN - 13:9780199322558

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsAbbreviations1. Investment and Government Legitimacy2. The Policy and Politics of Urban Redevelopment3. Rhetoric without a Cause: Beyond Libertarian and Left Cries of Abuse4. American Street I: From Badlands to Promised Lands5. American Street II: From Promises to Protests6. Jefferson Square I: Competing Visions of Investment Protection7. Jefferson Square II: Legitimacy through Reconciled Visions8. Compensating for Property by Recognizing Investments9. The Politics of PropertyBibliographyAppendix 1Appendix 2Appendix 3NotesIndex