Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226122281 Published March 2014
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226122311 Published March 2014

The Streets of San Francisco

Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972

Christopher Lowen Agee

Christopher Lowen Agee

256 pages | 14 halftones, 1 map | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226122281 Published March 2014
E-book $7.00 to $36.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226122311 Published March 2014
For decades, the city of San Francisco has been nearly synonymous with the word “liberal,” known for its diversity and acceptance, environmental activism, and thriving art scene.  But this has not always been the case.  Liberalism in San Francisco in the years right after World War II was mostly confined to notions of state welfare and business regulation. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 1960s, when new peoples and cultures poured into the city, that San Francisco produced a new liberal politics.

Christopher Lowen Agee details this fascinating transition in The Streets of San Francisco, focusing in particular on the crucial role the police played during this cultural and political shift.  He partly attributes the creation and survival of cosmopolitan liberalism to the police’s new authority to use their discretion when interacting with African American gang leaders, gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a host of other postwar San Franciscans. In thus emboldening rank-and-file police officers, Agee shows, the city created partners in democratic governance. The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country. Today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy through an emphasis on both broad diversity and strong policing.
"[Agee's] nuanced perspective on city policing and on the evolving new political agenda of San Francisco’s political leadership fills a gap in our understanding of these years, and makes The Streets of San Francisco well worth reading."
Michael Flamm author of Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s
“Few historians have fully appreciated or analyzed the complicated role that the police have played in the making and unmaking of great American cities.  But in this impressively researched and clearly written account, which takes into careful consideration both the discretion officers had and the pressures they faced, Agee shows convincingly how intertwined police practices and urban liberalism were in postwar San Francisco.  From the Bay to the Breakers, the 1940s to the 1970s, he has ably documented how new notions of democratic citizenship and proper government emerged in response to street clashes between police officers and the diverse communities they served.  The Streets of San Francisco represents a major contribution to the history of policing and politics in modern America.”
David A. Sklansky | University of California, Berkeley School of Law
“This is an insightful and bracingly original study of law enforcement and municipal politics.  Agee tells a gripping, often surprising story of how San Francisco became the city it is today, and in the process he sheds new light on the ways that battles over policing influenced and reflected broader transformations of American urban life in the second half of the twentieth century.”
Matthew D. Lassiter | University of Michigan
“Agee's powerful and innovative book demonstrates that urban liberalism played as vital a role as law-and-order conservatism in the transformation of policing and crime politics in modern America.  In postwar San Francisco, police officers made public policy at the street level through corrupt and discretionary enforcement against stigmatized groups and cultural nonconformists such as bare-footed bohemians, gay bar patrons, provocative artists, antiwar hippies, youth gangs, and African American ‘vagrants.’  By embracing the ‘harm principle,’ white liberal reformers decriminalized cultural and sexual expression and restrained police discretion in majority-white enclaves while simultaneously institutionalizing stop-and-frisk tactics and repressive crime-fighting policies in black neighborhoods.”
Robert Self | Brown University
The Streets of San Francisco offers a revealing look at the contradictory policing impulses of urban liberals in the second half of the twentieth-century. Caught between law and order on one side and emerging demands for racial and sexual pluralism on the other, liberals struggled to manage the complex apparatus of big-city police departments. With San Francisco as his focus, Agee tells this story in his unique and insightful voice.”
"[A] fascinating study. . . It provides an interesting and under-examined insight into the cultural dynamics of the ‘60s and ‘70s, revealing that the police were not just an enemy of social change, but were often as much a part of it as the social movements they faced down in the streets."

1 “I Will Never Degrade the Spirit of Unity”:
Managerial Growth Politics and Police Professionalism

2 North Beach Beat:
Bohemians, Patrol Officers, and Cultural Pluralism

3 Gayola:
Gay-Bar Politics, Police Corruption, and Sexual Pluralism

4 “The Most Powerful Force in Man”:
Sexually Explicit Art, Police Censorship, and the Cosmopolitan Liberal Ascent

5 Leader of the Pack:
Gangs, Police Neglect, and Racial Pluralism

6 “If You Are Very Liberal toward Dissent, You Can Be a Little Bit Tougher”:
Cosmopolitan Liberalism and the Use of Force

7 “City Hall Can Be Beaten”:
Haight-Ashbury Activists, Rank-and-File Police, and a Cosmopolitan Localism


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