The State and the City
Gurr and King's analysis assumes modern states have their own interests, institutional momentum, and the capacity to act with relative autonomy. Their historically based analysis begins with an account of the evolution of the Western state's interest in the viability of cities since the industrial revolution. Their agument extends to the local level, examining the nature of the local state and its autonomy from national political and economic forces.
Using cross-national evidence, Gurr and King examine specific problems of urban policy in the United States and Britain. In the United States, for example, they show how the dramatic increases in federal assistance to cities in the 1930s and the 1960s were made in response to urban crises, which simultaneously threatened national interests and offered opportunities for federal expansion of power. As a result, national and local states now play significant material and regulatory roles that can have as much impact on cities as all private economic activities.
A comparative analysis of thirteen American cities reflects the range and impact of the state's activities at the urban level. Boston, they argue, has become the archetypical postindustrial public city: half of its population and personal income are directly dependent on government spending. While Gurr and King are careful to delineate the limits to the extent and effectiveness of state intervention, they conclude that these limits are much broader than formerly thought. Ultimately, their evidence suggests that the continued decline of most of the old industrial cities is the result of public decisions to allow their economic fate to be determined in the private sector.