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.
Richardson Dilworth is Professor of Politics and Head of the Department of Politics at Drexel University. He is the author of The Urban Origins of Suburban Autonomy, editor-in-chief of the Oxford Bibliographies in Urban Studies, and the editor or coeditor of nine books, including Social Capital in the City: Community and Civic Life in Philadelphia (Temple) and, most recently, with Timothy Weaver, How Ideas Shape Urban Political Development.