Considering place

“Life is lived out in a place. Any given place has a natural geography and belongs to a shaped landscape and a built environment of structures, buildings, homes, organized spaces, and a multitude of objects, tools, and machines. Also, a place, which can be defined as a discrete locality or as an expanded region or state, embodies a type of commerce and industry, as well as a stage of an economy. A place is also a society—a set of institutions, a collection of groups, and a mixture of communities and cultures. A set of unities, similarities, contrasts, juxtapositions, polarities, and contradictions, a place exists also as a combination of differing states of change, development, maturation, decay, and decline”

This is from “Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America,” an anthology that came out a year or two ago. Specifically, it’s from Joseph A. Amato’s chapter “Local History: A Way to Place and Home.”

Maybe this excerpt is obvious, but I think there’s also some confusion about what constitutes place. And I think there’s value in re-encountering basic concepts every so often.

Capitalism and globalization are minimizing the importance of physical distances, but as market forces they’re still driven by the desire to serve specific people in particular places.

And understanding the place we live and how we might make it better is what makes a city, town, or neighborhood worth contributing to, not only in terms of the market but also the culture.