Great Issues—Miller Center

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Great Issues: Scholarship in the Public Interest

More from Lily Geismer

Changing Liberal Values - Lily Geismer explains how the emergence of a group of high-tech suburban liberals produced a politics that emphasized meritocracy and equality of opportunity, but also a “property-value politics” focused on self-interest. Specifically, Geismer notes that these suburban liberals were progressive on issues from which they personally benefitted or that allowed abstract commitments to equality, such as environmentalism, antiwar politics, fair housing, or voluntary school integration, but tended to oppose policies that would involve costs to them or threaten property values, including tax policy, affordable housing, or two-way school integration.

Don’t Blame Us and the Transformation of Liberalism  - Lily Geismer discusses her book, Don’t Blame Us, in which she examines the transformation of American liberalism since the 1960s. Focusing on the emergence of white-collar workers in the technology industry around Boston’s Route 128 corridor, Geismer challenges assumptions about the decline of liberalism and casts new light onto the importance of suburban politics.

The METCO Program and the Problem with Individual Solutions to Structural Problems - Lily Geismer explains the development of the METCO program, which began in 1966 and is the country’s oldest and largest voluntary school busing program. Geismer argues that the program represents a classic example of an individual solution to a structural problem.

The Policy Implications of a Shifting Liberalism - Geismer concludes that the most important contribution of <em>Don’t Blame Us</em> may be to increase readers’ understanding of what their actions and choices can and cannot accomplish. She notes that choices about issues such as children’s education may actually have greater impact than more traditional political actions. In addition, she also argues that the current focus on technology as a solution to all problems should be modified with a greater emphasis on issues of equity and the creation of sustainable futures in urban areas.

The Tradeoff of Transformation - Geismer notes that this transformation had a cost, as the new suburban liberalism exhibited far less of a commitment to addressing structural inequality or to finding collective solutions to public problems.  In many respects, it actually obscured such structural issues.