The Streets of San Francisco - Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972 Book

The Streets of San Francisco - Policing and the Creation of a Cosmopolitan Liberal Politics, 1950-1972 Book

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During the Sixties the nation turned its eyes to San Francisco as the city's police force clashed with movements for free speech, civil rights, and sexual liberation. These conflicts on the street forced Americans to reconsider the role of the police officer in a democracy.

In The Streets of San Francisco Christopher Lowen Agee explores the surprising and influential ways in which San Francisco liberals answered that question, ultimately turning to the police as partners, and reshaping understandings of crime, policing, and democracy.

The Streets of San Francisco uncovers the seldom reported, street-level interactions between police officers and San Francisco residents and finds that police discretion was the defining feature of mid-century law enforcement. Postwar police officers enjoyed great autonomy when dealing with North Beach beats, African American gang leaders, gay and lesbian bar owners, Haight-Ashbury hippies, artists who created sexually explicit works, Chinese American entrepreneurs, and a wide range of other San Franciscans.

Unexpectedly, this police independence grew into a source of both concern and inspiration for the thousands of young professionals streaming into the city's growing financial district. These young professionals ultimately used the issue of police discretion to forge a new cosmopolitan liberal coalition that incorporated both marginalised San Franciscans and rank-and-file police officers.

The success of this model in San Francisco resulted in the rise of cosmopolitan liberal coalitions throughout the country, and today, liberal cities across America ground themselves in similar understandings of democracy, emphasising both broad diversity and strong policing.

"A superb study of the shifting dynamics of policing and municipal governance in San Francisco. . . . Agee provides an alternative to the dominant historical narrative that casts changes in police politics during this time as 'conservative ascent.' Instead, Agee demonstrates how liberals. . . treat[ed] the liberal ideals of inclusiveness and pluralism as compatible with a toughening fight against crime. . . . The Streets of San Francisco is groundbreaking."
American Historical Review

"Agee argues that 'cosmopolitan liberalism' and a new assertive policing style emerged together and supported each other. His arguments are impressive for at least three reasons, the first being that they exist at all. . . . Police departments rarely make public the documents that typically underwrite historical inquiry. This dearth of reliable police sources encouraged twentieth-century historians to pursue other topics. But Agee works around the blue wall of silence by creatively patching together publicly available sources and oral histories."
Journal of American History

"Agee departs from th[e] familiar focus on political economy by highlighting law enforcement as the critical realm for understanding the evolution of contemporary urban liberalism.It is a refreshing reorientation and Agee executes the move with erudition in his penetrating analysis. . . . He concludes that cosmopolitan liberalism became the dominant ideology within police departments throughout the U.S. by the 1980s, and paved the way for innovations such as hot-spots policing, order maintenance policing, and community policing. In short, this is a fascinating account of the pivotal role of cosmopolitan liberals in 'the development of postwar law enforcement and the central place of police politics in the transformation of liberalism itself.'"
Pacific Historical Review

"Agee's book is an important intervention that connects liberal politics and urban policing, two topics that have been remarkably neglected by historians of the post-World War II era. . . . Deeply researched and elegantly argued, The Streets of San Francisco deserves a wide readership among political and urban historians. . . . The book is also a pioneering work of LGBT history. . . . Agee's research deftly reveals the degree to which LGBT political history in the postwar decades can be enriched by moving beyond newspapers and oral history interviews. . . and to the ways that gay and urban historians might profitably engage more deeply with each other's scholarship."
Journal of the History of Sexuality

Author Christopher Lowen Agee
Format Paperback
Pages 340
ISBN 9780226378084

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