The Bonds of Inequality


Debt and the Making of the American City

by Destin Jenkins

Indebtedness, like inequality, has become a ubiquitous condition in the United States. Yet few have probed American cities’ dependence on municipal debt or how the terms of municipal finance structure racial privileges, entrench spatial neglect, elide democratic input, and distribute wealth and power.

In this passionate and deeply researched book, Destin Jenkins shows in vivid detail how, beyond the borrowing decisions of American cities and beneath their quotidian infrastructure, there lurks a world of politics and finance that is rarely seen, let alone understood. Focusing on San Francisco, The Bonds of Inequality offers a singular view of the postwar city, one where the dynamics that drove its creation encompassed not only local politicians but also banks, credit rating firms, insurance companies, and the national municipal bond market. Moving between the local and the national, The Bonds of Inequality uncovers how racial inequalities in San Francisco were intrinsically tied to municipal finance arrangements and how these arrangements were central in determining the distribution of resources in the city. By homing in on financing and its imperatives, Jenkins boldly rewrites the history of modern American cities, revealing the hidden strings that bind debt and power, race and inequity, democracy and capitalism.

paperback | 320 pages | 26 halftones, 10 tables | 6 x 9 | The University of Chicago Press |  2022

Destin Jenkins is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University. His work focuses on twentieth-century America, and lies at the intersection of urban studies, African American politics, and the history of capitalism. He is interested in the financial processes and entanglements that underwrite racial inequality, and the implications of those entanglements for democracy, public space, and social movements. He is the author of The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City (The University of Chicago Press, 2021), and co-editor of Histories of Racial Capitalism (Columbia University Press, 2021). His writings have appeared in The Washington Post, The Nation, Public Books, and elsewhere.

Jenkins received his PhD in History from Stanford University in 2016.


In stock (can be backordered)

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