We have a collection of pieces in this issue that approach from very different angles what we are calling “The Future of the City.” But the astute, independent-minded reader—which is to say, of course, you—may grow suspicious. Are we really out to embrace the future, or to re-create some idealized past? After all, Christopher Leinberger, in “Here Comes the Neighborhood,” proposes innovative policies so that, in some ways, our cities of the future can look … like our communities of the early 20th century, when streetcars laced together every town of more than 5,000 people. John Freeman Gill, in “Ghosts of New York,” yearns for renewed imagination for art in our public spaces … like we had back in 19th-century New York. Are we committing a mistake similar to the one that Benjamin Schwarz, in “Gentrification and Its Discontents,” attributes to acolytes of the urban preservationist Jane Jacobs—trying to seal in amber everything we happen to like, and pretend that the rest can just go away?
In fact, it might seem as if we want to make everything new old again, because we don’t stop with the city. Consider Caitlin Flanagan’s “Love, Actually.” She manages to glimpse, through today’s degrading hookup culture, a feminine insurrection in pursuit of 1950s-style romance that is reshaping popular culture—for her, Taylor Swift in her disarming sweetness echoes Doris Day—and may even prove powerful enough to bring boys to their senses. And then there’s Wayne Curtis (“Who Invented the Cocktail?”). He reports that bars are once again mixing, of all drinks, 19th-century punches and “shrubs” (fruit preserved in vinegar, then combined with spirits).