I’ve been reading through the Paris Review’s Interview with Robert Caro, as you should, too. I am a great fan of Robert Caro, but I do have to admit I am confused as to why Robert Moses is conflated with urban planning (and everything that was/is wrong with it) when he was never trained as a planner.
In this interview, Caro rather gratuitously decides he knew better than his professors about where highways get built–it’s self-aggrandizing story, in some respects, and granted who was probably teaching at Harvard at the time, I’d like to point out that, once again, instead of studying with urban planners, he was probably studying with civil engineers who were showing mathematical arguments for where highways *should* go–not where they do go. But anyway, my question remains: Caro never, not once, as far as I can tell, took a degree in urban planning. His background is in political science, in which he obtained a PhD from Yale. So he studied political power and went out and got it, and not surprisingly, he figured out one of the easiest places to wield a great deal of individual influence is in local politics and in institutions with copious bureaucratic discretion.
If anything, he was a public management guy, not a planner.
But somehow, nonetheless, the things he did became a lesson to one and all about how urban planning shouldn’t be done. Ok, but he didn’t learn that stuff in planning school.
The whole narrative strikes me more as a lesson power and rationality: If something goes wrong, then the planners did it. If something goes right, the engineers/city managers/real estate developmers/economists/architects/community did it right, despite all them dadgum planners.
Well screw that. Robert Moses wasn’t ours and it’s time another intellectual tradition took responsibility for him.