Progressives have long sought a revisionist history of Pruitt-Igoe, the 32-building public housing complex in St. Louis famously demolished in 1972. An historian interviewed in Chad Freidrichs’s new documentary, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, describes the stakes well:
“We don’t want people to think of Pruitt-Igoe as a failure if they’re going to then translate that failure to all public housing or all government programs or all social welfare or all modernism. That’s what Pruitt-Igoe has been freighted with.”Indeed it has: the startling image of the Minoro Yamasaki-designed complex collapsing into dust and rubble—eerily foreshadowing the collapse of the World Trade Center, which Yamasaki also designed—became a symbol of liberal reformers’ shortcomings: their skepticism about the virtues of the private economy and their excessive faith in the abilities of technical experts and of government to serve not just as protector, but provider.
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