Social Scientist. v 19, no. 218 (July 1991) p. 55.

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French Studies in Urban Policy

Jean-Pierre Gaudin and Mulk Raj, eds., French Studies in Urban Policy, A Survey of Research, Orient Longman, 1990, Price Rs. 110

Critics and book reviewers, I am told on good authority, should comment on whatever they are assessing, kindly to begin with and unkindly, if need be afterwards. This is the kind and generous way that levels off the personal prejudices of the commentator. There is no doubt much sense in this advice because book publishing and book reading, in any case, have become such a fragile activities. Perhaps one ought to qualify this a bit further. Book publishing is certainly not as fragile an activity as book reading. Fragile because the time required to be spent in the preparation or absorption of printed matter seems to be snatched away from other pressing activities. Books need to be created with great care and trouble and they need to be read deeply and continuously. These are now rare occurrences amongst the middle class English reading public in our metropolitan cities. More and more and collected papers are getting published by obscure editors for institutional libraries whose purchases cover the publication costs. More and more readers confine their reading time to the waiting period between departures and arrivals. The txook review, in same ways, therefore becomes an important medium to draw the attention of potential readers, however few there may be of them. To be kind and generous to a book is therefore almost a mandatory function for a reviewer, provided ofcourse that the book is atleast readable.

French Studies in Urtan Policy is a very readable book for a specialised audience which is interested in Urbanisation and Policy. Both these aspects of our cities in India seem to be beyond anybody's control, or so it seems. Otherwise why would our metropolitan cities be hurtling along a rudderless path that will ofcourse lead to the veritable quicksands. Indeed an urban dweller might be quite surprised to read about Urban Policy which should spring from the needs of the inhabitants rather than political expediency. To read about a coherent study of policy is therefore welcome. Our urban planners could read the chapters in this book while they sit in the passenger seat during the demolition operations because they are only repeating what happened

Social Scientist, Vol. 19, No. 7, July 1991

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