The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs

40th Annual Norman Glickman Lecture in Urban Studies: Matthew Lassiter
210 South 34th Street (School of Design Building)
book cover

Matt Lassiter is Professor of History, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. He is a scholar of the twentieth-century United States with a research and teaching focus on political history, urban/suburban studies, racial and social inequality, and the history of policing and the carceral state. 

His newest book, The Suburban Crisis: White America and the War on Drugs (forthcoming from Princeton University Press in November 2023), is the topic of our 40th Annual Norman Glickman Lecture in Urban Studies.


The book explores political culture and public policy formation in U.S. history from the 1950s through the 1990s by analyzing the real-and-symbolic relationship between cities and suburbs and the comprehensive role of racial and spatial discretion in the wars on delinquency, crime, and drugs. Based on extensive archival research at the local, state, and federal levels, The Suburban Crisis connects grassroots politics to state-building and public policy formation through a comparative methodology that includes a dozen case studies of states or localities, close analysis of landmark national legislation in the wars on drugs and crime, and investigation of the white/suburban/victim and nonwhite/urban/villain categories that have structured American politics and culture. The book examines the unstable and shifting interplay between the criminalization and decriminalization of white middle-class youth and makes several original contributions to the scholarship on the carceral state. 

Previews of major themes of The Suburban Crisis have appeared in the special Journal of American History issue “Historians and the Carceral State” and the special Journal of Urban History issue “Rethinking Urban America through the Lens of the Carceral State”. Lassiter is also the author of The Silent Majority: Suburban Politics in the Sunbelt South (Princeton University Press, 2006, Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America series), and is currently an editor of the Politics and Culture in Modern America series published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.


The Norman Glickman Annual Lecture in Urban Studies is supported by a gift from the program's founder, Prof. Norman Glickman, his wife Elyse Pivnick, and URBS alum William Witte.