Kim Phillips-Fein is a professor at the Gallatin School of individualized study and the department of history at New York University. She is the author of Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics (2017). (July 2020)
We may find ourselves now at the end of an era, as the choices made in the 1970s—to starve the public sector, embrace extreme individualism, place all our trust in the profit motive—have created a society that seems unable to cope with a crisis such as that posed by the coronavirus. The real problem today is not simply how to avoid debt, or how to balance the budget. It is how the city can respond to a social crisis of this magnitude—and redefine what our collective responsibilities ought to be in a time of desolation.