Much of American urban policy focuses—appropriately—on the tragic conundrum of why the disadvantaged in cities remain so. Scholars and researchers writing from a politically liberal perspective heavily focus policy prescriptions on the urban poor's lack of opportunity for social mobility, appealing to the morally powerful principle of meritocracy. The central goal of this Meritocratic Paradigm is to lessen the barriers in the social environment of cities that prevent meritocratic outcomes from being realized. I present a critique of this Meritocratic Paradigm, revealing it to be problematic on both prescriptive and normative grounds. In light of this critique, I offer an alternative—a Community Paradigm—built around the ideals of community rather than those of meritocracy.
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