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Keywords:

  • citizenship;
  • democracy;
  • homeowner associations;
  • proprietary residential communities;
  • U.S. metropolitan regions

ABSTRACT. Proprietary residential communities constitute a major component in the evolving geography of urban America. In many metropolitan regions, proprietary residential communities or common-interest developments, and associated forms of urban management, have emerged as the dominant form of residential development. Critical discourse on these communities and their residential community/homeowner associations has focused principally on the negative consequences for urban social and political life. It is argued here that many critical assessments are grounded in an idealistic view of contemporary society and an outdated conceptualization of citizenship. This article is intended to reenergize debate on these developments through a realist interpretation of the benefits and disbenefits of a form of residential development destined to exercise a major influence on the sociospatial structure of U.S. metropolitan areas in the early twenty-first century.