UIC Urban Forum

2015 UIC Urban Forum

REMAKING THE URBAN SOCIAL CONTRACT:

Health, Energy and the Environment

September 17, 2015

The politically tumultuous 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S. resulted in national, state and local governments promulgating policies designed to address a host of societal issues, including a degrading environment (e.g., National Environmental Policy Act of 1969), unaffordable health care for the poor and elderly (e.g., Medicaid and Medicare in 1965), and energy conservation (e.g., fuel efficiency standards in 1975). Although a broad commitment to meet these societal issues created a broad social contract among the people, the contract is becoming unraveled and contested even as important advances in these three areas have been undertaken in the past decade. The challenges to the old social compact are most visibly played out in the nation's metropolitan regions, which generate 85% of the gross domestic product. Attacks on government regulation of health, energy and environment issues coupled with the recent contraction of the economy and challenges to the validity of scientific inquiry have created a political situation in which metropolitan regions and cities are grappling again with redefining, revising and remaking the social contract that prevailed for nearly half a century. With particular emphasis on the social contracts and political agreements on health, energy and environmental policies of the last 40-50 years, the 2015 UIC Urban Forum focuses on the substantive and philosophical shifts in the urban social contract and examines the remaking of urban social contracts today.