The future isn't what it used to be ... partially due to this book. The authors present a catalog of utopian schemes and critique them in terms of the contemporary physical planning debacle. In 1947, when this book was written, the United States was enjoying unprecedented growth, but there was a shortage of ideas about what to do with its new wealth. Although much of that wealth was expended in the form of higher levels of consumption, enormous investments were also made in the form of infrastructure (highways, buildings, utilities). This was also a point in time when social critics began to warn that our habits were likely to send us spinning out of control.
The author's take Sullivan's maxim, "Form follows function," and ask "Is the function good? Bona fide? Is it worthwhile? Is it worthy of a man to do that?" Rather than supply a single pat answer, the authors present three scenarios that go to the root of how our life goals play out in terms of our life styles.
Utopian schemes rarely if ever are practical, but the authors make two important points: a) that plans make us think through the consequences of our actions, and b) that no plan "always means in fact some inherited and frequently bad plan."