New York is a city of highs and lows, where wealthy elites share the streets with desperate immigrants and destitute locals. Bridging this ecomic divide is New York s underground ecomy, the invisible network of illicit transactions between rich and poor that secretly weaves together the whole city. Sudhir Venkatesh, acclaimed sociologist at Columbia University and author of Gang Leader for a Day, returns to the streets to connect the dots of New York s divergent ecomic worlds and crack the code of the city s underground ecomy. Based on Venkatesh s interviews with prostitutes and socialites, immigrants and academics, high end drug bosses and street-level dealers, Floating City exposes the underground as the city s true engine of social transformation and ecomic prosperity revealing a wholly unprecedented vision of New York. A memoir of sociological investigation, Floating City draws from Venkatesh s decade of research within the affluent communities of Upper East Side socialites and Midtown businessmen, the drug gangs of Harlem and the sex workers of Brooklyn, the artists of Tribeca and the escort services of Hell s Kitchen. Venkatesh arrived in the city after his groundbreaking research in Chicago, where crime remained stubbornly local: gangs stuck to their housing projects and criminals stayed on their corners. But in Floating City, Venkatesh discovers that New York s underground ecomy unites instead of divides inhabitants: a vast network of off the books transactions linking the high and low worlds of the city. Venkatesh shows how dealing in drugs and sex and undocumented labor bridges the conventional divides between rich and poor, unmasking a city knit together by the invisible threads of the underground ecomy. Venkatesh closely follows a dozen New Yorkers locked in the underground ecomy. His greatest guide is Shine, an African American drug boss based in Harlem who hopes to break into the elusive, upscale cocaine market. Without connections among wealthy whites, Shine undertakes an audacious campaign of self-reinvention, leaving behind the certainties of race and class with all the drive of the greatest entrepreneurs. As Shine explains to Venkatesh, This is New York! We re like hummingbirds, man. We go flower to flower. . . . Here, you need to float. Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York s Underground Ecomy chronicles Venkatesh s decade of discovery and loss in the shifting terrain of New York, where research subjects might disappear suddenly and new allies emerge by chance, where close friends might reveal themselves to be criminals of the lowest order. Propelled by Venkatesh s numerous interviews and firsthand research, Floating City at its heart is a story of one man struggling to understand a complex global city constantly in the throes of becoming.
Sudhir Venkatesh is the William B. Ransford Professor of Sociology and a member of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. His most recent book is Gang Leader for a Day, a New York Times bestseller that received a best book of the year award from The Economist. Venkatesh s writings have appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. He lives in New York City.
William B Ransford Professor of Sociology Sudhir Venkatesh