For the sheer magnitude, depth and authority of its revelations, The Power Broker stands alone - a huge and galvanizing biography revealing not only the virtually unknown saga of one man's incredible accumulation of power, but the hidden story of the shaping (and mis-shaping) of New York through the past half-century.
Robert Caro's monumental book makes public what few outsiders have known: that Robert Moses was the single most powerful man of our time in the City and in the State of New York. And in telling the Moses story, Caro both opens up to an unprecedented degree the way in which politics really happens - the way things really get done in America's City Halls and Statehouses - and brings to light a bonanza of vital new information about such national figures as Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt (and the genesis of their blood feud), and about Fiorello La Guardia, John V. Lindsay, and Nelson Rockefeller.
But The Power Broker is first and foremost a brilliant multidimensional portrait of a man - an extraordinary man who, denied power within the normal framework of the democratic process, stepped outside that framework to grasp power sufficient to shape a great city and to hold sway over the very texture of millions of lives. We see how Moses began: the handsome, intellectual young heir to the world of Our Crowd, an idealist. How, rebuffed by the entrenched political establishment, he fought for the power to accomplish his ideals. How he first created a miraculous flowering of parks and parkways, playlands and beaches - and then ultimately brought down on the city the smog-choked aridity of our urban landscape, the endless miles of (never sufficient) highway, the hopeless sprawl of Long Island, the massive failures of public housing, and countless other barriers to humane living. How, inevitably, the accumulation of power became an end in itself.
Moses built an empire and lived like an emperor. He was held in fear - his dossiers could disgorge the dark secret of anyone who opposed him. He was, he claimed, above politics, above deals; and through decade after decade, the newspapers and the public believed.
Meanwhile, he was developing his public authorities into a fourth branch of government known as "Triborough" - a government whose records were closed to the public, whose policies and plans were decided not by voters or elected officials but solely by Moses - an immense economic force directing pressure on labor unions, on banks, on all the city's political and economic institutions, and on the press, and on the Church. He doled out millions of dollars' worth of legal fees, insurance commissions, lucrative contracts on the basis of who could best pay him back in the only coin he coveted: power. He dominated the politics and politicians of his time - without ever having been elected to any office. He was, in essence, above our democratic system.
Robert Moses held power in the state for 44 years, through the governorships of Smith, Roosevelt, Lehman, Dewey, Harriman, and Rockefeller, and in the city for 34 years, through the mayoralties of La Guardia, O'Dwyer, Impellitteri, Wagner, and Lindsay. He personally conceived and carried through public works costing 27 billion dollars - he was undoubtedly America's greatest builder.
This is how he built and dominated New York - before, finally, he was stripped of his reputation (by the press) and of his power (by Nelson Rockefeller). But his work, and his will, had been done.
©1975 Robert A. Caro (P)2011 Random House Audio
"Surely the greatest book ever written about a city." (David Halberstam)
"A masterpiece of American reporting. It's more than the story of a tragic figure or the exploration of the unknown politics of our time. It's an elegantly written and enthralling work of art." (Theodore H. White)
"The most absorbing, detailed, instructive, provocative book ever published about the making and raping of modern New York City and environs and the man who did it, about the hidden plumbing of New York City and State politics over the last half-century, about the force of personality and the nature of political power in a democracy. A monumental work, a political biography and political history of the first magnitude." (Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York)
I found the first third (the rise of Robert Moses) informative and interesting and then I struggled to remain interested as he carried on for years and years and decades. I ultimately skipped to the end, (last 10th) and found the very end somewhat abrupt. I did a few Google searches and found that the book was first published while Moses was still living. I would have appreciated a post script though.
This was an absolutely superb book. It was very very very well written and performed. It's a story that all who aspire for greatness and all who desire to be a true blessing to others should read, should contemplate, should take to heart, and most definitely should pray about lest they commit the same errors. It's also a story that we should keep in mind when we select our leaders and entrust them with power. And it is also a story that should be a warning for those who would divide and rule us by class and resources. This story's arc shows that the power to rule and disenfranchise the wealthy will most certainly be used with greater vigor and viciousness against the less fortunate!
it was fascinating. and a cautionary tail. there are others, past and present; locak, state, and feseral. it was a present so I felt compelled to finish it. i' m glad I did. I didn't need so many details. second verse same as the first. but perhaps it gave texture to the story and supported the legitimate outrage of how he accomplished what he accomplished.
This is a book of mind-boggling scope describing the amazing life and work of a flawed genius of remarkable gifts -- so remarkable that it approaches the great tragedies. I can say no more than, "Listen and learn."
Caro's The Power Broker, which traces the life of "Master Builder" Robert Moses, is a master class on the acquisition and use of political power in American politics. The subject's authoritarian approach to undertaking public works, and to (metaphorically and sometimes literally) bulldozing through opposition to get his way, resulted in the reshaping of New York City, Long Island, and became a road map for the development of major public works like the US interstate highway system as well.
Caro does a brilliant job not only of describing in full a man who would only tolerate hagiography and blood oath loyalty from those with whom he surrounded himself, but also, through in depth exploration of those affected by his public projects, we get to see the terrible human costs wrought by a man obsessed with progress that he could only measure in dollars and miles of concrete and steel.
An important book for anyone interested in US public policy in 2017 to read.
Robertson Dean does an excellent job of narrating the audio book, bringing subtle variety and humanity to his portrayal of the many characters in the biography. The book is a massive one -- more than 66 hours long -- and I found Dean's delivery at 1x speed, while resonant, a bit laconic, and would recommend listening at either 1.5x or 2x speed. The clarity of Dean's narration remains even at this faster pace.
A spellbinding telling of the life of an ambitious, intellectual giant. His ability to transcend normal human limitations was matched only by his corruptible nature.
Excellent book from Caro as usual. I found, however, that I could have lived with just the first downloaded Part 1 and maybe a synopsis of the rest. If you're from NYC I'm sure the book is fascinating from beginning to (what was painful for me) end. I'm from UPSTATE NY and while I appreciate the history of it all, I can't say I enjoyed this as I did Caro's book on LBJ.
Absolutely, especially to anyone familiar with the city. It's perfect for anyone interested in politics but it describes NY in such great detail it's good to be knowledgeable about the area. Robert Caro is a superb writer. He illustrates so well how a young idealist can be torn down and remade into a cutthroat official. It really is amazing to hear about all the people Moses worked with intimately. Al Smith, FDR, Laguardia, Rockefeller among many more are all important characters in the story. Really a fascinating biography.
Robert Dean does a great job throughout. His deep voice seems perfect for describing a tough SOB like Moses. I especially enjoyed when he reads about Al Smith and Laguardia.
Not all great men are good
Like Robert Moses, I can claim great accomplishments -- like listening to all of this massive tome. But it was easy. Brilliantly researched, written and performed. Both the story of a compelling but deeply flawed character and an inside look at how things got done in NY over a 50 year period. i consumed it in stages over two years but never had a problem reentering the story even after putting it aside for months at time.
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