Susan Bickford's article "Constructing Inequality" needs to be read slowly, like poetry, to absorb its complexity (see my first post on "how to read"). If you blaze through it, you get the general overview of someone who's cranky and oppositional. We need to understand what task she's set out for herself here in order to be able to evaluate how well she's done it.
Fortunately, she's made that task very apparent for us, on the second page of her paper :
"In this essay, I argue that the environment of our urban and suburban lives provides a hostile environment for the development of democratic imagination and participation" (Bickford, 356).
This is a rich statement. "The environment of our urban and suburban lives" indicates that she's going to analyze the intersections between our places and our ways of living. "Hostile" indicates that she's going to take a strong stand (she could have used words like "difficult" or "unproductive"). She goes beyond saying that the environment makes it difficult to be citizens, and claims that the environment makes it difficult to even think like citizens ("democratic imagination"). And by using the word "development," she's indicating that she believes that our built environment is hostile to our growth, and keeps us in an artificially undeveloped state of civic engagement and thinking.
But you can't see all that at 70 miles an hour. This essay is like a painting that can be examined for hours; I daresay, it's something like a good building.