What is the meaning of the following quote? Chicago is the product of modern capitalism, and, like other great commercial centers, is unfit for human habitation.”

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many different reasons why a person could say that Chicago (like all other big cities) is unfit for human habitation.  To see what this quote is likely to mean, we should look at who wrote it.  The author of this quote is Eugene V. Debs, and the quote comes from the article in the link below.  Debs was a socialist.  Because he was a socialist, we can infer that he thinks Chicago is unfit for human habitation because it was created with the needs of capitalists in mind instead of being created to be a good place for people to live.  We can confirm that this is what Debs thinks by reading the article in the link.

Debs starts by saying that Chicago was built in a place that is not good for human habitation.  It was built in a very swampy area.  Debs says that this was done because it was what the railroad company needed.  Because Chicago was built in such an inappropriate place, he says, it is very unhealthy.

But really, Debs is not just criticizing the location of Chicago.  Instead, he is saying that all capitalist centers are unfit for human habitation.  He says this because all capitalist centers are (in his view) built to fit the needs of the capitalists and not the needs of the workers.  Debs argues that it is not good for so many people to be packed together in one place.  He says that it makes them unable to feed themselves, that it prevents them from being clean, and that it deprives them of the space they need to move around.  To Debs, all this is because of capitalism.  If it were not for capitalism, people would be spread out across the countryside, living in smaller towns or villages which, he believes, would be better for them in all ways.

So, what this quote really means is that Chicago is a bad place to live because the capitalists built it to suit their own needs, not so that it would be a good place for people to actually live.