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URBAN SOCIOLOGY THEORIES

Urban sociology syllabus

Urban sociology course documents

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CLASSICAL THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES

Karl Marx

Friedrich Engels

Ferdinand Tonnies

Emile Durkheim

Max Weber

Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels - macro-sociological

People in preindustrial, traditional societies were generic, tribal beings

Rise of city was transition from barbarism to civilization

People realize political and economic freedom, productive specialization

Social evolution of humans not complete until capitalism was transformed into
socialism

Emphasis of economics and problems of inequality and conflict

Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) German (pessimistic) - macro-sociological


Considered social structure of city

Defined and described two basic organizing principles of human association or


two contrasting types of human social life, a typology with a continuum of pure
type of settlement:

1) Gemeinschaft (community): characterized country village, people in rural


village have an essential unity of purpose, work together for the common good,
united by ties of family (kinship) and neighbourhood, land worked communally by
inhabitants, social life characterized by intimate, private and exclusive living
together, members bound by common language and traditions, recognized
common goods and evils, common friends and enemies, sense of we-ness or our-
ness, humane

2) Gesellschaft (association): characterized large city, city life is a mechanical


aggregate characterized by disunity, rampant individualism and selfishness,
meaning of existence shifts from group to individual, rational, calculating, each
person understood in terms of a particular role and service provided; deals with the
artificial construction of an aggregate of human beings which superficially
resembles the Gemeinschaft in so far as the individuals peacefully live together yet
whereas in Gemeinschaft people are united in spite of all separating factors, in
Gesellschaft people are separated in spite of all uniting factors

There are three types of Gemeinschaft relationships: Kinship, Friendship, and


Neighborhood or Locality

1.1) Kinship Gemeinschaft is based on Family; the strongest relationship being


between mother and child, then husband and wife, and then siblings. Gemeinschaft
also exists between father and child, but this relationship is less instinctual than
that of mother and child. However, the father-child relationship is the original
manifestation of authority within Gemeinschaft.

1.2) Kinship develops and differentiates into the Gemeinschaft of Locality, which
is based on a common habitat

1.3) There is also Friendship, or Gemeinschaft of the mind, which requires a


common mental community (eg: religion).

He feared the undermining of the fabric of social life


Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) French (optimistic) - macro-sociological

Considered social structure of city

Social solidarity--the bond between all individuals within a society

Developed model of contrasting social order types: both types are natural

1) Mechanical solidarity: refers to social bonds constructed on likeness and


largely dependent upon common belief, custom, ritual, routines, and symbol,
people are identical in major ways and thus united almost automatically, self-
sufficient; social cohesion based upon the likeness and similarities among
individuals in a society. Common among prehistoric and pre-agricultural societies,
and lessens in predominance as modernity increases.

2) Organic solidarity: social order based on social differences, complex division


of labour where many different people specialize in many different occupations,
greater freedom and choice for city inhabitants despite acknowledged
impersonality, alienation, disagreement and conflict, undermined traditional social
integration but created a new form of social cohesion based on mutual
interdependence, liberating; social cohesion based upon the dependence
individuals in more advanced society have on each other. Common among
industrial societies as the division of labor increases. Though individuals perform
different tasks and often have different values and interests, the order and very
survival of society depends on their reliance on each other to perform their specific
task.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918) German (pessimistic) - micro-sociological


Considered importance of urban experience, i.e. chose to focus on urbanism (life
within the city) rather than urbanization (development of urban areas), "The
Metropolis and Mental Life" is an essay detailing his views on life in the city,
focusing more on social psychology

Unique trait of modern city is intensification of nervous stimuli with which city
dweller must cope, from rural setting where rhythm of life and sensory imagery is
more slow, habitual and even, to city with constant bombardments of sights,
sounds and smells

Individual learns to discriminate, become rational and calculating, develops a blasé


attitude – matter-of-fact, a social reserve, a detachment, respond with head rather
than heart, don’t care and don’t get involved

Urbanites highly attuned to time

Rationality expressed in advanced economic division of labour, and the use of


money because of requirement for a universal means of exchange

Acknowledged freedom, transcendence of pettiness of daily routine, new heights


of personal and spiritual development but sense of alienation could override this

To maintain sense of individuality and not feel like cog in machine, do something
different or odd to stand out

Social distance

Author of this concept, from which we have Bogardus Social Distance Scale
(Emery Bogardus – Chicago School)

A complex interpretation of social interaction as forms of distance in two ways

1) geometric form (Euclidian) and 2) a metamorphic sense, or

1) spatial and 2) symbolic

1) Euclidian and 2) imagined


1) Physical and 2) symbolic

Philosophy of Money

Economic exchange is a form of social interaction

When monetary transactions replaced earlier forms of barter, significant changes


occurred in the form of interaction between social actors

Money is subject to precise division and manipulation, it permits exact


measurement of equivalents

Money is impersonal, objects of barter are/were not

Money promotes rational calculation in human affairs, furthering rationalization


characteristic of modern societies

Money replaces personal ties by impersonal relations that limited to a specific


purpose

Abstract calculation invades areas of social life, e.g. kinship relations or realm of
esthetic appreciation

Shift from qualitative to quantitative appraisals

Money increases personal freedom and fosters social differentiation

Money in modern world is standard of value and means of exchange

Above economic functions, it symbolizes and embodies modern spirit of


rationalism, calculability and impersonality

Money is the major mechanism for shift between gemeinschaft to gesellschaft

The blasé attitude


• incapacity to react to new sensations due to saturation.
• reinforced by the money economy: money--a common denominator of all
values, regardless of their individuality.
• reserve, indifference, apathy--forms of psychological protection--become
parts of the metropolitan lifestyle.
• Positive aspect of metropolitan life: reserve and detachment produce
individual freedom.
• Paradox of city life : objectivization leads to greater individualism and
subjectivism.
• [The most significant characteristic of the metropolis] "functional
extension beyond its physical boundaries"—a person’s life does not end
with the limits of his/her body and the area of his/her immediate activity.

Max Weber (1864-1920) German - macro-sociological

Considered social structure of city

Ecological-demographic characteristics: the city was a relatively closed and dense


settlement

Undertook survey of various cities throughout world unlike previous theorists who
focused on European cities solely

Defined urban community, an ideal type, required:

1) trade or commercial relations, e.g. market

2) court and law of its own

3) partial political autonomy

4) militarily self-sufficient for self-defence

5) forms of associations or social participation whereby individuals engage in


social relationships and organizations

Suggested that cities are linked to larger processes, e.g. economic or political
orientations, instead of city itself being cause of distinguishing qualities of urban
life, i.e. different cultural and historical conditions will result in different types of
cities, same as with Marx & Engels who argued that human condition of cities was
result of economic structure

CONTEMPORARY THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES


The University of Chicago: University of Chicago is the origin of Urban
Sociology in the United States. The Urban Environment surrounding the
University provided the perfect laboratory for scholars like Robert Park and Ernest
Burgess to study the city.

Robert Park

Louis Wirth

Ernest Burgess

Homer Hoyt

Harris and Ullman

URBAN ECOLOGY (Robert Ezra Park (1864-1944) of the Chicago school)


Coined concept of Human Ecology as a perspective that attempts to apply
biological processes/concepts to the social world since maintained that the city
and life in the city is a product of competition in the natural environment, i.e.
the natural environment is an instrumental force in determining city
characteristics.

Believed city to be a social organism with distinct parts bound together by internal
processes, not chaos and disorder

City was also a moral as well as physical organization suggesting evaluative


judgements

Focused on the physical form of the city and human’s adjustment to the ecological
conditions urban life

Theoretical premises

Influence of natural sciences arguing there is a similarity between the organic and
social worlds, i.e. the idea that natural laws can be adapted to society; a form
of Social Darwinism

"Web of life"--all organisms are interrelated, there exists an interdependence of


species sharing the same environment that seems to be the product of a
Darwinian struggle for existence (numbers of living organisms regulated,
distribution controlled, and balance of nature maintained where survivors of
struggle find niches in physical environment and in existing division of labour
between species)

Symbiotic versus societal organization


Symbiosis: mutual interdependence between 2 or more species
Processes characterizing the growth and development of plant and animal
communities applied to human communities.
Community (plant, animal, human): defined as individual units involved in
struggle and competition in their habitat, organized and interrelated in most
complex manner

Essential characteristics of a community


1. Population, territorially organized
2. More or less completely rooted in the soil it occupies
3. Its individual units living in a relationship of mutual interdependence that
is symbiotic rather than societal.
Human community (city) organized on two levels:
1. Biotic or symbiotic (substructure): driven by competition, structure of city
resulting from inhabitants’ competition for scarce resources, idea is that
cities were similar to symbiotic environments
2. Cultural (superstructure): driven by communication and consensus, way of
life in the city which was an adaptive response to organization of the city
resulting at the biotic level; at the cultural level city is held together by
cooperation between actors.
Symbiotic society based on competition and a cultural society based on
communication and consensus.

City was a super-organism containing “natural” areas taking many forms:


- ethnic enclaves
- activity related areas (business, shopping, manufacturing, residential
districts, etc…)
- income groupings (middle class neighborhoods, ghettos, etc…)
- physically separated areas (rivers, airports, railroads, etc…)

Dynamics and processes of human community:


Human community is a product of the interaction of four factors to maintain biotic
and social equilibrium:
1. Population
2. Material culture, i.e. technological developments
3. Nonmaterial culture, i.e. customs and beliefs
4. Natural resources of the habitat

Human societies are characterized by competition and consensus:

Made up of interdependent individuals competing with each other for economic


and territorial dominance and for ecological niches, have competitive cooperation
with its resulting economic interdependence)

At the same time, involved in common collective actions, existence of a society


presupposes a certain amount of solidarity, consensus and common purpose

Competition: mechanism of society to regulate population and to preserve


balance between competing species, gives rise to domination, invasion and
succession, also ecological principles
Domination: result of the struggle among different species
Invasion: introduction of new species would upset old balance where there would
then be a struggle for dominance with a process of succession
Succession: various stages or the orderly sequence of changes through which a
biotic community passes in course of its development, e.g. territorial succession of
immigrant groups
The societal pyramid: a social order conceived as a hierarchy of levels
1. Ecological – the base
2. Economic
3. Political
4. Moral – the apex
While human communities exhibited an ecological or symbiotic order quite similar
to that of nonhuman communities, they also participated in a social or moral order
that had no counterpart on the nonhuman level. Park studied the ecological order
to understand better man's moral order.

Differences between ecology and Human ecology:

Humans are not as immediately dependent on the physical environment - largely


the product of a world-wide division of labor and systems of exchange;

Humans by means of inventions and technical devices have a great capacity to


alter the physical environment; and

Humans have erected upon the basis of the biotic community an institutional
structure rooted in custom and tradition.

Limitations of early urban ecology:

Focus only on economic competition for land

Oversimplification and overgeneralization

Other factors, such as government regulations, sentiments, cultural preferences,


are not taken into account

Louis Wirth (1897-1952) U. of Chicago - micro-sociological


Developed first urban theory in US, previous urban sociology comprised
essentially descriptive studies

Focus on urbanism--urban lifestyle--more than on structure

Definition of city was that it was large, dense with permanent settlement and
socially and culturally heterogeneous people, and so urbanism was a function of
population density, size and heterogeneity:

1) Population size: creates great diversity because large numbers of people


coming together logically increase potential differentiation among themselves, and
with migration of diverse groups to city; creates need for formal control structures,
e.g. legal systems; supports proliferation of further complex division of labour
specialization; organizes human relationships on interest-specific basis, i.e. "social
segmentalization", where secondary relationships are primary, in essence urban
ties are relationships of utility; creates possibility of disorganization and
disintegration

2) Population density: intensifies effects of large population size on social life;


manifests quality of separateness, e.g. economic forces and social processes
produce readily identifiable distinct neighbourhood, "ecological specialization";
fosters a loss of sensitivity to more personal aspects of others, instead tendency to
stereotype and categorize; results in greater tolerance of difference but at same
time physical closeness increases social distance; may increase antisocial
behaviour

3) Population heterogeneity: with social interaction among many personality


types results in breakdown of the rigidity of caste lines and complicates class
structure, thus increased social mobility; with social mobility tend to have physical
mobility; leads to further depersonalization with concentration of diverse people.

Ernest Burgess' Concentric Zone Theory

Cities grow and develop outwardly in concentric circles, i.e. continuous outward
process of invasion/succession

The jobs, industry, entertainment, administrative offices, etc. were located at the
center in the CBD.

Felt that zone development resulted from competitive processes, i.e. competition
for best location in the city and

Zones:
1. Commercial center
2. Zone of transition
3. Working class residences
4. Middle class residences
5. Commuter zone

Homer Hoyt’s Sector Theory (1939)

City develops not in concentric circles, but in sectors

Each sector characterized by different economic activities

The entire city can be thought of as a circle and various neighborhoods as sectors
radiating out from the center of that structure. These factors or principles direct
residential expansion:
1) High grade residential areas tend to originate near retail and office centers.
2) High grade residential growth tends to proceed from the given point of origin,
along established lines of travel or toward existing retail office centers.
4) High rent areas tend to grow towards areas which have open space beyond the
city and away from sections enclosed by natural or artificial boundaries.
5) Higher priced residential areas tend to grow towards the homes of leaders in the
community.
6) The movement of office buildings, banks and stores tends to pull higher priced
residential neighborhoods in the same general direction.
7) High rent neighborhoods continue to grow in the same direction for a long time.
8) Deluxe high rent apartment areas tend to gradually appear in older residential
areas near the business center (gentrification, downtown condos and high rent
lofts).
9) Real estate developers may bend the direction of high grade residential growth,
but they cannot develop an area before its time or in another direction very easily.

Harris and Ullman’s Multiple Nuclei Theory (1945; more advanced stage of
urbanization):

Cities do not have a single center, but have many "minicenters"

Similar activities locate in the same area and create minicities within the larger city

Distribution of housing of certain type and value along communication corridors


Topography: higher land, better (more expensive) housing

Effect of adjacent land on housing quality

Certain areas/activities tend to locate where they are most: effective, desirable and
financially feasible

More contemporary research has since found that:

tolerance in the city is more dependent upon levels of education and wealth and
regional differences in US

anonymity and privacy are important to city dwellers encouraging a live and let
live attitude

many bonds override anonymity, e.g. ethnic bonds, kinship, occupation, lifestyle,
other shared interests, with cities encouraging alternative types of relationships

technological advances stimulate urban connectedness, e.g. telephone, email

proliferation of voluntary associations has provided areas for the establishment of


primary relationships of urbanites

people’s perceived needs for space are a learned behaviour not biological basis

urban pathology has other probable causes, e.g. poverty, unemployment, racial
discrimination

humans have a superior ability to adapt

relationship between stress and mental and physical pathology is dependent not so
much on the nature of the stress but on the individual’s perception of it

there is a difference between public demeanour and private lives of city dwellers.

OTHER CONTEMPORARY THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES - from Conflict


Theory
Political Economy

Stems from work of Marx & Engels

Term "political economy" refers to the interplay of political and economic forces
in a society

Political and economic forces are seen to be principal driving forces underlying
urban activity

See work of Henri Lefebvre, David Gordon, Michael Storper and David Walker,
Manuel Castells, David Harvey, Allen Scott

Central themes of all Political Economy based urban sociological theories:


1. Social conflict between competing interest or status groups is a ubiquitous
social process
2. Capitalism as a dominant system of power dominates the development of
modern urban-industrial communities,
3. Cities or metropolitan communities are now increasingly controlled and
shaped by worldwide system of emerging global economy
4. Attempts to establish causal relationships between broad macroeconomic
trends with a host of urban social problems at the more microsociological
level of the local urban community or neighbourhood

Assumptions (Joe Feagan)


1) Cities are situated in a hierarchical global system, and global linkages among
cities help define the structure of the world system
2) The world system is one of competitive capitalism
3) Capital is easily moved, locations of cities are fixed
4) Politics and government matter
5) People and circumstances differ according to time and place, and these
differences matter

David Harvey (1985, study of Baltimore)

Focus on capital accumulation and circulation

The urban environment is built, destroyed, and rebuilt to allow for a more efficient
circulation of capital

Overproduction and overaccumulation of profitable commodities result in urban


development

Suburban individual home construction

a market response to the overaccumulation of surplus capital

a way to maintain social stability by satisfying the demand for individual homes

Allen Scott
Arrangement and structure of city are determined by the needs of industrial
manufacturing.
Production process rather than circulation of capital was the most important process.
vertical disintegration--parts of the production process are "out-sourced" leaving the
corporation as more of an administrator.
Growth Machine (John Logan & Harvey Molotch)
Real estate investors are primary "players" in the development of urban environment,
but also have bankers, developers, corporate officials
Cities are "growth machines" --growth and development/change are necessary for well
being of city.
Growth machine ideology influences local government to view cities not as places
where people live, work and have social relationships, but solely as a place where it is
necessary to create a good business climate
Increasing value of commercial property comes ahead of community values,
neighbourhood needs or a livable city