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Urban sociological theories

  • The classical theories of urban sociology are divided from the works of European sociologists like KarlMarx, Tonnies, George Simmel, Max Weber and those of American namely Park Burgess, Lowis Wirth and Redfield.
  • The reflections of the earlier sociologists throw light on the anti-urban feelings. The great city, metropolis a paradigm of an inhuman, debasing social environment for Tonnies.Simmel felt that the money economy of the cities destroyed the social life.
  • Weber and Wirth explained how mass urbanization nullified opportunities or political participation. Charles Booth and Rowntree wrote the sociography of life in the cities.
  • Marx and Engels condemned the consequences of urbanization under capitalism. They viewed the concentration and misery of the mass of workers in the new urban agglomerations as a necessary stage in the creation of a revolutionary force. For them pauperization and material degradation was one aspect of urbanization but equally important was the destruction of the social nexus of the traditional community and its replacement by the utilitarian world of the city. Both for theory and practice communism depended on urbanism.
  • Mumford in his book 'The city in history' sees cities as enlarging all dimensions of life as the scattered as the scattered activities of society are brought together so releasing the energies of mankind in a tremendous explosion of creativity. The city has augmented capabilities for participation and widened the basis of personal experience.
  • In the writings of Neo-Marxists like Mills, Marcuse, Fromm there is a consensus that conditions of capitalist urbanization are mutilative of the personality, inhibitive of community formation, destructive of social engagement or involvement and conducive to apathy, alienation and anomie. Class consciousness is inhibited and diverted in mass movements, unreason and not reason typifies social response.
  • Sociologists from Tonnies to Wirth developed counter-theory to Marxism for the explication of social change led to acceptance of a fundamental cleavage between rural and urban, tradition and modernism which was in sharp opposition to any variant on Marxist theories of developement.The urban is accepted as a frame of reference and the urban society as a specific mode of social organization becomes the object of scientific study.
  • Tonnies in his book Community and Society explained the impact of the market economy on traditional forms of social association; the implications of urbanization and the development of the state for the conduct of social life and the mechanisms of social solidarity in an individualized society. The distinction he draws between the two forms of human association, gemeniscaft and gesellschaft has become the basis for a succession of typologies of which the best known are the pattern variables formulated by Parsons and folk-urban typology drawn by Redfield and Wirth.
  • George Simmel presents social interaction in terms of abstract categories. The study of society could only proceed by means of logical analysis of the forms of association. The forms are cognitive categories.Simmel belonged to the neo-Kantian tradition which frankly denies the possibility of the study of the natural or the social world without selection and ordering by the observer.Simmel was trying to expound on three themes; first the consequences of a money economy for social relationships. Second the significance of numbers for social life and lastly the scope for the maintenance of independence and individuality against the sovereign powers of society.
  • Max Weber in his 'The City' has defined the city on the basis of political and administrative conception. To constitute a full urban community a settlement must display a relative predominance of trade- commercial relations with the settlement as a whole displaying the following features:
    • fortification
    • market
    • a court of its own and at least partially autonomous law
    • a related form of association
    • partial autonomy and voting rights.

    Weber rejects cities governed by religious groups or where the authority is enforced on personal rather than universalistic basis. He recounts a process in which the development of the rational-legal institutions that characterize the modern city enabled the individual to be free from the traditional groups and therefore develop his individuality. He emphasizes the closure, autonomy and separateness of the urban community and stressed that the historical peculiarities of the medieval city were due to the location of the city with in the total medieval political and social organization.