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Urbanization is a universal process implying economic development and social change. Urbanization also means a breakdown of traditional social institutions and values. However in India one cannot say that urbanization has resulted in the caste system being transformed into the class system, the joint family transforming into the nuclear family and religion becoming secularized.
MSA Rao observes that the breakdown hypothesis originated from the western experience and it ignores the fact of traditional urbanization in India.Rao classifies urban studies in three categories – those concerned with the institutional approaches –those treating cities and their growth in the general context of history of civilization and those which formulate the cultural role of cities in the context of social organization of the great tradition. The first category of studies highlights on economic institutions such as emergence of middle class and a commercial organization and religion.
For Pirenne the city consisted of middle classes and groups engaged in trade and commerce. For Coulanges an ancient city was a religious community. Max Weber's emphasis was on social action and autonomous city government. The institutionalists look for specific causes and conditions for the growth of cities in different contexts. Robert Redfield has provided a typology of the city in terms of orthogenetic and heterogenetic processes of change in the organization of tradition and culture.
Milton Singer observes that the great tradition is basically an urban phenomenon and transformation of the little tradition into the great tradition refers to the process of urbanization. However great tradition has also been undergoing a significant change hence individualism, freedom and fluidity in traditional norms and values. Gideon Sjoberg distinguishes cities into pre-industrial and industrial. The preindustrial city was a feudal one. There are two limitations to this approach- feudalism was not the only basis of city formation and today the modern city is found in existence due to other factors too in addition to industrialization.
A number of criteria have been used to understand urban social structure and stratification. The most important ones are the extent of closure or openness and the nature of deprivations and gratifications. These apply to specific groups and collectivities as some of them have opportunities for betterment of their social standing whereas others remain deprived of the same. The individual is the basis in regard to motivational structure, utilization of available opportunities and use of means of communication for realizing one's aspirations. Urban social structure can be characterized in terms of having openness, attributional criteria, mobility and individual ranking.
Victor D'Souza has analyzed kinship, caste, class, religion and displaced or non-placed conditions in his study of the City of Chandigarh. Internal differentiation among different groupings has been analyzed on the basis of education, occupational prestige and income. The assumption is that if the groupings of a particular type are alike in respect of education, occupation and income then the principle on which they are formed is not an important basis of social organization. The educational, occupational and income hierarchies are significantly correlated with each other. However the correlation of each of them with the operational caste hierarchy is not significant. Social class position is positively correlated with education and family income.
Cities consist of a variety of professional classes. They perform specialized functions such as teaching; medical, legal etc. study of the social origins of professionals may offer significant insights into the process of social stratification and mobility. Compared to other Asian countries the professional classes in India constitute a very small proportion of all workers. The upper, upper middle and middle classes dominate most of the opportunities and positions in the professions. The upper and upper middle caste and class background of most of the top-level political elite conforms to this general pattern. However in recent years the rural rich are replacing the urban rich in the field of politics to a large extent. Some change is also visible in the recruitment to various civil services and medical and engineering professions. The social structure of town and cities comprises of top-level businessmen, industrialists and bureaucrats, higher income professionals, scientists, technicians, professional managers in industry and large merchants. Clerks and minor officials in government offices and private firms, school teachers, petty shopkeepers and entrepreneurs and members of working class such as operators, artisans, household industry workers, service workers, hawkers, peddlers, construction workers and unskilled workers.
Urbanization is a worldwide phenomenon; India has also witnessed an increased growth of urbanization and industrialization in the post independence period. Urban growth in India is particularly due to large-scale migration from villages to towns and cities as the latter offers better facilities for education and training and more and better avenues for employment. Towns and cities are an important factor in development of the region in which they are located. The development of towns and cities depends upon the support villages in the vicinity extend to them in terms of migration, supply of farm produce to the cities and purchase of consumer goods from them.
D'Souza, Victor, Urban Studies a trend report in A survey of Research in Sociology and Social Anthropology,Vol I, Bombay (1974)
Rao,MSA (ed) Urban Sociology in India,New Delhi: Orient Longman (1974)
Singer, Milton, When a Great Tradition modernizes, New York (1972)
Sjoberg, G, The Pre-industrial City: Past and Present, New York, (1960)