In general, in this course we explore ideas about cities and humans who live there through a series of lenses including: city as symbol, city as location of assimilation and integration and the opposite, city as a site of segregation and extremes of power and capital. How do cities work and for whom? By combing theoretical readings with case studies, we will move from historical ethnographies of cities and communities, to current studies of cities in global context.

For this quarter, this course will focus on two main themes, on the one hand how do built spaces affect the people in them and in turn, how do people affect the cities built around them. A core component of this question is to consider the sustainability of cities. By sustainability, I mean what are the opportunities and challenges in a city not only in terms of environmental sustainability, but also socially and economically. As we consider this overarching question of built space on people and vice versa, we will also look at conflict, within the academy and within cities, and think about the effects of individuals as scholars and practitioners on the landscape of cities as well as organized and unorganized groups of people.

Rural - Urban continuum

Some sociologists have used the concept of rural-urban continuum to stress the idea that there are no sharp breaking points to be found in the degree or quantity of rural urban differences. Robert Redfield has given the concept of rural -urban continuum on the basis of his study of Mexican peasants of Tepoztlain.The rapid process of urbanization through the establishment of industries, urban traits and facilities have decreased the differences between villages and cities.

There are some sociologists whose treat rural-urban as dichotomous categories have differentiated the two at various levels including occupational differences, environmental differences, differences in the sizes of communities, differences in the density of population, differences in social mobility and direction of migration, differences in social stratification and in the systems of social interaction.

A third view regarding rural and urban communities has been given by Pocock who believe that both village and city are elements of the same civilization and hence neither rural urban dichotomy, nor continuum is meaningful. M.S.A. Rao points out in the Indian context that although both village and town formed part of the same civilization characterized by institution of kinship and caste system in pre-British India, there were certain specific institutional forms and organizational ways distinguishing social and cultural life in towns form that in village. Thus, according to Rao, Rural Urban continuum makes more sense

Ghurye believes that urbanization is migration of people from village to city and the impact it has on the migrants and their families.

Maclver remarks that though the communities are normally divided into rural and urban the line of demarcation is not always clear between these two types of communities. There is no sharp demarcation to tell where the city ends and country begins. Every village possesses some elements of the city and every city carries some features of the village.

R.K Mukherjee prefers the continuum model by talking of the degree of urbanization as a useful conceptual tool for understanding rural-urban relations.

P.A Sorokin and Zimmerman in 'Principles of Rural-Urban sociology have stated that the factors distinguishing rural from urban communities include occupation, size and density of population as well as mobility, differentiation and stratification.


Urban sociology is the sociological study of social life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a normative discipline of sociology seeking to study the structures, processes, changes and problems of an urban area and by doing so provide inputs for planning and policy making. In other words it is the sociological study of cities and their role in the development of society. [1]

Like most areas of sociology, urban sociologists use statisticial analysis, observation, social theory, interviews, and other methods to study a range of topics, including migration and demographic trends, economics, poverty, race relations, economic trends, etc.

After the industrial revolution, sociologists such as Max Weber, and particularly Georg Simmel in works such as The Metropolis and Mental life (1903), focused on the increasing process of urbanization and the effects it had on feelings of social alienation and anonymity.

The Chicago School is a major influence in the study of urban sociology. Many of their findings have been refined or rejected, but the lasting impact of the Chicago School can still be found in today's teachings.

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.

  • Talcott Parsons universalistic -achievement pattern variable is central to the industrial society.
  • Touraine described the Post Industrial Society as technocratic society.
  • Maclver emphasized that urban life has fostered the individualization of women.
  • Spengler has described cities as sinks of civilization.
  • E.E Muntz has classified cities on the basis of their principal activities.
  • Ullman has defined the city as a relatively large, dense and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals.
  • Redfield has remarked that urban groups have a reputation for namelessness.
  • Christaller is associated with the central place theory.
  • Burgess put forward the concentric zone hypothesis on a diagrammatic study of Chicago.
  • The town encourages associative individualism.
  • Commuter's zone is also called bedroom community.
  • Hyat has emphasized the importance of transportation routes in the expansion of a city.
  • The compositional theory is based on rural-urban differences.
  • The culture of poverty refers to slums.
  • Migrants from rural to urban areas adjust more smoothly to city life it they maintain kinship ties.
  • Oscar Lewis has given the concept of culture of poverty.
  • Wirth has remarked that urbanism is a way of life whereas urbanization is a process.
  • Maclver says that cities grow wherever a society or a group within it gains control over resources greater than are necessary for the mere sustenance of life.
  • Robert Redfield has given four characteristics of little community. These are- distinctiveness, smallness, homogeneity and self-sufficiency.
  • Ravenstein has developed the theory of step-migration.
  • Marx perceived the petty bourgeois to be a transitional class.
  • Weber believed greater bureaucratization would lead to greater alienation.
  • Singer and Marriot hold the social structure of civilization to operate at the levels of peasants and industrialists.



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




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

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.



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

Urban growth and urbanization

Urbanization is the movement of population from rural to urban areas and the resulting increasing proportion of a population that resides in urban rather than rural places. It is derived from the Latin 'Urbs' a term used by the Romans to a city. Urban sociology is the sociology of urban living; of people in groups and social relationship in urban social circumstances and situation. Thompson Warren has defined it as the movement of people from communities concerned chiefly or solely with agriculture to other communities generally larger whose activities are primarily centered in government, trade, manufacture or allied interests. Urbanization is a two-way process because it involves not only movement from village to cities and change from agricultural occupation to business, trade, service and profession but it also involves change in the migrants attitudes, beliefs, values and behavior patterns. The process of urbanization is rapid all over the world. The facilities like education, healthcare system, employment avenues, civic facilities and social welfare are reasons attracting people to urban areas. The census of India defines some criteria for urbanization. These are:

  • Population is more than 5000
  • The density is over 400 persons per
  • 75% of the male population engages in non-agricultural occupations.
  • Cities are urban areas with population more than one lakh.
  • Metropolises are cities with population of more than one million.


Urbanism is a way of life. It reflects an organization of society in terms of a complex division of labour, high levels of technology, high mobility, interdependence of its members in fulfilling economic functions and impersonality in social relations. Louis Wirth has given four characteristics of urbanism

  • Transiency: An urban inhabitant's relation with others last only for a short time; he tends to forget his old acquaintances and develop relations with new people. Since he is not much attached to his neighbors members of the social groups, he does not mind leaving them.
  • Superficiality: An urban person has the limited number of persons with whom he interacts and his relations with them are impersonal and formal. People meet each other in highly segmental roles. They are dependent on more people for the satisfaction of their life needs.
  • Anonymity: Urbanities do not know each other intimately. Personal mutual acquaintance between the inhabitants which ordinarily is found in a neighborhood is lacking.
  • Individualism: People give more importance to their own vested interests.

Features of urban society

  1. The urban society is heterogeneous known for its diversity and complexity.
  2. It is dominated by secondary relations.
  3. Formal means of social control such as law, legislation, police, and court are needed in addition to the informal means for regulating the behavior of the people.
  4. The urban society is mobile and open. It provides more chances for social mobility. The status is achieved than ascribed.
  5. Occupations are more specialized. There is widespread division of labor and specialization opportunities for pursuing occupations are numerous.
  6. Family is said to be unstable. More than the family individual is given importance. Joint families are comparatively less in number.
  7. People are more class -conscious and progressive .They welcome changes. They are exposed to the modern developments in the fields of science and technology.
  8. Urban community is a complex multigroup society.
  9. The urban community replaced consensus by dissensus.The social organization is atomistic and illdefined.It is characterized by disorganization, mental illness and anomie.
  10. Mass education is widespread in the city increasing democratization of the organizations and institutions demand formal education.


The town is intermediate between rural and urban communities. It is too large for all inhabitants to be acquainted with one another, yet small enough for informal relationships to predominate. Social behavior more closely resembles the rural than the metropolitan city pattern. Towns are places with population of 5,000 and more. Three conditions of a place being classified as a town are:

  • The population is more than 5,000.
  • The density is not less than 400
  • Not less than 75% of the adult male population is engaged in non -agricultural activities.


Cities become possible when an agricultural surplus develops together with improved means of transportation and tend to be located at breaks in transportation. The most significant current developments in city structure are the metropolitan area including the suburb which accounts for current population growth. The city pulls people from various corners towards its nucleus. The rural people faced with various economic problems are attracted by the city and start moving towards the cities. The city provides ample opportunities for personal advancement. It is the centre of brisk economic, commercial, artistic, literary, political, educational, technological, scientific and other activities. Cities are not only the controlling centers of their societies but also the source of innovation and change. They act as the source of new ideas for production, the pace -setters for consumption, guardians of culture and conservers of order in society. Consensus and continuity in a society are maintained from the city centres.Urban culture has become the legitimation for control.

Walter Christaller explained the location of urban cities in terms of their functions as service centres.The basic assumption was that a given rural area supports an urban centre which in turn serves the surrounding countryside. There are smaller towns for smaller areas and bigger cities for larger regions. This concept permitted Christaller to build up an integrated system of cities according to their size.

His views conceiving a city as a central place within a rural area was elaborated by Edward L.Ullman with considerable modifications. He admits the vulnerability of the scheme for larger places. In highly industrialized areas the central place schemes is generally distorted by industrial concentration in response to resources and transportation that it may be said to have little significance as an explanation for urban location and distribution.

Hyot in his sector theory talked about the growth of cities taking place in sectors and these sectors extend from the centre to periphery.

The concentric zone theory given by Park and Burgess suggested that modern cities consisted of a series of concentric zones. There are five such zones

  • Central business district
  • Zone in transition
  • Zone of working population
  • Residential zone
  • Commuter's zone

Gans and Lewis through compositional theory hold that the composition of a city's population differs from that of a small town in terms of factors such as class, education, ethnicity and marital status.

Multiple Nuclie theory given by Harris and Ullman discuss that there is not one centre but several centers for the city. Each of the centers tend to specialize in a particular kind of activity-retailing, wholesaling, finance, recreation, education,government.Several centers may have existed from the beginning of the city or many have developed later in a division from one centre.

According to Castells to understand cities and urbanism one has to understand the process by which spatial forms are created and transformed. The architecture of cities expresses the struggles and conflicts between different groups in society. City is not only a distinct location but also as an integral part of processes of collective consumption.


Features of industrial city

  • A large sprawling open city housing a large percent of the population of the society. Relatively low segregation; few outward symbols, segregation based on race. Good transportation and communication.
  • A manufacturing, finance and coordinating centre of an industrial society.
  • A fluid class structure with an elite of businessmen, professionals and scientists.
  • A large middle class with technologically related jobs.
  • Wealth by salaries, fees, investment.High status of business activity. Unionization at a national level. Specialization of production and marketing .Large service sector, fixed price.
  • Time important and regular work schedule.
  • Standardization of process and quality.
  • Formal public opinion with a bureaucracy based on technical criteria.
  • A weak religious institution separate from other institutions dominated by the middle class. Standardization of religious experience marked by the disappearance of magic.
  • Technical and secular education for the masses.

Urban Ecological Processes

It means whereby spatial distribution of people and activities change. They include:

  • Centralization clustering of economic and service functions.
  • Concentration tendency of people and activities to cluster together.
  • Decentralization flight of people and activities from the centre of the city.
  • Invasion entrance of new kind of people or activity into an area.
  • Segregation concentration of a certain type of people or activities within a particular area.
  • Succession completed replacement of one kind of people or activity by another

Impact of Automation on Society

  • It speeds up the developmental processes of the society.
  • It increases production.
  • Brings further technological changes like information technology.
  • Extreme industrialization
  • Replacement of human labor with machines.
  • Increase in profit margins
  • Distance reduction through technological advancements in the field of communication network.
  • Makes life dependent on latest gizmos and equipments.



  • Norms and values take backseat.
  • Turns human beings into alienated beings.
  • Social distance between the people within a society and diminishing impact on the primary relations.
  • Increase in problem of unemployment.
  • Increasing gap between rich and poor will lead to social inequalities.
  • Will affect the relations of people within the society.


When physical, chemical and biological projects of the different components of environment: air, water, soil, noise change to the detriment of living of humans it may be said that environment has been affected. Many developing countries are placing more and more reliance on industrialization. It is not only a mechanical but also a social process. Therefore it affects the environment physically as well as socio-culturally. All aspects of pollution are directly or indirectly related to human health and well being. The excessive growth and rush of people from villages to urban areas resulting in over crowding of cities. Rapid urbanization and industrialization have led to an increase in environmental pollutant load that poses serious public health problem. It also affects the socio-cultural environment with the close ties of groups coming under pressure. Traditional ties are replaced with new work based ones. Religion becomes secular. Thus industrialization affects the social fabric making the society more materialistic.

Important Terms

  • First urban revolution: The historical emergence of cities and urbanism.
  • Urbanism: The pattern of behaviour, relationships and modes of thought characteristic of urban life.
  • Sociological city: A relatively large dense permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous persons.
  • Geographic city: The continuously built-up area in and around the legal city.
  • Legal city: A municipal corporation occupying a defined geographical area subject to a legal control of the state.
  • Second urban revolution: The historical transformation of a city accomplished by the industrial revolution which turned the city into an industrial centre.
  • Metropolis: The legal city together with the built up area surrounding it.




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