Week 3: The Rise of Urban Sociology

Grace Blackburn

SOCY327: Urban Sociology

Week 3: Chapter 3; The Rise of Urban Sociology

Ferdinand Tonnies, sociologist and author behind Gemeinschaft and Gesllschaft answered questions in his work that pertained to new social order, created by widespread changes in economic and social structure. This new social order was brought on by the political revolutions of the 1800s and sparked a change in the urban lifestyle. Gemeinschaft and Gesllschaft is translated to “Community and Society”, although “Community and Association” more accurately reflects the original meaning which Tonnies intended. “The very existence of Gemeinschaft rests in the consciousness of belonging together and the affirmation of the condition of mutual dependence which is posed by that affirmation.” Gemeinschaft is described as living and working together, sharing feelings of pleasure and pain, striving for common or shared ideals, and the overall unitedness of these ideas. Gesllschaft is essentially a commercial town, which encompasses productive labor. Capital is the means for the appropriation of products and labor or for the exploitation of workers.

Emile Durkheim also studied and wrote about the changes which industrialization brought to community and society, but in different terms. Durkheim used the labels mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity to describe these changes. Similar to Tonnies’s studies, Durkheim found that in the preindustrial village, the mechanical bonds of kinship and social interdependence held individuals together, but in the industrial city, individuals were no longer bound by kinship. Instead, they worked at new jobs and had more opportunities for interactions with a wider range of people, which in turn offered more opportunities to individuals. Durkheim called these organic bonds because they flowed naturally from increased social differentiation, which was brought by the division of labor.

There are two organizing topics when studying the city, urbanization and urbanism. Urbanization refers to the origins of cities and the process of city building. It studies how and why social activities locate themselves. The study of urbanization is interested in the rise and fall of cities and urban civilizations. In contrast, urbanism, studies the ways of life found within the urban community. Urbanism deals directly with culture, which includes symbols, patterns, and individual lived experiences.

Roderick McKenize was principal investigator on urban trends for President Herbert Hoover’s Committee on Recent Social Trends. He viewed the development of metropolitan regions as a function in response to the changes in transportation and communication, which produced new forms of social organization. McKenize considered progression in technology to be a key variable in producing spatial patterns in urban societies. Because his work was left unfinished, it is often overlooked.

burgess_conc_zone_modelErnest Burgess developed the Concentric Zone Model. Influenced by Roderick McKenize and Robert Park, Burgess developed a theory of city growth and
differentiation. The Concentric Zone Model explains the pattern of homes, neighborhoods, and industrial and commercial locations in terms of the ecological theory of competition over location. The competition for space produced a certain ordering of space and the social organization of space. The Concentric Zone Model pictured all of these factors and the association of “space”. In short, those who could afford it lived near the center (the best “space”), and those who could not arranged themselves in concentric zones moving outwards from the city center.

In Chicago during this period, street gangs looked very different than how the media portrays them today. Often gangs are portrayed as having black or Latino members, but street gangs during this period contained mostly white members. These gangs were mostly assembled of recent immigrants. Frederick Thrasher conducted a study in 1927 on street gangs and found that roughly 17% were polish, 11% were Italian, 8.5% were Irish, and 7% were black. While a large percentage of gang members were foreign, gangs were organized by territory, not by ethnicity. “According to Thrasher, the gang phenomenon was explained in part by the lack of adjustment opportunities for immigrants, in part by the carryover of Old World antagonisms, and also by the need to defend territory against outsiders.” In short, Thrasher’s study on gangs demonstrates the sociospatial thinking previously mentioned.

Influenced by the thinking of Georg Simmel, these sociologists brought his ideas of viewing the city in cultural terms to the University of Chicago. The work of the early Chicago School followed Simmel closely and focused on the patterns of individuals and their activities throughout the city. The Sociology department at the Chicago School focused on social phenomena throughout the city and analyzed it in terms of relation between the individual and the larger social forces. Chicago School researchers connected social phenomena with spatial patterns, meaning they took a sociospatial approach. This sociosptial approach has been imperative in the later studies of urban sociology.

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