Week 4: The New Urban Sociology

Grace Blackburn

SOCY327: Urban Sociology

Week 4: Chapter 1, The New Urban Sociology

The rapid growth and overwhelming sprawl of cities that developing nations are experiencing can be defined as hyperurbanization and this is happening all over the world. Urban areas are increasing. By the year 2030, more than 60% of the world’s population is expected to be living in urban areas. Most of this increase is expected to occur in the developing world, areas where most persons currently live in shantytowns, and with areas where most incomes are below the poverty level.

The sociospatial perspective is important to understand when studying urban sociology. “The discovery of how certain settlement spaces have come to be, the role that the economic, political, and social institutions play in creating and changing these spaces, and the process by which these spaces are given meaning by local inhabitants are all a part of the sociospatial perspective of the new urban sociology (Pg.2).” This perspective is necessary in order to best understand the social phenomenon that is urban sociology. Another term in which is important to note is settlement space, which refers to the built environment in which people live.

There are three dimensions to the new urban sociology. The shift to global perspective, which focuses on viewing the increase in urban areas from a perspective of the whole world, attention to the political economy of pull factors, which includes government policies, and an appreciation for the role of culture in metropolitan life and in the construction of the built environment. The role of cultural in metropolitan life includes economic, political, and cultural forces that influence life in the metropolis. Going back to the global perspective, this perspective has important implications for the study of metropolitan regions. “Prior to the 1970s, urban sociologists saw changes in the city as emerging from the interactions of many local interests in a shared and common space (pg.14).” But, the ecological approach, as it is called, meant that the city’s organization is not caused by “the planned or artificial contrivance of anyone” but emerged out of the numerous independent personal decisions that were based off of moral, political, ecological, and/or economic considerations. This causes us to understand urban organization as being caused by the actions of interests, many of which have their home base far removed from the local community. It is important to note though, that not all influences on metropolitan development derive from the global level.

Multicentered metropolitan region is a form of settlement space, and it explains the first really new way in which people organize their living and working arrangements since the industrial age. This new form of urban space can be typified by two defining features: it extends over a large region, and it contains many separate manufacturing areas, retail centers, and residential areas, each area with its own ability to draw shoppers, workers, or residents. These different urban regions can be described as realms. There are four different factors that differentiate realms: physical terrain, physical size, the level and kinds of physical activity within the realm, and the character of the regional transportation network. The transportation network is very important when describing realms because commuting flows are critical both for the creation of metropolitan regions and for the connection and interaction of people within the region.

The government plays major roles in urban development and this derives from the government involvement in our economy. The United States has an economy that is directly influenced by government regulations as well as government spending of tax dollars on public projects. Because of government tax incentives and other government programs, people are motivated to purchase homes rather than rent, which encourage movement to the suburbs.

Cities and suburbs are the site of many subcultures, including class, race, gender, ethnicity, and age. All of these factors affect life opportunities although it is impossible to pinpoint the exact causal relationships of each factor and life opportunities. Neighborhoods within a metropolis can be identified by signs of subcultural status. For example, certain areas of a city may have a more dense population of a certain ethnicity, which can be identified by types of restaurants, specialty shops, or religious institutions. This area may also have better or less than average public schools, which may affect the life opportunities of an individual. Symbolic identities can be created for a place that gives us the impression that it is different or special. The study of culture that links symbols or objects is called semtotics.


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