Week 9: Urbanization in the United States

Grace Blackburn

SOCY 327

Week 9: Ch. 5, Urbanization in the United States

In many respects, development in the United States mirrors the same trends and effects of social forces unleashed in Western Europe. Yet for all its close links to the Old World, the city-building process in the United States exhibits several features that exaggerate aspects of urbanization found elsewhere. There are four distinct stages of urbanization in the United States. These are (1) the colonial period, 1630 to 1812; (2) the industrial period, 1812 to 1920; (3) the metropolitan period, 1920 to 1960; and (4) the deconcentration and restructuring of settlement space within the multicentered metropolitan region that has taken place since 1960. Each stage of urbanization also has a corresponding stage of capitalism. Those are (1) Mercantile-colonial period, (2) Industrialization period, (3) Monopoly capitalism period, and (4) Global capitalism period, respectfully.

The first manufacturing city in the United States was Lowell, Massachusetts, which was located on the Merrimack River at a site where the water dropped ninety feet and provided the original power source for its factories.

Competitive capitalism was during the period of urban expansion. Economic interests located within the cities competed with each other and land development in the West was making people wealthy. Monopoly capitalism began when “individual entrepreneurs and small businesses were gobbled up by large corporations”. This change began to happen in 1940 as large corporations began to monopolize the industries.

In the metropolitan period, it was becoming necessary to think about the urban phenomenon less in terms of the large city and more in terms of a region consisting of a mix of residential, work, recreational, and shopping places. The US Department of the Census introduced the term Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area to account for the regional nature of development. Horizontal integration focuses on business activity coupled with metropolitan regional expansion. Horizontal integration led to changes in spatial relations between work, region, and community. A system of cities is the interlinked complex of functionally differentiated activates located within urban places.

Some legacies of colonial dependency include the absence of autonomous government and the lack of political responsibility among the citizens of the cities. Secondly, privatism came out of the colonial period.

One thought on “Week 9: Urbanization in the United States

  1. City building in Europe and the U.S. are very different. Many European cities had walls around them, the lower class live in the suburbs in housing projects, etc.

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