David Harvey “The Urban Process Under Capitalism”

David Harvey’s objective was to understand urbanization through the lens of capitalism. Two main themes being accumulation and class struggle, which he states are “two sides of the same coin”. The capitalists goal is to accumulate more capital. Harvey explains laws of accumulation whereby one form of capital is reinvested into another form of capital, and thus allowing capitalists to accumulate more capital. Increasing capital first depends on creating a surplus during production process. Increasing surplus can be done in one of two ways;  either increasing the hours of the workday to get more done, or by reorganizing the process (typically in the form of machinery) which makes workers more productive. When the capitalists creates too much surplus, contradictions arise. Too much surplus, or overaccumulation, make profits fall. This is contradictory to the goal of capitalists to gain more capital.

Harvey describes three phases in of the circulatory process of capital. The first, primary circuit of capital, relates to the production process. This capital is created by increasing output and using machine and workers to make product. Excessive competition forces capitalists to make as much as they can which leads to the exploitation of workers. However, when too much is produced, capitalists need to do something with excess capital so as not make profits fall when supply and demand become unequalized. So they simply reinvest into the secondary circuit of capital, or the built environment. The secondary circuit of capital relates to consumption, where overaccumulated capital not used up in the production process, is invested into fixed assets, such as houses, durables, and machinery, hence the term the built environment.

There are barriers in moving capital into fixed assets, primarily because not all capital is in the form of money. Capitalists first need to transform overaccumulated capital into money capital. This is where fictional capital comes in the form of the credit systems implemented by banks. These crediting institutions serve as mediators between the primary and secondary circuits, providing the structure for capitalists to reinvest and gain more capital.

A third tertiary circuit of capital-includes investment in science and technology, where the primary goal is to improve production process, as well as investment in various social expenditures, that relate to reproduction of labor power, as well as cooptation and repression, to prevent the laborers form organizing and acquiring class consciousness. The capitalist is never truly interested in the wellbeing of the worker, rather they are only interested in the well being of workers as far as it relates to their production and bottom line.


Ernest W. Burgess “The Growth of the City: An Introduction to a Research Project”

In addition to his concentric zone theory, Ernest W. Burgess provided sociology with a rationalization of the city expansion process, how to measure it and its effect on social systems.  His two major questions, what is a normal rate of expansion in a city at which pace social organization remains in tact; and what movement is occurring and how can we measure it.

Burgess’ explanation of the expansion process is best described using his concentric zone model through which a city expands outwardly beginning in the central business district. He names each zone I-V and describes each as follows:

Zone I-central business district-occupied by shopping and commerce and homeless.

Zone II-area in transition-occupied by businesses and manufacturerszone 2

Zone III-working class zone-where the zone II workers reside

Zone IV-residential zone-middle/upper middle class residences

Zone V-commuters zone/suburbs

The expansion into another zone is what Burgess termed succession, or the “tendency of each inner zone to extend its area by the invasion of the next outer zone”. Burgess describes this succession as a continual expansion process, whereby groups in each zone continue to expand concentrically outward until they reach the suburbs. Groups tend to move outwardly with culturally, professionally and economically similar individuals, creating a homogenous area.

Burgess makes a distinction between movement and mobility. Movement does not always indicate mobility; mobility is defined here as a “change of movement in response to a new stimuli”. New stimuli cause individuals to respond. The individual can respond in one of two ways, integral or segmental; the former being a wholesome reaction and the latter is pathological response. These pathological responses give rise to social disorganization and deterioration.

Upon further description of these zones, Burgess finds that zone II, inhabited primarily by immigrants, is an area of deterioration where slums and poverty and “underworlds of crime and vice” have taken hold. It is in this zone that effects of mobility can be clearly seen. The primary reason for this is a rapid influx of immigrants in zone II, causing current residents to expand into zone III, and zone III residents to move outward to zone IV, and so on. Rapid expansion can create disequilibrium in individuals as well as within the social system. As echoed by his partner, Robert Ezra Park, rapid “invasion”, can create disequilibrium in the social system leading to social disorganization. Individuals also experience conflict when reorganized into a new class, culture, or recreational group. Burgess says maybe because we can’t adjust to having two sets of conduct expectations, the old and the new.


Robert Ezra Park “Human Ecology”

Robert Ezra Park’s major sociological contribution was human ecology, which related Darwins’ “web of life” in natural ecology to the human social system. Park found many transferable properties from plant and animal relationships to the relationship among individuals in a community. Park points out three essential characteristics of a community: a population that is organized by territories, rooted in the soil it occupies, and individual units foster a symbiotic interdependence.  Competition of the community regulates number and preserves the balance between competitors.

Numbers must be regulated as a community is placed under a great deal of stress when the numbers of community members exceeds the amount of resources available. This disequilibrium is usually a product of a change such as famine, disease, or war, and can even destroy a community. Park demonstrates such disequilibrium, and the extent to which competition restores the communal equilibrium, in presenting the 1892 infestation of boll weevils across the Mexican border in Texas, which devastated cotton fields across the US. This beetle infestation presented enough disequilibrium between resources and people that, as Park states, it gave rise to “changes in the organization of the industry long overdue” and, through competition for farmers to survive, expedited the migration of African American farmers to northern cities.

Competition also controls the balance within the community through two ecological principles: dominance and succession. The principle of dominance tends to construct communities spatially, through its relative location to industries and commercial institutions. Park states that the dominant areas in any community are usually the locations with highest land values, which are typically in the central shopping and banking districts. From these points, the land values decline, and through competition, these values begin to influence locations of neighborhoods, businesses and social institutions. This dominance of land use causes the community to move through stages of succession where stable equilibrium can be realized. This societal developmental process is cyclical and organized on two levels; biotic and cultural.

The biotic, or symbiotic, level is established through competition, while cultural is established through communication and consensus. Park argues that the economic and territorial competition among individuals creates an economic interdependence among them, thus creating a symbiotic relationship. This competition is unrestricted and an important part of uniting individuals because of the interdependence created. The cultural level is achieved through mores, customs and traditions that create a sense of common purpose among individuals. This level is more restrictive and individuals are not as free to compete.

Park acknowledges that society develops through more than just the ecological level. He recognizes an economic, political and moral order, arranged in a hierarchical pyramid structure where the ecological order serves as the foundation and the moral order at the top. He argues that the ties which hold a society together are “physical and vital rather than customary and moral”. I believe Park is arguing that our economic dependence on each other is more important than our personal relationships.