SOCY 327 Blog #2: 1/21-1/27

Simmel

In The Metropolis and Mental Life, Georg Simmel was observing rural and urban environments and the differences between these in nineteenth century London. He begins to do this by investigating how products obtain a level of modernity and analyzes how the rural versus urban lifestyle affects an individual in terms of how they live externally in these environments and how these environments can affect them internally. Simmel believed that these lifestyles produce different ways of thinking among those living in these environments. He discusses how the “metropolitan” type reacts in a rational manner rather than emotional, practically removing themselves from a personality. This suggests that those in urban environments become accustomed to situations that others may find troubling or disturbing. Simmel believed that people in urban environments were different than those in rural environments. He believe this because those in urban environments tackle problems with no complex solutions in mind while those in rural environments have become accustomed to more complex thinking and emotional reactions to problems, making them less blasé than those living in urban environments. I found it interesting that throughout the reading, Simmel discusses how individuals in urban environments are more accustomed to the way they live than those living in rural environments, making them more mentally inclined to live in their environment. Although I do agree that the mindsets of individuals in these environments can be different, I don’t agree that one or the other is superior in their living or thinking.

Theorists

Karl Marx (1818-1883): Karl Marx is known for being the Father of Conflict Theory. He believed that the economic structure of European societies was the foundation of other aspects of life and was one of the first classical sociologists to study this. He believed that social change was a result of conflict between capitalists and the proletariat. He also believed that social evolution of humans was not complete because of the rule of capitalists in society and said that an anti-capitalist revolution would usher a shift toward socialism.

Friedrich Engels (1820-1895): Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher who worked alongside Karl Marx. He wrote The Condition of Working Class in England, discussing the terrible conditions that working class people were forced to deal with. He shared many of the same beliefs of Marx such as the transition of society from barbarism to civilization, which separated differences between rural and urban environments.

Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936): Ferdinand Tonnies was a German sociologist known for two terms to describe contrasting types of human life, gemeinschaft and gesellschaft. Gemeinschaft describes a community, where there was unity and people working together for a common good. Gesellschaft describes a society, where there is primarily individualism and selfishness among individuals.

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917): Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist who, like Tonnies, was known for two contrasting types of human life, mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity. Mechanical solidarity describes social bonds based on likeness, common belief, and symbol where people are “united without thought”. Organic solidarity describes social order based on individual differences where people have different occupations and people typically depend on others to meet their many needs.

Georg Simmel (1858-1918): Georg Simmel was a German sociologist who studied the rise of the city and how it can affect social forces in a society. Simmel focused on the division of labor and the role it plays in urban environments. Throughout his readings, he pushes the importance of money in urban societies.

Max Weber (1864-1920): Max Weber was a German sociologist who wrote “Die Stadt”, where he surveyed cities in Europe, the Middle East, India, and China, creating a definition of the “full urban community”. Weber coined the term the “ideal type”, a model created from real-world observations highlighting important elements of social phenomenon.

Robert Park (1864-1944): Robert Park was an American sociologist from the University of Chicago who established the first urban studies center in the United States. Park was fascinated with the city and served as the first President of the Chicago Urban League. Park perceived cities as characterized by formal social structures such as police stations and courts.

Louis Wirth (1857-1952): Louis Wirth was an American sociologist from Chicago who wrote the essay “Urbanism as a Way of Life” where he identifies urbanism as a mode of life that is associated with the growth of cities. He believed that people being forced to interact with one another in dense settings created a new type of behavior that encouraged an urban way of life.

Herbert Gans (1927-): Herbert Gans is an American sociology professor that contends that the city is a “mosaic” of different lifestyles. Gans disagreed with Wirth’s findings, arguing that the variables Wirth used cannot account for the lifestyles he discusses and believes that Wirth’s analysis does not explain how individuals living in the city see their own lives. Gans identifies four types of diverse urban lifestyles: 1) the cosmopolites, 2) the unmarried or childless, 3) the ethnic village, and 4) the deprived or trapped.

The Chicago School: Robert Park and Louis Wirth conducted their research at The Chicago School, very important in sociological research. The Chicago School was the first school to fund a sociology department, which Robert Park joined and used to open the first urban studies center. Much of the research conducted at the Chicago School was observational, with Louis Wirth providing descriptive studies. As it gained credibility many people began to use this research as foundations for future sociological studies.

The Los Angeles School: The Los Angeles School was developed on ideas opposite of the Chicago School, focusing more on a post-modern study of urban environments around Southern California. As the Los Angeles School was developing, there was a significant amount of people in Southern California and studies conducted here were important with such a high population. The Los Angeles School believed that smaller areas were better to analyze compared to larger scale areas. Edward Soja was an important contributor to this school.

Spotlight

“One thing that I discovered in the course of my studies was that there was no adequate and no precise language in which to describe the things I wanted to study… As a reporter I had learned a good deal about the city and I had used my position as city and Sunday editor to make systematic studies on the urban community”

 

Robert Park was an American sociologist born in Harveyville, Pennsylvania in 1864. After graduating from college, Park had a passion for studying issues related to race in cities, leading him to be a journalist in the early 1890’s. Park studied psychology under a philosopher known very well in the field, William James. After he earned a Master’s at Harvard, he went on to studied sociology with Georg Simmel, a very well-known sociologist, in Berlin and received a Ph.D. in philosophy. Park studied race relations in cities with Booker T. Washington while a professor at the University of Chicago. Park was interested in the system that defined race relations between African American and White people in the South. He eventually developed a “race relation cycle” with four stages: 1) contact, 2) conflict, 3) accommodation, and 4) assimilation. Park called this a cycle that tends to repeat itself and discussed how it can be seen in other social situations.

Social Problems

The first social problem that I believe would have been of interest to Robert Park would be public education. I believe this because when studying race relations in the South, the South being mostly of rural areas, schooling is an essential resource for individuals in the South. I think that Park would have liked to analyze the differences in schooling between races in the South in terms of funding and relations among people as well. With his knowledge of behavior in the urban environment, I think that he would’ve been able to use that to also study behavior in rural environments to better understand how interactions may work in an area different than what he was used to researching. The next social problem that I believe would have been of interest to Robert Park would be housing. With the issue of affordable housing not being as available to African American people as others, I believe that Park would have wanted to analyze this difference deeper and better understand why this could be the case.

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