Space and society
- The relationship between spatial form and social structures is the main
underlying question of urban sociology. It is reciprocal:
- Influence of space on social relations is assumed in urban planning. Main
characteristics: materiality (form, density, size) and centrality.
- Influence of society on spatial forms: social structures and agency produce
accommodating spatial forms (e.g. industrial city).
- Much urban-sociological research does not really consider space: space may be
incidental to research on both “the city in society” and the “society in the city.”
Cities and their surrounding areas
- Cities are relatively large, densely populated, permanent settlements in which
most residents do not produce their own food.
- Cities depend on the surrounding areas, initially for food, then for market demand
for manufactured goods, and finally for labour.
- Conflicts of interest between cities and surrounding areas (now including
suburbs: 416 vs. 905).
- Migration of the middle and upper class out of central cities in North America
after WWII means loss of city tax base; city services are funded by municipal
taxes, but are used by residents of a much wider area, including the recently-
moved middle and upper class.
- Economic factors and political decisions influence urbanization: growth in
the proportion of the population living in cities.
Explaining the rural and the urban – Toennies
- Gemeinschaft = opportunity
1. Familiarity with all members
2. Homogeneity of members; high conformity
3. Informal social control
1. Presence of strangers
2. Heterogeneity of members; diversity of norms
3. Formal social control
1 Explaining the urban – Simmel
1. Achievement of individualism (personal freedom and development of
individuality) in a Gesellschaft.
- Cf. Guay and Hamel: individualization of social relationships in post-modern city.
3. “Blasé attitude”
- Causes: heterogeneity and rapid change, and money economy.
- This is “urbanism as a way of life” (Wirth. 1938) or “urban culture.”
- Blalock. 1967: “middleman minorities” in pre-industrial trading centres.
The industrial city
- Pre-industrial cities were either political/administrative or trading centres.
- Industrial cities grew because of :
1. Advances in transportation (steam power, which enabled growth of trading
market) and agricultural technology (land drainage, fertilizers, which produced
surplus agricultural population);
2. Improved means of accumulating capital (the joint stock company); and
3. Industrialization (requirement that workers be concentrated in a central
- Consequences: economies of scale and facilitation of capitalist market economy.
- Problems: sanitation, transportation, housing.
The Chicago School: a model of an immigrant city
- Park and his colleagues studied “social pathologies” – crime, mental illness,
juvenile delinquency, family breakdown, etc. anonymous urban life destroys the