The term generally denotes the diffusion of urban culture and the evolution of urban society. Mamoria is of the opinion that urbanism is a cultural- social-economic phenomenon which traces interaction between the social and technological processes. Louis Wirth has mentioned four characteristics of urban system or urbanism — heterogeneity of population, specialisation of function, anonymity and Impersonality and standardisation of behaviour. Urbanism is a special concept which Inherits within itself all the characters connected with Urbanization and the urban way of life. The concept was given its final shape by Louis Wirth. Urbanism is a category of relevant element terms.

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Urbanism as a Way of Life Have you ever been to or lived in a big city? Did you feel different when you were there, maybe compared to being in a more rural location? Have you ever thought about what, exactly, makes a city a city? Wirth published this piece in the American Journal of Sociology in , as major transformations were occurring.

More and more people were moving into cities and the world was rapidly urbanizing, and Wirth argued that urbanism, or the condition of living in a city, was become the way of modern life.

In other words, living in a city does something to our personalities and our very way of life. So, what exactly makes a city a city, according to Wirth? What Is a City? The most common way to define a city was by population size, or the total number of people. But Wirth was unsatisfied with this definition alone, arguing that there are more factors we must take into consideration.

In addition to size, Wirth argued that another defining feature of the city is density. This refers to the number of people settled in a particular area. This is important because a large cluster of people will impact how individuals interact with one another and with the city itself. Finally, Wirth believed that social heterogeneity was the third defining quality of a city. Heterogeneity in this context refers to the different racial and ethnic groups that make up a place.

Cities have always been melting pots and destinations for immigrants. In other words, Wirth believed there are certain things you are likely to experience when you live in a city. Effects of the City First, Wirth saw cities as promoting individualism. In other words, people in a city pursue their own interests over the interests of a collective.

Second, he saw anonymity as a defining feature of cities. Urban residents do not know each other well. For the people that urban residents do know, these relationships are characterized by what Wirth called superficiality. This means that relationships are impersonal. In a way, this is what Wirth is getting at. Urban life is chaotic and we interact with many people, but, Wirth believed, only on a superficial level. Instead of developing or maintaining close relationships with people, we interact with so many people on a day-to-day basis in the city that our relationships become transitory, or superficial, and we might feel isolated.

In other words, Wirth pointed out that when we live in urban places, we might know more people due to the size of the city, but we know these people in a less personal way. This is a little bit like quantity of relationships over quality. Finally, Wirth noted that urban residents are transient. This means they tend to move around, not feeling much connection with their neighbors, thus making it easy to move on.

Say you live in New York City, the most populous city in the U. You race to the train and take the last seat, possibly cutting someone else off but pursuing your own interests.

Next, you get off the train and grab a coffee and bagel. You return home in the evening, and greet the doorman to your building. You ask him a few questions while you wait for the elevator. You have a friendly but superficial relationship. Later on, you learn your next door neighbor is moving. People move in and out all the time. Pros and Cons of City Life So, what does this all mean?

For Wirth, a city is more than just a place, but urbanism is a kind of social organization. Urbanism changes people and their relationships with each other. Wirth worried that urbanization was negatively impacting family and culture. He was concerned that the anonymity and chaos of urban life would lead to weakening of kinship and family ties, threatening the American family.

However, Wirth also noted some positive things about urbanization. He believed the city allowed for more personal freedoms. People in cities were able to express creativity that rural dwellers could not. Wirth also noted that people living in urban areas had more mobility than those in rural places.

Lesson Summary Louis Wirth is a noted urban scholar who created a typology of urbanism, or the condition of living in a city, that defines cities according to three factors: population size, or the total number of people; density, or how many people live in a particular part of a city; and social heterogeneity, the different racial and ethnic groups that make up a place. Wirth believed that urbanism was a particular way of life, and it impacted social relationships and personalities.

Wirth believed that cities produced feelings of anonymity, individualism, transiency, and superficiality. Because of the size of cities, relationships were impersonal, and people did not know each other well. Wirth worried about the decline of the family. However, Wirth also noted that individuals living in cities had a degree of creative freedom and mobility that their rural counterparts did not. Related posts:.


Louis Wirth’s Urbanism as a Way of Life

Urbanism as a way of life By Louis Wirth The City and Contemporary Civilisation Just as the beginning of Western civilization is marked by the permanent settlement of formerly nomadic peoples in the Mediterranean basin, so the beginning of what is distinctively modern in our civilization is best signalized by the growth of great cities Because the city is the product of growth rather than of instantaneous creation, it is to be expected that the influences which it exerts upon the modes of life should not be able to wipe out completely the previously dominant modes of human association. To a greater or lesser degree, therefore, our social life bares the imprint of an earlier folk society, the characteristic modes of settlement of which were the farm, the manor, and the village. This historic influence is reinforced by the circumstances that the population of the city itself is in large measure recruited from the countryside, where a mode of life reminiscent of this earlier form of existence persists. Hence we should not expect to find abrupt and discontinuous variation between urban and rural types of personality. The city and the country may be regarded as two poles in reference to one or the other of which all human settlements tend to arrange themselves. In viewing urban-industrial and rural-folk society as ideal types of communities, we may obtain a perspective for the analysis of the basic models of human association as they appear in contemporary civilization.


Louis Wirth


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