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Life in the City - Essay Example

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Life in the City

This perspective, which removes urban places from the context of their societies, may be appropriate to what these disciplines wish to learn of and from the city.
Engels underlines that urban settings has a negative impact on an individual and his morals. He writes that: "the brutal indifference, the unfeeling isolation of each in his private interest, becomes the more repellant and offensive, the more these individuals are crowded together". Such an approach is less useful in anthropology, however. For cross-cultural comparisons and analyses of urban development, the city must be treated as only one of many social institutions such as kinship, religion, and subsistence activity that anthropologists always have conceptualized as parts of a socio-cultural whole. A spirit of independence and autonomy, a desire for innovation, a predilection for social status based on achievement rather than birth, and a sense of community beyond the family or kin group are characteristics often associated with the city. In this view, urban places become centers of social change, economic development, and personal freedom in contrast to conservative, ascriptive, and traditional rural settlements. Cities are thus perceived as sources of novel economic and productive arrangements and new political orders that challenge the fabric of society. The ideological approach thus studies the "rules" that compose the cultural roles of cities and their societies. It investigates the derivation of these rules outside the city or their diffusion from the urban sphere into the cultural setting (Engels).
Whyte pays a special attention to increased poverty in urban settings and slums as a dominant feature of the eastern city. Whyte writes: "People appear as social work clients, as defendants in criminal cases or as undifferentiated members of the masses". It is possible to say that the ideological and interactional roles and links between cities and societies are not unchanging. Therefore the concept of "adaptation" must be added to introduce a dynamic aspect. Cities are and always have been in a continual process of adjustment to their external socio-cultural environments. "Environment" in this context does not directly involve physical circumstances affecting the city, such as water supply, soil type, and rainfall average.
Following Durkheim and Tonnies, with a specifically urban population and a distinctly urban pattern of social organization, the administrative city is further from the rural countryside in ideology and life-style than the regal-ritual type is. The patterns of belief and social life, the cultural "rules" of the state society, may remain basically the same in village and city. The urban area, on the other hand, concentrates a sophistication--an elaborateness of custom and ideology--that mark it off sharply from the rural zone. Rather than a hiatus in belief, rather than an antagonism based on wholly different urban and rural patterns, the administrative city is simply so much more than its rural environs that rural areas appear culturally denuded, socially deficient, and ideologically backward by comparison. The city may still reflect the countryside, but it does so with such intensity that it appears to have its own independent luminosity. Durkheim underlines that: "solidarity in industrial society is based not on uniformity bit on difference". The industrial city becomes a node of the power and ...Show more

Summary

Urban environment and settings have a great impact on an individual shaping his values and social traditions, communication and interactions with the outside world. To see the urban locale and its cultural roles within the larger society is the major goal of the anthropology of urbanism…
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Life in the City essay example
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