Louis Wirth (August 28, – May 3, ) was an American sociologist and member of the His interests included city life, minority group behaviour and mass media and he is recognised as one of the leading urban sociologists. Wirth writes that urbanism is a form of social organisation that is harmful to culture , and. Louis Wirth posits similar reasons for the differences in the urban and rural milieu as does Georg Simmel. Wirth argues that the shift between. Louis Wirth has mentioned four characteristics of urban system or urbanism Following Louis Wirth, Urbanism is a way of life, is characterised by extensive.

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Just as the beginning of Western civilization is marked wigth 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 The city has thus historically been the melting-pot of races4, peoples, witth cultures, and a most favorable breeding-ground of new biological and cultural hybrids.

We are exposed to glaring contrasts between splendor and squalor, between riches and poverty, intelligence and ignorance, order and chaos.

Urbanism as a characteristic mode of life may be approached empirically from three interrelated perspectives: Thus the larger, the more densely populated, and the more heterogeneous a community, the more accentuated the characteristics associated with urbanism will be. For sociological purposes a city may be defined as a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals.

It is particularly important to call attention to the danger of confusing urbanism with industrialism and modern capitalism.

Urbanism as a Way of Life: Concept and Characteristics

The contacts of the city may indeed be face to face, but they are nevertheless impersonal, superficial, transitory, and segmental. Urbanism as a form of Social Organisation. Such associations have been identified as od means by which individuals and groups negotiated with each other and experimented with and developed new values and sets of social relationships.


Chicago University Presspp According to some, urbanism Indicate a wide acquaintance with things and people. No single group has the undivided allegiance of the individual.

The superficiality, the anonymity7, and the transitory character of urban social relations make intelligible, also, the sophistication and the rationality generally ascribed to city-dwellers.

The competition for space is great, so that each area generally tends to be put to the use which yields the greatest economic return.

In a community composed of a larger number of individuals than can know one another intimately and can be assembled in one spot, it becomes necessary to communicate through indirect media and to articulate individual interests by a process of delegation. This constitutes essentially the state of anomia, or the social void, to which Durkheim alludes in attempting to account for the various forms of social disorganization in technological society.

Since our census enumerates the night rather than the day population of an area, the locale of the most intensive urban life the city urbansm generally has low population density, and the industrial and commercial areas of the city, which contain the most characteristic economic activities underlying urban society, would scarcely anywhere be truly urban if density were literally interpreted as a worth of urbanism.

Large numbers involve, as has been pointed out, a greater range of individual variation. Urban social relation takes place between strangers.

Witth for most group purposes it is impossible in the city to appeal individually to the large number of discrete and differentiated citizens, and since it is only through the organizations to which men belong that their interests and resources can be enlisted for a collective cause, it may be inferred that social control in the city should typically proceed through formally organized groups. A sociological definition must obviously be inclusive enough to comprise whatever essential characteristics these different types of cities have in common as social entities, but it obviously cannot be so detailed as to take account of all the variations implicit in the manifold classes sketched above.

Although Wirth’s thinking originated in this ecological tradition, he is in this extract going beyond it and trying to achieve a balance of ‘ecological’ with individual and cultural factors. The work of urban historians has shown that this was a myth and ethnic and racial groups sustained their distinctive spatial and cultural identities.


A sociological definition of the city

Generally, a larger proportion of the adult-urban population is gainfully employed than is the case with the adult-rural population. The larger the number of persons in a state of interaction with another, the lower is the level of communication and the greater is the tendency for communication to proceed on an elementary level, i.

The individual counts for little, but the voice of the representative is heard with a deference roughly proportional to the numbers for urbsnism he speaks The concept lohis ‘folk society’ arose from studies of Indian communities in Latin America. Urbanization no longer denotes merely the process by which persons are attracted to a place called the city and incorporated into its system of life.

The operations of the pecuniary nexus lead to predatory relationships, which tend to obstruct the efficient functioning of the social order unless checked by professional codes and occupational etiquette.

So there is decline in the significance of traditional and sacred things.

Urbanism as a Way of Life: Concept and Characteristics

The danger urnanism was the tendency to confuse “urban” with other features of social organization such as the expansion of the capitalist market, industrialization, the growth of scientific knowledge and of improved communications. Characteristically, urbanites meet one another in highly segmental roles.

Frequently there is only the most tenuous relationship between the economic position or other basic factors that determine the individual’s existence in the urban world and the voluntary groups11 with which he is affiliated. The dirth of the city over the surrounding hinterland becomes explicable in terms of the division of labor which urban life occasions and promotes.

This tended to ignore individual human motivation and the autonomy of human cultural influences.