Compare and Contrast the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools of Urbanism

3114 Words Aug 1st, 2013 13 Pages
Essay: Compare and Contrast the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools of Urbanism.

Urban studies aims to develop an understanding the modern city metropolis. As Savage et al. have pointed out, the urban encompasses far more than just the physical city itself; understanding the city help us to understand many aspects of modern life (2003, pp.4). Many of its features, such as mass media and public transport systems have spread throughout society over the past century. Sociological studies of urban life began with the landmark publication of 'The City' in 1925 by sociologists Robert Park, Ernest Burgess and Louis Wirth from the University of Chicago, students of Georg Simmel who shared his belief that the urban environment changed man's
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149). Park suggests that relationships between city folk are essentially transitory and emphasises the creation of the blasé personality in the city, theorized by Simmel, as key to understanding the urban mindset – a “front” is displayed by these people of civilized manners and fashion, and it is this detachment and superficiality of relations which allows the city-dweller to move through the different physical arenas of the city, and is essential for his or her freedom in it (1925, pp. 40). In Louis Wirth's essay 'Urbanism as a Way of Life' he produced a landmark urban theory based on Simmel's assumptions; he hypothesises that the size, density and homogeneity of a population in urban areas could predict the type of community produced; areas where these factors are high, individuals will be bound together by impersonal, secondary relationships, producing more areas of crime and poverty, whereas where these factors are low, as in a rural town, more primary, personal relationships will dominate, resembling a traditional mixed neighbourhood. Wirth also invokes Durkheim's concept of anomie to explain a loss of identity of the urban dweller (Wirth 1964, pp. 69-77). Although highly influential in the work of the Chicago School, these theoretical assumptions have been widely criticized for being too deterministic; for example Gans (cited in Savage, Warde and Ward 2003) studied an area which met all of

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