What is meant by the concept of multinucleated metropolitan regions and how is it different from urban development of the past? Explain the socio-spatial approach to urban Sociology and the links with global capitalism, the real estate industry, government policies, pull factors, the social organization of settlement space, and the importance of culture. Compare and contrast the views of Tonnies, Durkheim, Simmel, Wirth, Park, and Burgess on urban Sociology. Which theory do you think best explains views cities Sociologically and why?
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Multinucleated metropolitan regions constitute the developing spatial configurations that have intensive sprawls. They also have various specialized centers, with different chores being executed out of CBDs. The concept of multinucleated metropolitan regions is crucial in the understanding of various changes in the spatial structures of different metropolitan areas across the globe. The concept highlights the contact of municipal counties with sophisticated infrastructure and traffic.
From the perspectives of settlement patterns, Gottdiener and Hutchison (2011) assert that a multinucleated metropolitan region implies the extensive spreading of urban life in a series of municipal counties. The concept has its roots in Chicago’s theoretical perspectives of the ecology of urban areas development. In the book, The Metropolitan Community, McKenzie studied various structural and historical advancements in settlements in urban areas (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). He reveals how multi-nucleation constitutes a dominant trend in metropolitan area developments.
Opposed to the concept of multinucleated metropolitan regions, past urban development reflects various political dimensions, cultural, and economic aspects that explain the uneven growth of metropolitan regions. This observation suggests the existence of different spatial forms and cities that are segregated along with elements such as different ways of land use that correlate with variations in classes and racial backgrounds of their inhabitants (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011).
Past urban development reflected cities that faced inequality challenges that were characterized by unevenness and differences in their growths. For instance, working-class members of a society dominated some cities while some were set aside for middle-class people. Others were reserved for certain commercial activities, minorities, and urban poor populations among others.
While studying urbanization, the socio-spatial perspective seeks to analyze already built infrastructures and their interactions with society. The theoretical paradigm presumes that social spaces are organized such that they function as both producers and products of various changes that take place within a metropolitan environment (Gotham, 2001). The approach also maintains that built environments possess intrinsic traits that describe semiotics such as economy, culture, persisting policies within an urban area, and the type of society that colonizes the centers.
To this extent, the approach examines the relationship between space and the people who inhabit it. Capitalism constitutes an economic system in which all factors of production are owned by a few people and the richest population segment. Such people operate various production systems with the chief goal of making profits. In the context of the socio-spatial approach in urban sociology, the owners of factors of production live within urban areas that reflect their economic status in terms of infrastructural developments.
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From the socio-spatial approach to urban development, people inhabit different cities and other urban areas spatially depending on their socio-economic status. This observation implies that real estate developers design housing and other facilities depending on the unique needs of their target clients. To this extent, applying the concepts of the socio-spatial approach to urban sociology, real estate also tends to be spatially distributed according to the demographic characteristics of their dwellers. Investments in real estate constitute an essential mechanism of wealth accumulation, which results in changing the manner of use of land and space (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011).
This situation creates conflicts within communities, especially in terms of differences in the approaches to using the land. Government policies also tend to favor infrastructural developments depending on the characteristics of the dwellers of different urban metropolitan regions. This case translates into socio-spatial growth of urban areas.
Urbanization pull factors aid in shaping the spatial development of urban regions. For instance, the availability of job opportunities in some areas compared to others leads to different spatial distributions of populations. Hence, the spatial growth of urban metropolitan regions occurs. For instance, the accessibility of different types of career openings in urban areas may attract different forms of settlements. As such, different forms of social organizations of settlements emerge and colonize new spaces. Low-income jobs attract persons of low socioeconomic status in society. Thus, urban space becomes spatially organized based on socio-economic status.
In summary, the socio-spatial approach to urban sociology focuses on five major aspects. These elements include racial and class struggles while not negating gender dimensions in terms of shaping the growth of urban regions. Functions played by real estate developers among other essential economic actors in enhancing city development and growth through the facilitation of government in terms of policies that favor infrastructural development also form part of these elements (Gotham, 2001). The approach also focuses on the significance of various social symbols, cultures, and the understanding that leads to growth in cities. It also touches on global perspectives in terms of the emergence and growth of cities and other urban regions.
Tonnies’ theory of urban sociology describes two main mechanisms of organizations of people, namely Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. Alternatively referred to as a community, Gemeinschaft constitutes country villages. In the villages, people unite along with common purposes where they work in this unit to achieve specific goals for a common purpose and good (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011, p.209). People are also united along with kinship and neighborhood relationships.
Social life develops based on aspects such as intimacy, the need to live and work exclusively together, and cultural objects such as verbal communication and civilization (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). In contrast, Gesellschaft refers to associations that are mainly characterized by city life. In the cities, there exists rampant self-centeredness and intense selfishness. Unlike the case of Gemeinschaft where people are united, in the case of Gesellschaft, amid the existence of possible uniting factors among city dwellers, selfishness and their individualism ensure they remain separated.
Durkheim’s theory compares with Tonnies’ theory in that it considers the social structure of a society in the context of factors that cause unity and separation of individuals. The theory postulates that social solidarity can be divided into two elements, namely the organic harmony and mechanical solidarity (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). Mechanical solidarity implies that all bonds that are formed through likeness in terms of rituals, symbols, and beliefs among other factors are unique to every group of people within a society, which makes unity among them automatic.
Organic solidarity refers to social order that is dependent on social differences that exist among different people such as division of labor, conflicts, and disagreements. Although differences among city dwellers undermine social integration, Durkheim theory claims that they “create a new form of social cohesion based on mutual interdependence, liberation, social cohesion based upon the dependence of individuals in more advanced society” (Gotham, 2001, p.8). In this extent, the theory differs from Tonnies’ theory, which cites social structures as largely composed of people who hardly unite, irrespective of the existence of common challenges and concerns.
Simmel’s theory fails to explain the urbanization processes. Rather, it endeavors to analyze the life experiences of urban life. It claims that urban and rural dwellers have different attitudes. Urban life is dominated by nervous stimuli while rural life is characterized by sensory imageries. Urban life causes people to develop the ability to calculate before taking any action. To this extent, they tend to be more rational compared to rural dwellers. This claim implies that abstract calculation compels urban dwellers to overlook kinships and familial relationships while arriving at various decisions.
Similarly, Wirth’s theory focuses on urban social life, rather than structures of urban regions. Opposed to Tonnies and Durkheim’s theories, which see cities as characterized by a lack of homogeneity, Wirth theory claims that cities comprise “permanent settlement and socially and culturally heterogeneous people where urbanism is a function of population density, size, and heterogeneity” (Gotham, 2001, p.6). Contrary to theories that fail to discuss the development of urban areas, Burgess theory claims that cities develop concentrically following successive city inversions. Administrative and entertainment areas are located at the cores of the CBD.
Park theory treats cities as social organisms that possess different parts, which bond together via various internal processes, but not disorders or chaos. To this extent, the theory analyses cities from the context of the theory of physical forms. It is associated with ecological adjustments to suit the needs of the urban dwellers. Perhaps, this theory best explains views on the sociology of cities because studying city development also requires knowledge on factors that lead to structural (physical) developments such as traits of their dwellers. Socio-graphic and demographic characteristics of city dwellers determine the nature and magnitude of infrastructural developments in different cities.
The new urban Sociology has developed from an earlier theoretical work known as political economy. Who are some of the earlier Sociologists with this theoretical perspective and what are their views? Why are they significant to help our understanding of cities? What is meant by uneven development, what causes it to occur in metropolitan regions, and what are its effects on metropolitan growth? Give examples of uneven development from an area where you live. Henri Lefebvre is a major theoretical figure in the development of the urban political economy. What were his contributions to recent work in the new urban Sociology? Discuss his four ideas and explain how they are used in urban Sociology.
New urban sociology has evolved from earlier theoretical work that was termed as political economy. The sociological school of thought emanates from Marx and Engels. Political economy implies the existing relationships between economic and political dynamics within a society. The earliest sociologists who supported this school of thought included Gordon, Lefebvre, Storper, Walker, Castells, Harvey, and Scoot among others (Young, 2009). The theorists contend that economic and political forces function as the chief propellers of urban activities. They also assert that capitalism makes the main constituent of power, which describes the growth of industrial communities. To this extent, according to the theories, cities comprise metropolitan communities that shape the global economy (Young, 2009).
In the early 1970s, social scientists advanced the Marxist school of thought in an attempt to revise Karl Marx’s arguments on the development of metropolitan regions. In particular, Henri Lefebvre, Manuel Castells, and David Harvey advanced explanations on the development of uneven metropolitan urban regions, the decline in urbanization, and various other emerging trends on urbanization (Gotham, 2001).
The author also posits, “Castells proposed that urban scholars should focus on the collective consumption characteristics of urbanized nations and ways in which political and economic conflicts within cities generate urban social movements for change” (Gotham, 2001, p.2). On the other hand, Harvey enhanced the understanding of cities by claiming that the major concerns on their development rests on capital accumulation as opposed to collective consumption.
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Despite the varying areas of concern, political economy social theorists focused Marxist’s work on capitalistic systems that sought to enhance profit-making endeavors in the attempt to explain processes of developments of cities. They also deployed capital accumulation arguments whilst presenting class struggles as a major tool for analysis of disinvestments and redevelopment of urban centers. Such arguments helped form the starting points for the development of later schools of thought and scholarly attention in the progress of cities such as the socio-spatial perspectives.
Uneven development implies the conditions of transition from declining growth in urban regions to new progressive growth in urban regions. In this sense, it refers to deferential developments at regional, national, local, or even global levels (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). It explains the existence of depleted cities and other urban regions. Karl Marx and his proponents advanced the concept of unevenness in urban development by attributing its causes to capitalism inefficiencies, natural cycles, and aptitude differences among different people (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). They claimed that this situation had the impact of uneven production growth. Such unevenness led to unevenness in urban developments.
Unevenness in development emanates from various material factors. Such factors arise not only from capitalism but also from any alteration of consumer tastes (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2011). For instance, society experiences changes in the demand for leisure products. In some situations, such products may replace the demand for other basic products.
This analogy also applies to the demand for residential areas in urban areas so that unevenness emerges in terms of the development of infrastructure depending on the emerging economic growth trends among city residents. Emerging opportunities compel organizations to seek investment opportunities in more profitable areas. Consequently, regions, which provided better opportunities in the past experienced an economic meltdown, which led to slowed growth. In the long term, this situation led to unevenness in urban developments. An example of uneven development in El Paso in the US concerning economic depletion.
Henri Lefebvre’s Approach to Urban Political Economy
Lefebvre claims that real estate and land-oriented investments reveal wealth accumulations and various activities that lead to the development of urban regions such as cities. He claims that built urban environments can be reshaped by various processes such as urban renewal, decay, and disinvestment to create a productive arena, which fosters profit-making activities (Brenner & Elden, 2010). He advanced various ideas, which are pivotal in the understanding of urban sociology.
Lefebvre maintained that all modes of production produce specific types of space. Therefore, ancient world cities cannot be fully understood as comprising agglomerations of space and people. Rather, they had their specific special practices. According to Lefebvre, societies also produce their own space. Thus, urban regions develop in the quest to occupy space. Therefore, city locations occupy space and in as such remain fixed. Secondly, Lefebvre asserts that cities exist in a hierarchically organized global system (Brenner & Elden, 2010). This plan ensures that various linkages between different cities aid in the definition of different structures of the global system.
In support of the Marxist school of capitalism, Lefebvre believes that competitive capitalism defines the nature of the development of urban regions. He also asserts that circumstances and people vary about the place and time differences. These aspects are essential in the analysis and discussion of urban sociology. For example, cities develop depending on the existing political and economic situations in a given place within a specific period (Brenner & Elden, 2010).
As economic growth picks elsewhere, the development of cities also shifts as time moves on. For instance, the sporadic emergence of economic growth in China has fostered immense growth and the emergence of new urban areas. On the other hand, nations whose production activities have been shifted to China experience retarded growth for their urban areas. From Lefebvre’s school of thought, fewer pressures on space may help one in terms of explaining this situation.
In “The Cultures of Cities” Sharon Zukin explores the importance of cultures in cities. Explain what she means by the symbolic economy, culture as an economic base, culture as a means of framing space, and public space. How does the Disney empire fit into her views? What does Zukin mean by the mystique of public culture? Explain her views on the meanings of culture and cultural strategies. How does she relate theory into her discussion?
Sharon Zukin in ‘The culture of Cities’ explores the importance of culture in cities. She uses some terms to explain the main concepts under discussion. Some of the terms used include the symbolic economy (Zukin, 1995). The meaning of the symbolic economy is that the economy of an area may be expressed in the form of cities and their strengths. Culture as an economic base means that the activities of people dictate how they interact with the economy and consequently how well their economy performs. The culture of people dictates the economic activities they undertake. Hence, the strength of their economy is dependent on the prevailing culture. Decisions made in an area are also dependent on the existing culture in a region.
The other concept that Sharon Zukin (1995) explores is culture as a means of framing space and public space. By framing space, she intends to mean that the culture of an area affects the way people spend their available resources, especially the accessible space. Many cultures have a preference in terms of space. Some of these cultures may be differentiated using the methods they use to structure their space. The interactions between individuals and the one between people and their environment are dictated by their culture, and hence another explanation of this term.
By discussing public space, this author denotes the significance of culture in the determination of human activities. The utilization of public space is to some extent a product of the culture of individuals in addition to other factors. In most of the public areas around the world, the existing structures, procedures, and protocols are a result of the interaction between the resident culture and other aspects of the area. This aspect differentiates different cities and their cultures. The evolution of culture may also be dictated by the existing structure in cities and the utilization of public space.
One of the places that closely resemble the cities described by Sharon Zukin is the Disney Empire. This empire has undergone a series of transformations ever since its construction. It demonstrates the characteristics stated by the author. The Disney Empire is a reflection of a culture change, with the investment being a shift from traditional to modern development. The empire fits into Zukin’s views in many ways, including the demonstration of a budge in the culture of cities.
Zukin (1995) explains the concept of the mystic of public culture in her work. What this author means is that the culture of a city or a population may be defined in several ways, among them being the type of practices that exist in the population. Public culture is heavily dependent on people who practice it and the geographical area within which these individuals may be found. The mystic nature of public culture, as stated by Zukin (1995), means that culture is defined by the mindset of individuals. Therefore, since these individuals are mostly different, different public cultures exist. These public cultures are also hard to understand and explain.
The meaning of culture and cultural strategies as indicated by Zukin include the way of life of people in a specific area. Cultural strategies mean the strategies undertaken by individuals and groups of people based on their cultural practices and beliefs. The relationship between theory and practice is made in ZuKin’s work through the explanations of the different cultures in the article. Therefore, Zukin can relate theory in her discussion whilst maintaining this style throughout her work.
What is the difference between the terms underclass and ghettoized poor and why is this important to understand? What is the significance of class stratification and spatial location concerning different social classes residing in cities? Discuss the importance of women, gender roles, and space. Discuss how class stratification and spatial location relate the Zukin’s discussion of restaurants as culture, immigrants, employees, the social and ethnic division of labor, and the symbolic economy.
The term underclass is used to mean a group or class of people who are below the standard class in society. Most societies have a predetermined class for different people in society. An underclass is a group of people who are below the least prescribed of these standards (Zukin, 1995). On the other hand, ghettoized poor is a group of people that lives in shanties and households that are below the accepted standards in society. The two definitions are important to understand since individuals may live in poor conditions yet cultures refer to them as being above the average class. Different cultures also have different classes of people living in ghettos.
The organization of cities is a major factor in most literature on cities. It is also under discussion in Zukin’s work (Zukin, 1995). The significance of class stratification and special location concerning different social classes that reside in cities is also important in demographics, politics, and the study of social interactions. Different classes are located in different parts of cities as a way of providing ease in service delivery. Authorities can plan for the requirements of the city population. The culture of the city is also limited by these delineations.
Women, gender roles, and space are some interrelated concepts in the study of cities as discussed in Zukin’s work. Women are significant in the definition of culture, with this sex playing a major role in a spatial location within cities. Gender roles determine individuals who perform certain activities within cities, with the male gender determining the resources that are available to the family (Kleniewski, 2005). Therefore, this gender determines the household location.
Zukin’s discussion of restaurants as culture, immigrants, employees, the social and ethnic division of labor, and the symbolic economy is related to class stratification and spatial location within cities. Zukin discusses the restaurant as being a point of interaction of different individuals and cultures. Different classes of people attend different classes of restaurants based on the affordability of the meals in these restaurants. High-end individuals attend high-end restaurants. This observation is evident mainly in the city restaurants and hotels. The division demonstrates the stratification and spatial location within cities.
In the discussion on immigrants and employees, Zukin (1995) demonstrates the disjointed nature of the cities and their population. Cities with immigrants among their population may have special cultural characteristics that are not evident in other cities. In the social and ethnic division of labor, Zukin (1995) illustrates the existing divisions between different groups within a specific population. The differentiation of the different individuals in a specific city may be done through the work environment where the immigrant population is mainly concentrated. Some individuals demonstrate different characteristics based on their ethnic backgrounds.
In the symbolic economy, Zukin illustrates how input from different ethnic groups and personalities contributes to the development of an economy. Some cities with different populations and ethnicities have better success in their economy about others. The social nature of a city is also dictated by the interactions between individuals from different cultures and ethnicities. The symbolic economy represents an important aspect of cities. Zukin illustrates the importance of knowing the ethnic backgrounds of cities as a whole in the determination of their culture.
Brenner, N., & Elden, S. (2010). Henri Lefebvre on State, Space and Territory. International Political Sociology, 1(1), 1-49.
Gotham, K. (2001). Urban redevelopment, past and present. Critical perspectives on urban redevelopment, 6(2), 1-31.
Gottdiener, M., & Hutchison, R. (2011). The New Urban Sociology. Boulder, CO: Westview/Gottdiener/Hutchinson.
Kleniewski, N. (2005). Cities and Society. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Young, C. (2009). The Emergence of Sociology from Political Economy in the United States. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 45(2), 91-116.
Zukin, S. (1995). The Cultures of Cities. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.