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Urban Sociology: Does City Makes Us Better People? Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2020

George Simmel’s article on the metropolis and the specifics of the mental life was written in 1903 during the Dresden cities exhibitions. The article was a product of rethinking the lectures by experts in different fields concerning various topics and aspects of life in the city. Many theorists have discussed the issue of urban life, which can be considered better or worse than rural life. Karl Marx, Max Weber, and George Simmel are among these researchers. These theorists accentuated that social interactions and society play an important role in shaping the emotions and behavior of individuals. However, persons struggle to maintain their individuality and independence of existence.

It is a struggle against the social values, historical heritage, and life techniques, and this struggle is characteristic for the person living in the city. For example, human beings have suffered from social ties originating from religion, politics, and morality that set them back. Although George Simmel, Karl Marx, and Max Weber focus on the negative impact of the persons’ living in the urban society determining the reasons for people’s antagonism as a result of the social interactions in the city, the city life has no direct impact on forming the negative individuals’ qualities and cannot be discussed as the cause for people’s becoming worse.

According to Simmel, any society consists of those people who continuously interact with one another. Interactions are the result of social forces that originate from the influence of techniques of life, external culture, and historical heritage. Thus, the sociologist states that the person’s nature as “originally good and common to all, should develop unhampered … the nineteenth century demanded the functional specialization of man and his work; this specialization makes one individual incomparable to another, and each of them indispensable to the highest possible extent” (Simmel, 2010, p. 113). Human beings experience multiple impressions in cities. The metropolis man is considered to be a differentiating person. Simmel describes this type as a discriminating creature who is in conflict with nature and develops antagonism (Simmel, 2010, p. 114). The ability of the person to see various impressions attracts him to urban life. As the rhythms of life in the city cross one’s mind, he develops the habit of liking. However, many people do not like following different rhythms. Such people do not like urban life.

Life in the cities is meant to liberate one from the confines and prejudice developed in different small communities. Living in the city, a person has better chances of defining himself. Most people are very objective in cities, and they interact freely with one another. They develop critical skills that enable them to become better intellectuals. At the same time, people develop rational skills in their reasoning (Simmel, 2010, p. 114-115). A man has the right to liberty and socialization. Specialization makes him dependant upon one another. An individual is capable of growing fully only when his work is supplemented by others. In the spirit of socialization, human beings must leave the competition in order to share their knowledge and skills for the common good of society.

Max Weber’s Theory

Max Weber’s theory was an improvement of Karl Marx and Simmel’s theories. He criticized Simmel’s theory as inhuman and inconsistent in relation to the concept of socialization. He argued that urbanization hindered political participation and the creation of opportunities in a country. Therefore, it is better for people to remain in their local communities rather than congesting urban cities since it can limit the creation of opportunities. According to Weber, a city is a place where a number of activities such as commercial, religious, private, and public take place. Weber argues that a city must derive its strength based on the economic activities carried out. Consequently, each person is capable of doing an economic activity to earn a living (Weber, 2010, p. 104).

Moreover, people live next to one another, which enables them to interact freely. The presence of neighborhood distinguishes it from other places, thus making city life to be better than life in the community. Cities are the result of industrial revolutions. As the cities expanded, a lot of problems were created that made city life problematic. The concentration of people in the cities gives rise to joblessness since the number of jobs available cannot be sufficient for all the job seekers. Social evils in the cities make city life to be undesirable to many. Therefore, people should continue working in their local communities rather than congesting the cities (Flanagan, 1993).

The Argument of Karl Marx

According to Karl Marx, society consists of different classes, which can include merchants, landowners, and laborers. The merchants trade in order to earn profits. They pay the laborers subsistence wages, which enable them to accumulate profits (Marx, 2010, p. 59). This fact leads to forming two categories of people, the rich and the poor. Therefore, cities grew because the capitalists were capable of accumulating wealth as the laborers work for them. The capitalists became richer, and the class struggle intensified because the laborers become more miserable. That is why Marx determines economic relations according to which city life is organized based on the labor division, which led to the class struggle (Marx, 2010, p. 60).

Nevertheless, Marx and Engels stated that the process of urbanization “rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life” (Marx & Engels, 2010, p. 90). Thus, in spite of the fact, the urban life can be characterized by such a feature as the accentuated class struggle which is associated with the increase of crimes, the rise of cities should not be connected only with intensifying the controversies, but it also resulted in shifting to the social progress.

Conclusion

George Simmel, Karl Marx, and Max Weber are inclined to focus on the negative results of the urban development for persons, basing their arguments on different principles and using various approaches to the problem’s discussion. However, it is impossible to state that the rise of cities is the direct cause for people’s becoming morally negative as it is presented by George Simmel, who orients to the challengeable unexpectedness of impressions experienced by people in cities and to decreasing the emotional response. Furthermore, economic problems discussed by Max Weber and Karl Marx are also influential for worsening the social situation in general, but not for affecting the nature of the individuals’ personal interactions. A man can fight against all the components which tend to tie him to society, but they do not make him worse.

References

Flanagan, W. (1993). Contemporary urban sociology. Cambridge: University of Cambridge.

Marx, K. (2010). The fetishism of commodities and the secret thereof. In J. Farganis (Ed.), Reading in social theory: The classic tradition to Post-Modernism (58-60). St. Louis: McGraw-Hill.

Marx, K. & Engels, F. (2010). The manifesto of the Communist party. In J. Farganis (Ed.), Reading in social theory: The classic tradition to Post-Modernism (89-94). St. Louis: McGraw-Hill.

Simmel, G. (2010). The metropolis and mental life. In J. Farganis (Ed.), Reading in social theory: The classic tradition to Post-Modernism (113-121). St. Louis: McGraw-Hill.

Weber, M. (2010). The Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism. In J. Farganis (Ed.), Reading in social theory: The classic tradition to Post-Modernism (103-109). St. Louis: McGraw-Hill.

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