Essay on Urban Sociology

Submitted By mwife2011
Words: 1924
Pages: 8

William I. Thomas, laid a firm foundation for the School with his urban interest and rigorous qualitative methodology, as evidenced in his classic study of the Polish Peasant. The Polish Peasant consists of five volumes, and is comprised of written autobiographical life histories, and letter-writing correspondences, which emphasize the importance of people representing their own lives. Thomas’ conceptualization of the “self” around ideas about ‘social becoming’ is revealed by the relation and sequential nature of writing, over time, in letters and correspondences. The new ways in which people represent themselves and their lives in circumstances of social change and mass migration provide an index to the times. Thus, making available in representational form what “self” is and becomes under such conditions. Thomas’ notion of “self” is not inner-reflecting, but rather a socially embedded, relational, situational and temporally-located self which reflects on the outer world of happenings and situations.
In Behavior in Public Places, Goffman distinguished three types of co-presence: the ‘gathering’, the ‘situation’ and the ‘social occasion’. For Goffman, a gathering is simply a coming together of two or more people, a situation occurs whenever there is ‘mutual monitoring’ and a social occasion is bounded by space and time and is likely to involve props or special equipment. Thus, a social occasion such as a birthday party becomes the background against which gatherings and situations can occur.
There is interaction of various kinds among friends, acquaintances and, under special circumstances, the unacquainted. “The acquainted are recognized either “cognitively,” as being a particular person and not merely a category of person, or “socially,” i.e. the acquainted are recognized in the sense of being welcomed and acknowledged” (Erving Goffman p. 20). “The acquainted need a reason not to initiate an encounter (“I can’t stop, I’m late!”); the opposite holds true for the unacquainted.” (Erving Goffman p. 20) Unacquainted people can approach each other by being in an “exposed” social position. These social positions include police officers, priest, and newsstand vendors; they can be approach for information or be asked questions (Erving Goffman p. 20). “There are also people who are considered so “meager in sacred value” that they can be addressed without explanation” (Erving Goffman p. 20). Interaction among the unacquainted also occurs when someone is demonstrably out of role. An example of this would be when someone is drunk, or dressed in an unusual costume. Also, there are those “non-persons,” who are so lacking in social present such as servers - which others can freely converse and act as if these figures were not present. (Erving Goffman p. 20)
Louis Wirth contributed to the Chicago school of Urban Sociology with his work entitled “Urbanism as a Way of Life.” Grafting sociological propositions onto urbanism research, Wirth details three empirical areas of focus: population size, density, and demographic heterogeneity.
Wirth stated that urban dwellers, in contrast to rural, depend on more people for day-to-day interactions, producing “impersonal, superficial, transitory, and segmental” contacts and engendering “reserve, indifference and a blasé outlook” that people use to “immunize” themselves against the expectations of others. Therefore, interpersonal contact is driven solely by selfish utility. About density, Wirth describes a socially differentiated specialization, which segments activities and complicates social ecology. “Visual recognition,” in which people are identified by their purpose but denied acknowledgement of their personal traits, provokes a cognitive separation by the observer, for whom urban environments expose contrasts in wealth, sophistication and belief. Daily interaction among people without mutual ties fosters “exploitation.” Heterogeneity, turns away from the built environment to…