Urbanization has brought a major impact on the lives of people. It can be both advantages and disadvantages. Urbanization is at its peak in the United States. City life coincides with the urban modes of life. There is diversity in city life and the people are heterogeneous with different perspectives, aspirations, and goals in life. Due to heterogeneity, there is a lot of mobility amongst the density of population. The diversity leads to a breakdown in the rigid and fixed social structure. Financial needs lead to divergent ways of life and people tend to focus primarily on their personal demands rather than their relations with others. The institutions keep the majority as their focal point and do not cater to individual requirements. Urbanism is a phenomena which can be seen in sociological terms only when it encounters unity and coherence in its study. In the urban mode of life there is an amalgamation of ecology, social organisation, and social psychology.


The growth of cities is marked by the development of various kinds and thus is termed as modern. With the coming up of great cities, there is a growing and tremendous distance between what is called organic nature. Civilization of modern society is very different from primitive society, where the small groups of mankind was scattered into a large area. On the contrary, in modern society, there is a concentration of the large area and the rise of different perspectives and ideas from that cluster. There are political, economic, cultural influences which drives people from another divergent area to one holistic whole. The world’s population is unevenly distributed and there are still certain areas that are not touched by industrialism, here lies the difference between the urban and the rural areas. There are also some countries which have been forced by the industrial revolution to become urban within a span of a single generation. The work of the sociologist approaches here to procure the differences between the urban and rural modes of living. This assists the sociologists to prepare a prerequisite for their research and better understanding of human nature and social order. One should also keep in mind that with the changes in the modes of life from the rural to urban societies, we cannot completely neglect the rural or the folk society which sets the base of any society. Our social life is to a greater or lesser degree etched with the folk society.


Geographers, historians, economists, and Political scientists have integrated different viewpoints of the definitions of the city but could not formulate one conclusive definition. Hence, the sociological definition could serve one which is extensive in understanding city life with its association with human interaction. It is difficult to arrive at a definition of an urban city which solely focuses on the numeric value of the population. Therefore the technological and increasing ways of communication and transportation act as a dominant element of civilization. Urbanization refers to the prominent characteristics of the distinctive modes of life which is linked with the growth of the cities and bring changes in the modes of the life of the people with the virtue of the power and the institutions. Every city has certain potent characteristics which make it different from the others for instance an industrial city will differ from social aspects. A sociological definition of the city can arrive with careful identification of certain elements. It should be kept in mind that every city has gone through several changes at different points of time and are culturally, socially, economically, and politically different. Urbanism should not be confused with industrialism or modern capitalism. A sociological definition, a city may be defined as a relatively large, dense, and permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals. The definition is precise keeping in mind that several other concepts can be related by throwing light with particular knowledge and research.


To propound a theory of urbanism, we need to have a considerable amount of research materials, hypothesis, and prior empirical research. The chief problem for the sociologist is to discover the forms of social action and the organisation which emerge in permanent and compact settlements of heterogeneous individuals.  The city is considered as a melting pot where different races, ethnicities, people, cultures come together and form a whole. There are some sociological propositions which are considered important such as numbers of population, density of settlement, heterogeneity of inhabitants.

Size of the population aggregate: It is been recorded that large inhabitants or the growing number of population brings an array of different varieties of individuals. The difference lies within different potential, mindset, perspectives etc. such variations on a large scale give rise to spatial segregation based on colour, ethnicity, economic status, tastes and preferences. Max Weber opines that within such a large variation of inhabitants, there is usually a lack of social bonding and unity. There are possibilities of segmentalization of human relationships.

Density: Density thus helps in reinforcing a particular specialization and diversifying individuals with their activities also increasing social structure. There is an increase rise in the competition with the antagonistic classes as there are diverse people with different backgrounds. The people who are living together and working together and have no close connections, and no emotional sentiments attached tend to foster mutual competition against each other. Therefore, this gives rise to loneliness and isolation.

Heterogeneity: The social interaction amongst different varieties of individual breaks down the rigid social structures of caste system but tends to build different class boundaries. When there is a variation in individuals with different abilities and capabilities, there is a tendency of levelling the individuals. There is an imbalance for instance when large numbers of population have to use same facilities and institutions, it becomes difficult, so arrangements have to be made so that the institutions can suffice the needs of every individual.


Urbanism can be further understood by three interrelated concepts such as 1) comprising of technology and ecological order,2) a system of social organisation comprising of social structure, social institutions and patterns of social relationships, 3) different perspectives, attitudes and ideas and collective behaviour.

Urbanism in ecological perspective: The city or a society grows only when there is a great demand of services, institutions, facilities and organisations. A large proportion of people live in the prime location which is distant from rural areas and is considered a hub of more young and the old people. This is a potent characteristic of urbanism. The heterogeneity is also seen when people with different age, sex, ethnicity and race come and settle because new opportunities and occupations attract them for instance in America, large chunks of negroes have settled. The most important failure of the urban population is that they failed to reproduce its population biologically which results in the decline of birth rate, an important feature of urbanization of western civilization.

Urbanism as a form of social organisation: It can be noted that there is significantly weakening of the bonds of kinship, declining the significance of the family, the disappearance of neighbourhood and shrinking of traditional social unity. Families have shrunk in size, mothers are not willing to have more than one kid, marriages tend to be postponed, large number of population is employed and is working but self-employment is discouraged. Incomes of city people are higher than the people living on the country side. Living a life of monotonous drudgery, they feel isolated and aloof from the society thus, in order to curb this isolation they tend to join various interest groups and organisations.

Urban personality and collective behaviour: The personality of individuals is formed from the interest groups and organisations also the perspectives of different people on various areas such as political, economical, religious, cultural, sociological are formed through a meeting like-minded people(taking active participation in various activities). Disorganization of human personality such as mental breakdown, suicide, crime, corruption are known as some of the human personality disorders, which can be seen more in urban communities and less in rural communities. It is inferred that more the larger number of people, the lower level of communication is procured and there is a greater chance probability to seek that communication in the elementary level (that is seeking help from the organisations and the self help groups etc). These emerging trends will not only affect the urban communities but also the entire world. For the sociologist, the conception of the city as a workable theory of urbanism is clear as it goes under several changes and will be going through more changes in near future. The subject matter can be better understood with more clarity under the rubric of urban sociology to be precise. There are certainly other areas which are related to the city life such as city-planning, sanitation, policing, and other technical issues which cannot be solved by a sociologist alone.

Reference: Wirth, Louis. 1938. “Urbanism as a way of Life” in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 44,
No.1 (July), Pp. 1‐24

Download: Full Essay