Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life

Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life

Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life

Being Urban: A Sociology of City Life

Synopsis

Being Urban examines the dynamic interplay between what theoretical perceptions tell us about urban life and how ordinary people interpret and respond to the actual experience of living in cities. Major focuses are the primacy of social interaction for an understanding of urban life, and the strategies people use to create "community" in environments which, many theorists believe, promote only alienation and social disintegration. This new edition incorporates a strongly interdisciplinary perspective and includes new chapters on significant topics that have received little critical attention in the field.

Excerpt

The growth of cities and the urbanization of social life have long stood at the center of social science inquiry. Urban housing, politics, intergroup relations, class and stratification patterns, economic structure, demographic trends, and the nature of communities are among the most frequent areas of scholarly investigation. Indeed, so much has been written on the city in recent years that it is virtually impossible for even urban specialists to keep abreast of the literature.

In Being Urban we have not tried to cover the full range of issues and topics found in most urban sociology textbooks. Rather, we want first of all to pose some of the social psychological questions typically neglected in most treatments of the urban scene. Second, we want to illustrate how our answers to these questions lead us to reevaluate certain traditional, longstanding images of the city. In this respect we view ours as a work of revision. We do not seek to disprove or reject traditional and current sociological understandings of the urban place. We wish, instead, to indicate how these understandings may be incomplete or partial. Finally, the authors share a common theoretical orientation that gives impetus and unity to this enterprise. By offering a theoretically integrated perspective on experiencing city life, we will demonstrate throughout this work the value of symbolic interaction theory for analyzing the meanings of being urban.

The perspective of symbolic interaction is based on the uncomplicated idea that the social world is composed of acting, thinking, defining, reacting, interpreting human beings in interaction with one another. Persons are not merely puppets pushed around by forces over which they have no control. Interactionists hold a picture of social life in which persons are the architects of their worlds. Reality is, then, socially constructed, and to understand . . .

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