Humanising the City? Social Contexts of Urban Life at the Turn of the Millennium

Humanising the City? Social Contexts of Urban Life at the Turn of the Millennium

Humanising the City? Social Contexts of Urban Life at the Turn of the Millennium

Humanising the City? Social Contexts of Urban Life at the Turn of the Millennium

Excerpt

SANDRA WALLMAN

The world's large cities are both the sign and product of industrialisation. Their form and recent development are geared to industrial production, and they have been the focus of immigration for people escaping the redundancy of agricultural labour or the tedium of rural life. Indeed it is the combination of industrial technology and our admiration of it which created industrial society, and it is changes on both fronts which are beginning to undermine it.

The term 'post-industrial' is too neat for the untidy realities of urban livelihood, but it reflects the fact that the meaning of work itself no longer fits the industrial paradigm. Some say that by the beginning of the twenty-first century the so-called Information Society will be firmly in place -- the notion as well as the reality of Industrial Society relegated to the margins of our interest just as industrial society is said to have supplanted Agricultural Society in nineteenth century Europe.

Because none of these either/or evolutionary classifications can reflect the subtle scope of ordinary life, the new term, like its predecessors, serves only to focus attention on the dominant technology of its era. But the fact that popular writers now refer to a 'third wave', demonstrates the felt shock of changes already affecting many aspects of livelihood. Some maintain that the present situation is not a point in a long-term trend because it is nothing less than a social revolution: in the Information Society old assumptions do not work, and nothing can be predicted as before (Hallett, 1984). Others still count on there being developmental trends. For them, past assumptions are not wrong: they need only a bit of rejigging to remain useful predictors of the future (Henley Centre for Forecasting, 1985). Either way, however, in relation to communication and organisation in the workplace, some things are sure: the old hierarchies are inefficient because they make communication so slow and organisation so cumbersome that the chance for . . .

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