This reader is designed to bring together the major approaches that have developed within the field of human ecology. Although less than a half century old as a self-conscious discipline, human ecology has experienced more than its share of division. In sociology and in geography there have been two major lines of development of human ecology, each with very little reference to the other. One purpose of this volume is to bring together works of geographers and sociologists.
A second purpose of this work is to bring together differing sociological approaches to human ecology. In the sociological study of human ecology an initially rapid development and expansion was followed by a period of severe criticism and re-evaluation which seemed to some observers to mark the decline of human ecology as a significant field of sociological investigation. The last decade, however, has seen a marked revival of interest in human ecology. The frequent references to human ecology as well as the numerous ecological studies that regularly appear in the sociological literature indicate that the field is today an important area of investigation for sociologists. At the same time that sociologists have shown a renewed interest in human ecology they have also expressed certain disagreements as to the proper definition and emphasis of the field. In this volume are found the three major approaches that are current among sociologists engaged in study and research in human ecology: the neo-orthodox approach, social area analysis, and the sociocultural approach. These will give the student an over-all view of the field today. Until this time there has been no one work in which the student could find all three approaches, each presented from its own point of view. This volume attempts to do more, however, than place these three approaches side by side for ready access. The introductions point the way toward their possible integration. There is much in these approaches that is complementary and very little that is essentially contradictory.
The book is divided into five parts. The first two parts are subdivided into two and three sections, respectively. The first section of Part I includes articles that outline what has come to be known as the classical position --the approach to human ecology developed by sociologists in the twenties and thirties. An article by a geographer is also included, to provide a contemporaneous comparison of the geographical with the sociological approach. The second section presents criticisms of the classical position.