The Stranger: A Study in Social Relationships

By Margaret Mary Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE CITY

THE problem of discovering the nature of the social bonds which distinguish the modern city from other types of social groupings is not a simple one. The complexity of the life of the city resists an easy formula. One cannot point to this or that particular type of unifying relationship as forming the basis of the social structure of the city since many types contribute to this end no one of which may be excluded. The city is at once more personal and more impersonal in its relationships than the country, more lenient and more critical in its judgments of others, more tolerant and more intolerant in its attitudes toward outsiders. It is not in any one distinctive form of relationship, therefore, that the source of the unity of city life must be sought, but, rather, in the manner in which manifold highly differentiated relationships have become adjusted to one another. Such an adjustment does not, however, imply a fusion of relationships but the opposite. It has been the peculiar function of the city to accentuate the specific character of the various types of relationships found within it rather than to merge these into a general uniformity. The city separates and segregates, but it has a thousand criteria for so doing. It compounds and recompounds, now from this angle and again from that, and consequently, the pattern of social integration becomes an intricate one. A perspective is difficult to attain, and, as emphasis has been placed upon one feature rather than another of city life, different, and even opposing, interpretations have been given to the social significance of urban relationships. From one point of view the city becomes a kind

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