The city is undeniably the centre of much of our social action. It is the arena in which most of our economic, political and commercial activity tends to occur, and it has become the most popular place to socialise, and to experience the cultural aspects of the modern world. Its evolution has involved a number of changing processes, and each of these has brought its own challenges and problems.
This discussion will address the evolution of the city in terms of the processes of growth and decline. Firstly, I will explain how this debate is in fact firmly rooted in the classical sociological theories on modernity and industrialization, and this will reflect the explosive growth of Western cities. Contemporary theory also has much to offer on the issue of urban sociology, and in particular can address the more recent problem of urban decline.
[...] On the contrary, overcrowding in developing-world cities is arguably much more serious than the problems of growth and decline in the Western world. Developing world cities are currently dangerously over- urbanised. This is largely a result of the fact that inward capitalist investment often focuses upon capital (or merely large) city sites, a phenomenon described as ‘urban bias.' The development of shanty towns, and the outbreak of highly infectious diseases in cities such as Calcutta is an extremely serious issue, and one that requires much further attention. [...]
[...] Ireland is no exception to the urban trends experience across the western world, and Dublin is an excellent example of a city that has experience problems resulting from periods of both growth and decline. During the twentieth century, Dublin's population grew extremely rapidly, turning what had already been a densely compact city, to a sprawling city region, where its influence spreads into the towns and villages of County Dublin and even into the neighbouring counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. [...]
[...] Perhaps the most effective method of analysing the cause, nature and impact of inner city decline is to examine some real life examples. We have suggested that one of the primary causes of inner city decline has been changes in employment, brought about by the natural evolution of industry. This has been particularly detrimental to cities in Britain, where the full impact of the First Industrial Revolution is reflected in cities like Glasgow and Manchester. Inner Manchester essentially developed as a manufacturing town during the nineteenth century, and was more particularly the focus of the cotton industry. [...]
[...] This has resulted in widespread inner city decline, with some of the classic symptoms being: ‘falling population numbers; the loss of industrial employment upon which it had traditionally depended; a poorly skilled workforce; high rates of unemployment; and a built environment characterised by vacant buildings and widespread dereliction.' (MacLaren, 1993:210) As we will see later on in this discussion, these symptoms and the overall experience of growth and decline have been common to many cities in the developed world. While the theories of industrialization and modernity have offered an insight into the possible evolutionary patterns of cities, there is in fact a separate branch of theory dedicated to urban sociology. [...]
[...] The concentration of industry in particular areas led to the emergence of many of today's cities, and the depopulation and decline of rural areas. Urbanization was perhaps the most visible of the changes that modernity brought to society. While industrialization undoubtedly had many positive implications for the future of economic growth and prosperity, urbanization has been seen to have had negative implications, and the rapid development and expansion of urban areas has been met by the concern and disapproval of many sociologists, who saw it as regress rather than progress. [...]
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