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Cities and Urban Life, 7th Edition
For courses in Urban Sociology A comprehensive overview of classic and contemporary urban sociology. Cities and Urban Life provides an introduction to the study of urban environments around the world. Using an approach that is multidisciplinary but fundamentally sociological, authors John Macionis and Vincent Parrillo help students see how cities have evolved over time, how cities reflect culture, and where the urban story may take us next. The inclusion of the latest data and research references throughout the seventh edition, as well as updated case studies on a variety of cities, ensures that students come away with an up-to-date understanding of contemporary urban life.
Since the historic landmark year of 2008, a steadily increasing majority of the planet’s people are living in cities. Urban living is rapidly becoming a widening norm for more and more members of our species. Surely, no more compelling reason exists for us to undertake the study of cities and urban life.
The Basic Approach
This text is not the oldest in the field, but it is the trendsetter, and often imitated by competing texts.
Our approach is multidisciplinary but fundamentally sociological. Readers will find here the enduring contributions of the classical European social thinkers, including Max Weber, Karl Marx, Ferdinand Tönnies, Georg Simmel, and Emile Durkheim, as well as those of early pioneers in North America, including Robert Park and Louis Wirth. Of course, many men and women have stood on the shoulders of these giants and extended our understanding. Thus, this text also considers the ideas of a host of contemporary urbanists, including Manuel Castells, Michael Dear, Herbert Gans, Jane Jacobs, Henri Lefebvre, Lyn Lofland, John Logan, Kevin Lynch, Harvey Molotch, Allen Scott, Edward Soja, Michael Sorkin, Richard Child Hill, and Kuniko Fujita.
Yet, as this string of well-known names suggests, urban studies rests on research and theory developed within many disciplines. Cities and Urban Life, therefore, is truly a multidisciplinary text that draws together the work of historians (Chapter 2: “Evolution of the World’s Cities,” and Chapter 3: “Development of North American Cities”), sociologists (Chapter 4: “Today’s Cities and Suburbs,” Chapter 5: “Urban Sociology: Classic and Modern Statements,” Chapter 10: “Stratification and Social Class: Urban and Suburban Lifestyles,” Chapter 11: “Race, Ethnicity, and Gender: Urban Diversity,” and Chapter
12: “Housing, Education, Crime: Confronting Urban Problems”), geographers and urban ecologists (Chapter 6: “Spatial Perspectives: Making Sense of Space”), critical urban theorists working within various disciplines (Chapter 7: “Critical Urban Sociology: The City and Capitalism”), social psychologists (Chapter 8: “The Context of Cities”), anthropologists (Chapter 9: “Comparative Urbanism: The City and Culture,” and Chapter 13: “Global Urbanization”), and architects as well as city planners (Chapter 14: “Urban Planning: Past, Present, and Future”).
The Organization of this Text Part I of the text, “Understanding the City: Its Evolution,” introduces the main concepts and themes that resonate throughout the book; surveys the historical development of cities, noting how urban life has often differed in striking ways from the contemporary patterns we take for granted (Chapters 2 and 3); and examines the current trends of sprawl, edge cities, and gated communities now shaping cities and suburbs (Chapter 4). Part II, “Disciplinary Perspectives,” highlights the various disciplinary orientations that, together, have so advanced our understanding of cities (Chapters 5–9). Part III, “The Structure of the City,” focuses on the social organization of today’s cities in North America, highlighting how urban living reflects the importance of stratification and social class (Chapter 10) and
of race, ethnicity, and gender (Chapter 11), as well as forcing us to confront vexing problems such as housing, education, and crime (Chapter 12).
Part IV, “Global Urban Developments,” offers a look at urbanization in the major world regions: Africa, Asian, Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe (Chapter 13). It is in these first four areas of the world that urbanization is now most rapid, with cities reaching unprecedented size.
Finally, Chapter 14 examines the architectural, social, and political dimensions of urban planning and discusses approaches to help cities achieve their potential for improving everyone’s lives.
Four Key Themes
This attempt to tell the urban story will lead us to consider a wide range of issues and to confront countless questions. Four main themes guide this exploration, however, and it is useful to make these explicit. Whatever else a student entering the field of urban studies might learn, he or she must pay attention to these themes:
1. Cities and urban life vary according to time and place. Since the idea of the city first came to our ancestors some 10,000 years ago, the urban scene has been re-created time and again, all around the world, in countless ways. The authors—informed by their own travels to some 70 of the world’s nations— have labored to portray this remarkable diversity throughout this text.
2. Cities reflect and intensify society and culture.
Although cities vary in striking ways, everywhere, they stand as physical symbols of human civilization. For example, nowhere do we perceive the inward-looking world of the Middle Ages better than in the walled cities of that era. Similarly, modern U.S. cities are powerful statements about the contemporary forces of industrial capitalism.
3. Cities reveal the best and the worst about the human condition. Another way to “read” cities is as testimony to the achievements and failings of a way of life. Thus, while New York boasts some spectacular architecture, exciting public parks, vital art galleries, and vibrant concert halls, it also forces us to confront chronic prejudice and wrenching poverty.
4. Cities offer the promise—but not always the reality—of a better life. Since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, people have recognized that the city holds the promise of living “the good life.” Yet all urban places fall short of this ideal in some ways, and in many of today’s cities, people are struggling valiantly simply to survive. The great promise of urban living, coupled with the daunting problems of
actual cities, provokes us to ask how we can intentionally and thoughtfully make urban places better. Although we are realistic about the problems, we remain optimistic about the possibilities.