Urban Studies Research Paper

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Urban studies is the interdisciplinary academic field concerned with understanding cities. Scholars from the social and behavioral science disciplines of history, sociology, geography, economics, political science, and anthropology and the professional field of urban planning have produced most substantive urban studies knowledge. Urban studies scholars primarily use social science research methodologies. They have developed a body of theory about cities. The field of urban studies has its own academic courses and degree programs, professional associations, and scholarly journals.

While cities have attracted scholarly attention for more than two millennia, rapid urbanization during the industrial revolution stimulated the first systematic urban studies research and writing in the nineteenth century. In the early twentieth century urban studies entered academic curricula through programs in urban planning, sociology, and then other social science disciplines. The field grew slowly through the end of the 1950s. The 1960s saw a huge increase in urban studies research, courses, and academic degree programs.

Today urban studies is sometimes pursued in interdisciplinary urban studies programs; sometimes as part of curricula in geography, sociology or other academic disciplines. Urban studies material is taught as part of professional urban planning curricula. There are many niche subfields within urban studies where two or more disciplines or fields intersect. Urban political economy, urban planning history, urban economic geography, and urban political sociology are examples.

1. The Field Of Urban Studies

1.1 Urban Studies, Academic Disciplines, And Professional Fields

The categories into which universities divide human knowledge are ever changing and their boundaries are not clear. Universities usually organize academic disciplines such as sociology and economics separately from professional fields such as urban planning and architecture. Most urban studies material comes from social and behavioral science disciplinary perspectives; some from other humanities, natural sciences, creative arts and elsewhere.

Scholars in the social science disciplines of geography, sociology, economics, anthropology, political science, and history (which is sometimes classified as one of the humanities) have generated most of the urban studies literature. Urban planners, architects, urban designers, and landscape architects have contributed to the field. Journalists like Robert Caro, Neil Peirce, and Joel Garreau have written important urban studies books, as have self-taught polymaths like Jane Jacobs and Lewis Mumford. Key writings by scholars for different disciplines have been collected in an anthology edited by Richard LeGates and Frederic Stout (LeGates and Stout 1999).

Since the object of study is so large and the perspectives that can and have been brought to bear on it so diverse, the boundaries of the field of urban studies are harder to define than disciplines such as paleontology and botany. The field is partly descriptive—seeking to describe the physical form and social characteristics of cities. It is partly explanatory— concerned with explaining physical and social attributes of cities. Description and explanation lead urban studies scholars into prediction and prescription.

1.2 How Urban Studies Is Organized Within Universities

Sometimes departments or programs in urban studies hire faculty trained in sociology, political science, economics, history, anthropology, urban planning and other disciplines and professional fields to teach urban studies courses. Often they have relationships with faculty-based disciplinary departments. For example, an urban studies program which does not have an urban economist on its faculty may have an urban economist teach a course for their students.

Urban studies material is part of the curricula of geography, sociology, and other social science disciplines. It is taught in professional urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design programs. Faculty based within disciplines emphasize scholarship from their respective disciplines, but almost all disciplinary-based courses incorporate writings by scholars from other disciplines.

1.3 Urban Studies And Related Degree Programs

Many universities offer BA degrees in urban studies. Brown, Cleveland State, Cornell, Columbia, Hunter, Minnesota, MIT, Pennsylvania, Pittsburg, Rutgers, San Francisco State, Stanford University, and Vassar are examples (Urban Affairs Association 1995). Michigan State, New Orleans, Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan, Portland State, and Temple offer masters degrees in urban studies. Portland State, Michigan State, and the University of New Orleans offer Ph.D. degrees in urban studies.

Many universities offer degrees with names like urban studies and planning, urban affairs, and metropolitan affairs. Graduate urban planning programs at MIT, Portland State, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Maryland and elsewhere offer masters degrees through departments of urban studies and planning (ACSP 1998).

Two academic associations organize conferences, set standards, publish academic journals, and work to advance scholarship in urban studies. In North America the Urban Affairs Association (UAA) has an annual meeting, publishes the Journal of Urban Affairs and a newsletter, and has published a Guide To Programs in Urban Studies and Affairs (UAA 1995). A European counterpart organization, the European Urban Research Association (EURA), was created in 1998.

The American Planning Association Journal in North America, the Town Planning Review in the UK, The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, the journal Urban Studies, and many more specialized journals publish scholarly urban studies material.

1.4 Urban Studies Research Methodology

Urban studies scholars employ both quantitative and qualitative research methods, primarily from the social sciences. Scholarly writing about how to do urban studies research is sometimes explicit; often implicit in the methodologies urban studies scholars have actually employed in their research.

Training in applied statistics is a regular part of most urban studies curricula. Urban studies students are trained to use computerized statistical packages to do quantitative analysis. Because many urban phenomena have a spatial dimension geographical information systems (GIS) software is increasingly important in urban studies education and practice.

Urban studies scholars also employ qualitative methods. William Whyte’s study of how people use urban parks and plazas is a notable example of observation. Urban anthropologist Oscar Lewis conducted exhaustive field research. Sam Bass Warner did archival research on the records of ordinary developers of ordinary Boston streetcar suburbs. Planner John Forester conducted interviews of dozens of urban planners to understand planning in the face of conflict. Urban studies research often employs both quantitative and qualitative research methods to triangulate on the object of study.

2. The Evolution Of Urban Studies

While scholars have studied, thought, and written about cities for more than two millennia, systematic studies of cities did not begin until the nineteenth century. Academic recognition of the field occurred only in the twentieth century, and most urban studies scholarship has taken place since 1960.

2.1 Early Urban Studies

Cities have excited the interest of scholars since the earliest times. In The Republic, the Greek philosopher Plato envisioned the ideal polis in the fourth century BCE. The Roman architect Vitruvius formulated principles for planning cities. Monks worked out a detailed plan for the physical and social organization of the monastery of St. Gall, Switzerland, and by extension other mediaeval communities, in the eighth century AD. Florentine architect Leon Battista Alberti reminded his peers of what cities could contribute to the rebirth of humanism during the renaissance.

2.2 The Industrial Revolution, Nineteenth Century Industrial Cities, And Urban Studies

Prior to the industrial revolution there were few cities and—with the exception of imperial Rome—cities were very small. As waterand then steam-driven machinery fueled the industrial revolution, urbanization proceeded with unprecedented speed and on a scale never before seen in human history. Industrial cities arose in textile towns of the English midlands, then through much of Europe and North America. By the middle of the nineteenth century unplanned, congested, polluted slums jammed with a new impoverished urban proletariat dominated nineteenth century industrial cities. Friederich Engels, Edwin Booth, and Asa Briggs conducted empirical investigations of nineteenth century cities. Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, and Henry de Rouvreoy, SaintSimon and their followers planned, and sometimes built, utopian communities. Anarchist Petr Kropotkin agitated for cities built around factories in fields to replace the nation state. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels called for the liberation of the urban proletariat and the elimination of distinctions between city and countryside. Landscape architects Andrew Jackson Downey and Frederick Law Olmsted led an urban parks movement. German land economists Johann Heinrich von Thunen and August Losch developed models that blossomed into twentieth century location theory. German sociologists Ferdinand Tonnies and Max Weber and French sociologist Emile Durkheim developed theories of societal organization that prefigured urban sociology. Civil engineers like Baron Haussman in Paris and Alberto Soria y Mata in Madrid, public health officials like Benjamin Ward Richardson in London, and settlement house workers like Jane Adams in Chicago studied, theorized about, and agitated for the improvement of nineteenth century industrial cities. But it was not until the twentieth century that academic courses and degree programs in urban studies were created.

2.3 Academic Urban Studies In The Twentieth Century

The University of Liverpool in England and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States began the first formal courses devoted to cities (Hall 1996). Liverpool established a degree program in town and country planning in 1909 and MIT instituted a course taught by urban planner Thomas Adams the same year. These courses emphasized physical planning and design, but, fortunately, both Thomas Adams at MIT, and Stanley Adshead and Patrick Abercrombie at Liverpool were well-read interdisciplinary academics who incorporated historical, economic, social, and political material into their urban planning courses, textbooks, and academic writings.

Systematic research and urban studies teaching took a giant leap forward beginning a decade later when the University of Chicago created the world’s leading center of urban sociology starting in the 1920s. The Chicago school of sociology attracted creative and talented scholars who used neighborhoods surrounding the campus to study urban society. They developed the field of urban sociology and inspired development of the urban studies content of other disciplines.

Coursework with cities as the unit of analysis slowly penetrated other social science disciplines and the number of urban planning programs grew during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Still, by the end of 1950s, there were only a handful of courses in urban politics, urban history, and urban anthropology, not one text in urban economics, and just a few dozen small design oriented urban planning programs in the entire world.

Ghetto riots, and a massive increase in federal aid to cities in the United States in the 1960s greatly expanded urban studies. The 1960s saw works by Lewis Mumford in urban history (Mumford 1961), Oscar Lewis in urban anthropology, Edward Banfield in urban politics, Herbert Gans (Gans 1962) in urban sociology, and Wilbur Thomson in urban economics. Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a best seller. Discipline-based and interdisciplinary urban studies courses proliferated during the 1960s and early 1970s and many of today’s academic urban studies programs were created at that time.

3. Core Urban Studies Concerns

Following is a list of 12 core concerns in the field of urban studies. Notable scholars and key scholarship in each area are discussed.

3.1 The Evolution Of Cities

Historians have made the greatest contribution to understanding the evolution of cities. They have been joined by archeologists, geographers, political scientists, economists, architects, and other scholars.

Archaeologist V. Gordon Childe in Mesopotamia, Mortimer Wheeler in the Indus River Valley, James Mellaart in Antolia, and Dame Kathleen Kenyon in Israel excavated Ur in present day Iraq, MohenjoDaro and Harrapa in Pakistan and India, Catal Huyuk in Turkey, and Jericho in Israel. These scholars developed descriptions of what the earliest cities were like and conflicting theories of why they arose.

Historians have approached the study of cities from many different perspectives. Raymond Mohl (Mohl 1997) has proposed an 11-category typology of American urban history which provides a useful introduction to all historical urban studies. Mohl’s categories are: urban political history, suburbanization, city and region, sunbelt cities, technology and the city, planning and housing, the urban working class, immigration and ethnicity, African-American urban history, urban policy history, and urban culture.

Urban planners such as John Reps (Reps 1965), Eugenie Birch, Christine Boyer, and Mellior Scott in the United States and Sir Peter Hall and Steven Ward in England have developed the subfield of urban planning history. They have been joined by historians Carl Abbot, Mary Corbin, Christopher Silver, William H. Wilson, David Schuyler, and Stanley Buder, geographer Jay Vance, architectural historian Spiro Kostof (Kostof 1991) and many others studying topics as varied as the building of Athens, Michaelangelo’s work in renaissance Rome, Baron Hausmann’s rebuild of Paris in the mid-nineteenth century, city beautiful planning for early twentieth century Chicago, and the vision and reality of planned garden cities.

3.2 Urban Culture

Cities have always been centers of both high and low culture. Historian Arnold Toynbee, geographer planner Peter Hall (Hall 1998), polymath Lewis Mumford and many others have studied urban culture.

Greek drama, poetry, art, and sculpture flourished in Athens in the fifth century BCE. Imperial Rome produced both culture for elites and gladiatorial spectacles for the masses. Florence was an incubator of renaissance art, architecture, sculpture, poetry, and literature. Elizabethan London generated the theaters and dramatic troops that made Shakespeare’s plays possible.

Lewis Mumford pioneered the study of urban culture in the late 1930s in The Culture of Cities (Mumford 1938). Historians Warren I. Susman, Gunther Barth, Neil Harris, and others have studied the history of urban culture. Richard Sennett has collected studies of urban culture by sociologists, geographers, and others (Sennett 1969).

The dominant strand in current culture studies of cities is postmodernism. Geographers David Harvey and Edward Soja, sociologist Sharon Zukin, social critic Mike Davis and many other scholars are fascinated and often horrified by the clash of cultures and values most manifest in contemporary cities.

3.3 Urban Society

The Chicago school of sociology encouraged faculty and students to study Blacks in Bronzeville, prostitutes in the Gold Coast, hobos, polish peasants, gangs, and many other Chicago groups. Urban ethnographies— detailed field research on urban subcultures continue this tradition. Anthropologist Elliot Liebow’s poignant descriptions of poor, black streetcorner men and homeless women are exemplary of this tradition.

Another urban studies concern is with how rural migrants adapt to city settings. There are many studies of urban immigration, acculturation, and assimilation such as Oscar Handlin’s studies of the Boston Irish and Ron Takaki’s studies of Asian immigrants to the West coast of the United States. Chicago school sociologists pioneered urban ecology to describe the structure and processes of urban ethnic neighborhood change, and the study of urban ecology continues (Berry and Kasarda 1977).

Problems of poverty are central to urban studies. Anthropologist Oscar Lewis’ controversial theory that a distinct culture of poverty exists stimulated scholarly debate in the 1960s and 1970s. Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson’s studies of the urban under- class continue the debate.

Yale Professor Dolores Hayen and sociologists Lynn Lofland and Janet AbuLughod study the way in which humans use public space. Anthropologists and sociologists have studied the way in which human beings use the space around them. Edward T. Hall studied how people respond to intrusions into their space. Robert Sommers has observed behavioral aspects of how people use the space in such diverse settings as prisons, airports, and jury rooms. These behavioral and social science studies provide guidance to planners and designers.

Another enduring concern in urban studies is the nature of community. Emile Durkheim and Fernand Tonnies regretted a loss of community in large, impersonal nineteenth century cities. Louis Wirth concluded that big-city life created a distinct—and not very attractive—human personality type (Wirth 1938). Other social scientists have identified positive net- works and supportive communities within cities. For example, sociologists Herbert Gans (Gans 1962) characterized Boston’s West End as an urban village where migrants from southern Italy retained many of the relationships and folkways of their villages of origin. Michael Young and Peter Willmott’s classic study of family and kinship in East London found positive networks in a London slum and far less community in new housing estates built for the relocated slum dwellers. The nature of community is one strand in the large and growing urban studies literature on suburbia by scholars such as historian Kenneth Jackson, political scientist Robert Wood, and sociologist Mark Baldassare.

3.4 Urban Politics And Governance

The study of how cities are governed is a central concern for political scientists. A recent review of the literature on how to study urban politics by New York University political scientist John Mollenkopf summarizes the evolution and current status of the subfield of urban politics (Mollenkopf 1992).

Historians like Amy Bridges, Leo Hershkowitz, and Martin Schefter have provided historical studies of urban political bosses and political machines. Samuel Hayes and Roy Lubove, have studied urban progressives and reformers. Economist James O’Connor, geographer David Gordon, social work professor Francis Fox Piven and other urban political economists have brought Marxist and related critical theory to bear on understanding urban politics. Public choice theorists—mainly based on economics—have developed theories about how local governments do (and should) make the economic decisions that constitute the core of urban governance. Scholars like David Osborne and Ted Gaebler from public administration study how cities are (and should be) managed. Journalist Robert Caro won a Pulitzer prize for his monumental study of Robert Moses and the politics of planning the twentieth century New York region.

Sociologist Floyd Hunter and political scientist Robert Dahl in classic studies of governance in Atlanta, Georgia and New Haven, Connecticut developed elitist and pluralist models of urban community power respectively. Other pluralists like Edward Banfield, Herbert Kaufman, Martin Meyersen, Wallace Sayre, and Douglas Yates conflict with Peter Bachrach, Morton Baratz, John Manley, William G. Domhoff and other theorists who continue to advance elitist explanations of community power.

Marxist political theorists like political scientists Ira Katznelsen, William Tabb, and David Gordon, economist James O’Connor, and French geographer Henri Lefebre posit structuralist theories of urban political power. Structuralist interpretations argue that underlying economic and class relationships pre-determine most of what is important to decide at the city level. Structuralists see city governments as unable to control national and international capitalist forces. For them, urban politics is largely irrelevant.

Regime theory is an approach to studying community power, developed by Political Scientist Clarence Stone. Stone, Frank R. Baumgartner, Richard DeLeon, Steven Elkin, Brian D. Jones, Gerry Stoker, and other regime theorists conclude that complex, public/private regimes involve not only local elected officials, but also people involved in business, church leaders, unions, the media, and other interest groups. Regime theorists do not deny the structural constraints local governments face, but they argue that complex, shifting public private regimes are important to local political outcomes.

3.5 Urban Economics, Urban Public Finance, And Regional Science

The economics of cities is primarily the province of economists. Since Wilbur Thomson’s Preface to Urban Economics urban economics has been recognized as a subfield of economics. Economic base theory, input– output analysis, location theory and other constructs as well as numerous studies of specific city economies enrich scholarly understanding of cities.

Economic geographers have studied the production and exchange of goods within and between cities. Historians interested in both economics and cities— like Belgian historian Henri Pierenne and French historian Fernand Braudel—have developed the subfield of urban economic history and have illuminated the relationship of capitalist institutions and trade to the rise of cities.

Two other interdisciplinary subfields closely related to economics help inform urban studies. Urban public finance is sometimes taught in economics departments; sometimes is business schools. It contributes to an understanding of how local governments raise revenue and the nature of their expenditures. The subfield of regional science includes economists, geographers, and others who study regions rather than cities. Regional scientists generally employ quantitative methodologies. They have their own professional associations and scholarly journal.

3.6 Urban And Metropolitan Space And City Systems

Another core area of concern in urban studies is the physical organization of cities and regions and relationship among cities. This work is often classified into studies of the internal structure of cities and studies of systems of cities. Geographers are particularly interested in these issues, but sociologist Ernest W. Burgess and economist Homer Hoyt originally did pioneering work on the internal structure of cities. Writings about the internal structure of cities have been collected in an anthology edited by University of Toronto geographer Larry Bourne (Bourne 1982).

German geographer Walter Christaller’s careful studies of the size and function of settlements in southern Germany during the 1930s caused him to formulate central place theory—a unified explanation of the way in which cities of different sizes are related to each other in a distinct hierarchy or system (Christaller 1993). Christaller’s work led to many empirical studies of systems of cities. University of Toronto geographers Larry S. Bourne and J. W. Simmons have collected systems of cities studies (Bourne and Simmons 1978).

3.7 Mega Cities And Global City Systems

The rise of enormous cities with populations of 10 million or more people has captured the attention of urban studies scholars. So have the increasingly integrated world economic system and the close connections between cities and regions around the globe.

One strand of research and writing concerns the rise of mega cities by Janet AbuLughod, Manual Castells, Susan Fainstein, Peter Hall, Alan Gilbert, John Kasarda, Fuchen Lo, Janice Perlman, Saskia Sassen (Sassen 1994), Yue-man Yeung and authors of UN-commissioned city-specific mega city studies. The nature, causes, and appropriate policy response to mega cities is particularly important in Asia and South America, where most of the mega cities are emerging.

A related area concerns development of huge urbanized regions—what Scottish biologist Patrick Geddes in the early twentieth century termed conurbations and French geographer Jean Gottman in a study of the eastern seaboard of the United States named megalopolis.

A third area of inquiry involves the increasingly close relationship among cities caused by economic and political integration and by information technology. Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells uses the term informational city to describe advanced cities today and the term network society to describe the current global system in which information-rich multi-national corporations are increasingly beyond the control of city government, citizens, and even nation states. University of Chicago and London School of Economics, urban planning professor Saskia Sassen (Sassen 1994) has documented the current global system of cities.

3.8 Technology And Cities

A number of urban studies scholars are interested in aspects of technology in cities. Transportation has received the most attention, but public infrastructure has also been of interest. The impact of the Internet and other information technologies on cities is attracting increasing attention and promises to be even more important in the twenty-first century.

There is a large literature on the impact of transportation technology on cities. Historians like Sam Bass Warner, Charles W. Cheape, and Clifton Hood have documented the way in which the electric streetcar directly affected first the spatial structure of cities and metropolitan regions and, as a consequence, their social and economic structure. Mark S. Foster, William Issel, Kenneth Jackson, Clay McShane, Mark H. Rose, and others have studied the impact of automobiles on the rise of suburbia. They are interested in public policy regarding freeways and automobiles and its impact on urban and regional physical form, social structure, and culture. Policy analysts and planners like Anthony Downs and Robert Cervero write about transportation policy and planning issues.

3.9 Urban Planning, Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, And Architecture

Urban studies overlaps the professional fields of urban planning, urban design, architecture, and landscape architecture. Writings about cities and urban planning have been collected by Jay Stein (Stein 1995).

Professors of urban planning in departments that belong to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) in North America, the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), and the Asian Planning Schools Association (APSA) study cities in order to help plan them. Twentieth century land use planning books by Patrick Abercrombie, Thomas Adams, Alan Altschuler, Edward Bassett, F. Stuart Chapin, Anthony Catanese, Barry Cullingworth, Alexander Garvin, Peter Hall, Jack Kent, John M. Levy, Edward J. Kaiser, David Gotschalk, and James C. Snyder combine material related to geography, economics, politics, sociology, and the design professions with applied material on plan preparation.

Ever since nineteenth century Austrian architect Camillo Sitte derived urban design principles from his careful observation of public spaces in European cities and how people use them, urban designers have been close observers of city space and contributors to urban studies. Kevin Lynch blended history, sociology, psychology, and humanistic material in The Image of the City (Lynch 1961). Sociologist William Whyte’s studies of urban park and plaza design, planner Allan Jacobs’ studies of great streets, Spiro Kostoff’s studies of urban form (Kostoff 1991) and works by urban designers Edmund Bacon, Gary Hack, Clare Cooper Marcus, Wendy Sarkissian and other design scholar practitioners have made major contributions to the field of urban studies.

Ever since the pioneering work of Frederick Law Olmsted in the nineteenth century, landscape architects have contributed to understanding the relationship between the natural and built environments. Systematic study of how to plan human settlements in harmony with the natural environment were pioneered by Scottish biologist Patrick Geddes before World War I and revitalized by Scottish landscape architect Ian McHarg’s approach to design with nature in the 1960s. This approach resonates with advocates of ecological design, sustainable urban development, and the new urbanism today.

Architects like Frank Lloyd Wright in the USA, Raymond Unwin in England, and LeCorbusier in France moved far beyond design of individual structures to think and write about the design of entire communities and of society itself. Peter Calthorpe, Andres Duany, Peter Katz, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Daniel Solomon, Sim Van der Ryn, and other new urbanists have made notable contributions to the field of urban studies. Key new urbanist writings have been collected in a recent anthology (Katz 1994).

3.10 Race, Ethnic, And Gender Relations In Cities

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois’ 1899 study of the Philadelphia Negro began a tradition of studies by African-American scholars about urban black society. Horace R Cayton, Kenneth Clark, St Clair Drake, E. Franklin Frazier, and William Julius Wilson have continued that tradition.

Historian Oscar Handlin, political scientist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and sociologist Nathan Glazer’s early studies of the urban experience of Irish and Jewish immigrants to cities on the East Coast of America have been followed by many studies of Irish, Jewish, central European, southern European and other ethnic groups in cities. Studies of the urban immigrant experience of Asians and Hispanics are now appearing. Ron Takaki’s study of Asian immigrants and writings by and about Latino barrios edited by Joan Moore and Raquel Pinderhughes (Moore and Pinderhughes 1993) are important contributions to urban studies.

Sociologists, anthropologists, historians, planners, and women’s studies scholars are generating an interdisciplinary literature about women in cities. Yale professor Dolores Hayden pioneered this subfield with studies on the relationship between gender, work roles and the built environment highly critical of the malebuilt environment. Eugenie Birch, Ann Forsyth, Jacqueline Leavitt, Lynn Lofland, Claire Cooper Markus, Ann Markusen, Risa Palm, Marsha Ritzdorf, Leonie Sandercock, Wendy Sarkissian, Catherine Simpson, Daphne Spain, and others have helped inject feminist concerns into urban studies and planning. Writings about women in cities have been collected into an anthology (Stimpson et al. 1980).

3.11 Urban Issues And Policy

Urban studies is also concerned with urban issues and policy. It was poverty, overcrowding, congestion, disease, crime, vice, and other urban problems that inspired many nineteenth century studies. Urban pathology was a concern of the Chicago school of sociology. The focus on urban problems dominated urban studies after the ghetto riots of the 1960s.

Current urban studies curricula have broadened the urban problems orientation to also consider community assets and strengths. Today applied coursework in urban studies programs balances studies of positive neighboring contributions, and potential of urban community development with the study of racism, poverty, crime, and other enduring urban problems.

Most urban studies programs include applied coursework in policy areas such as land use, housing, community development, environment, transportation, and economic development. Some have coursework on crime, health, homelessness, education, welfare and other policy areas. A tiny sampling of urban studies scholars with applied interests include John DeGrove (land use), Anthony Downs (housing), Sim Van der Ryn (the environment), Robert Cervero (transportation), Michael Porter (economic development), James Q. Wilson (crime), Leonard Duhl (health), Talmadge Wright (homelessness), James Coleman (education), and Francis Piven (welfare).

3.12 Urban Futurism

A final strand in urban studies is reflection on probable, possible, and desirable urban futures. Virtually all demographers anticipate massive population growth and continuing urbanization—particularly in the third world. There will be more congestion, sprawl, pollution, exhaustion of natural resources, and proliferation of megacities and vast urban conurbations unless governments intervene to plan and regulate city development far more strictly than they have ever done in the past.

Studies of sprawl and ex-urban development raise the possibility that the rate of growth in cities may slow or even that counter urbanization may occur in the future—at least in the developed world. Some writers believe information technologies will make cities unnecessary and a few even predict a withering away of cities, though there is no evidence that this is occurring.

In addition to prediction, urban futurists have formulated different normative visions for alternative urban futures. Ebenezer Howard (Howard 1898), Patrick Geddes, Lewis Mumford, and Raymond Unwin opposed further growth of large cities and proposed systems of human-scale garden cities. Frank Lloyd Wright went further and advocated Broadacre city—a neo-Jeffersonian future in which each family would live on an acre. Soviet-era anti-urbanists took Marx’s ideas of eliminating distinctions between the city and the countryside as a call for de-urbanization. Megastructuralists like Le Corbusier and Paolo Soleri took the opposite view. They proposed—and in Soleri’s case are actually building—huge, self-contained structures that would house the human population on a small portion of the Earth’s surface.


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