(i) ‘Urban Sociology’ is that branch of sociology which deals with the city or the urban community, with urbanisation and urbanism. – J.A. Quinn
(ii) Urban Sociology is the sociology of urban life and activities.
Urbanisation and Urban Sociology:
The city is not a phenomenon limited to civilised life, for it has existed in some pre- literate cultures. However, the first small urban centres appeared only some 5 to 6 thousand years ago. True urbanisation, however, is much more recent than that.
The earliest urban centres such as Memphis, Thebes, Babylon, Athens, Rome, Carthage, Pataliputra, Ujjain, were of course, called ‘cities’. But in modern context they would be called “towns”. “They were mere urban islands in a vast sea of rurality”.
‘Urbanisation’ refers to the growth of cities. It also indicates an enormous increase in the size of population in urban centers. “Urbanisation covers the movement of people permanently or temporarily from village to city; it refers to the effect upon village manners of city habits…”
Urbanisation became a world phenomenon only in the 19th century. In 1800 there were only 21 cities in the world each with a population of not less than one lakh. They were all in Europe. By 1950 their number increased to 858 and their total population exceeded 313 million. The populations of the major cities ranged from one million to about twelve million.
The population of New York, Tokyo and Shanghai has already exceeded one crore. Some countries became more urbanised than others. America, England, Germany and Israel became the most urbanised countries of the world. In these countries more than 50 per cent of the people live in towns and cities today. This increase in proportion in cities is what we mean by ‘urbanisation’.
Importance of cities is today widely recognised. But cities are more often studied with ‘moralistic’ rather than ‘scientific’ approach. Some have highlighted the significance of city, past and present, and its dominant role in the building of civilisation.
They have argued that cities have led in the creation of art, advancement of science and the spread of knowledge. They have also stated that without huge cities the modern complex and industrial civilisation could not have developed.
On the contrary, some other scholars have condemned cities ‘as abnormal seed-beds of sin, scepticism, greed, misery, filth and congestion’. The cities are branded as centres of ‘corruption, vice and misery’. They further maintained that “the urban way of life inevitably encourages attitudes of selfish pleasure-seeking, exploitation of one’s fellowmen, and indifference to human suffering.”
Whether in condemnation or in praise, these scholars have implicitly paid great tributes ‘to the human significance of the city’. Although a more detached point of view is emerging, the scientific study and literature on cities are very much lacking.
The Origin of Urban Sociology:
The phenomenal growth of cities or what we call the phenomenon of ‘Urbanisation’ with all its attendant merits and demerits necessitated a systematic and a scientific study of the urban communities of cities. Accordingly was born that branch of sociology called’ Urban Sociology’.
Though studies of cities were made even earlier, urban sociology, as a systematic discipline came into being in the 20th century only. As it is in the case of Rural Sociology, maximum work in the field of Urban Sociology has been done in the specialised fields of urban sociology today.
For example, many books have appeared on classification of towns, citizenship, development of towns, urban environment, social disorganisation in cities, demographic trends, community life and its impact on personality, family, marriage and divorce in cities etc.
Intensive research has also been made regarding the mechanism of social welfare, proper use of leisure, religious, cultural and educational institutions in cities, town planning and rehabilitation and such other topics.