Wirth’s Ideal Model City Evaluation
The problem of the city planning remains throughout the human history because it consists of the opposition between the spontaneous and planned development. Undoubtedly, the administration may design various community projects in order to improve urban life. However, it is also possible to allow a city to change according to the hidden causes and laws of spontaneous development. In the past, the models proposed by philosophers and thinkers should have increased the effectiveness of a city. Unfortunately, their concepts were mainly based on the abstract theories which rarely related to the real life. Later, the elements of city planning became more useful because they correlated with the notions of spontaneous development. Besides, with the appearance of sociology that started a research of social issues and relations, the planning of an effective city had gained a possibility to improve. The proper use of data gathered during the extensive research of different societies and elaborated by the comprehensive scientific methods differed from simple theorization of the philosophers. Unfortunately, they usually provided the unreal image of ideal societies and cities. Thus, sociology allowed to collect relevant information concerning the development of different aspects of life in the city. Moreover, social studies enabled city planners to receive results required to design the common rules and characteristics of urban life. It means that sociologists were able to create genuinely effective cities. For example, Louis Wirth, one of the leading American urban sociologist, published Urbanism as a Way of Life where he presented an ideal city model that should appear because of the major social and economic transformations in the world. Indeed, he made an interesting and well-organized model, but he did not evaluate correctly the role of technology in human life. He forgot to mention that even in a mechanized society people could remain spontaneous.
Wirth’s Ideal Model City
In Urbanism as a Way of Life, Louis Wirth tried to reconsider the main tenets of urbanism as one of the main developmental processes of civilization (1938). Due to the sociologist, the concept of the city means the summit of the social development. In the article, Wirth asserted that every society tends to realize its urban potency. He also mentioned that three main characteristics determine the level of a social urbanization, namely the number of population, density, and heterogeneity. Every quality consists of three stages that correspond to their realization. Thus, Wirth’s ideal city model should possess these characteristics if citizens want to reach the highest level of urban prosperity. In other words, the ideal city has an active population of high density and heterogeneity (Wirth, 1938). The last principle means that people should unite their personalities in order to accept the common identity of a city they live in. While improving the qualities, the citizens should replace their interpersonal relationships with those determined by the industrial needs of the city because the main two branches of urban life are industry and trade (Wirth, 1938). It means that Wirth considered that the citizens of highly urbanized centers would become alienated from the natural world and prefer the artificial substitutes of that. All the characteristics of ideal city model proposed by Wirth followed the mechanization of human life. Analyzing the concepts offered by Wirth, it is extremely important to understand that he considered that the neglecting of kinships and other related traditions should increase the integrity within community and turn it into the urbanized entity.
The Weaknesses of Wirth’s Model
The ideas of Louis Wirth become a theory that describes the aspects of industrialization and commercialization in the city development. Besides, modern sociological findings oppose his theory. In fact, Wirth made theoretical reductionism and focused on the undoubted prevalence of a city over any other form of social organization. For example, Cairo and Mumbai demonstrate the limitations of Wirth’s concepts. Both cities are extremely large and industrially developed. Thus, they could be internally unified in accordance with Wirth’s theory. However, the situation is completely different in these cities. Thus, the citizens should daily combat severe poverty in Mumbai where a typical house “is a dilapidated, one-room rental dwelling that crams a household of six people into 15 square meters; the latrine is usually shared with six other families” (Davis, 2006). In Cairo, poor people capture graveyards in order to be able to bury their relatives. Davis claims that “since 1970 the larger share of world urban population growth has been absorbed by slum communities on the periphery of Third World cities” (2006). In other words, the poor live in the neighborhood of large cities. Tacke, Oldham, and Shorter also underline that modern urbanized cities do not have integrity because the citizens cannot become a unified community and coexist if they belong to minorities (2006). Thus, the theory of Wirth cannot be coherent because the integration is not expected within society as people often adopt opposing lifestyles and pursue various dreams. His research does not demonstrate alternative influences of the urban formation. Another good example of Wirth’s mistake is the statement of Stauth that in Al-Gamaliya, the aluminum workers rely mostly on their kinships (1991). However, according to Wirth, the relationships with relatives are inferior to the connection between the citizens (1938). Thus, having offered an industrial and commercial model of city planning, Wirth made certain mistakes because of his urban reductionism.
The analysis of Wirth’s approach proves that the sociologist introduced only a single option of perfect urban life. Despite Wirth’s attempt to explain the development of the cities via three main qualities, he did not manage to interpret the urbanism which, in fact, consists of much more qualities. As a result, the Wirth’s model of a city could be successful only if three notions function together. He explained that city could develop when people unite to increase the main characteristics of a city. Thus, the number of active population, density, and heterogeneity define the city life. However, when they are not well developed, a city will encounter many problems. The sociologist believed that industrial and economic success defines the prosperity of the city. The statement is negated by the examples of Cairo and Mumbai. Both cities are industrial and economic centers, but their citizens live in slums. This fact totally contradicts the qualities proposed by Wirth. Moreover, poverty demonstrates that the model of Wirth did not correspond to the real life because people are not mechanisms. In fact, they cannot live in a city in accordance with the general plan proposed by the scientists who only research the theory of life. It means that even if a city increases its economic growth, it will still contain negative sides which represent poverty and illiteracy of its citizens. Thus, the general rules and ideal city models cannot correlate to the real life. The reason is the inability to describe fully any real phenomenon because of human innate quality to change mind unexpectedly. The parts cannot be simply included into the general plan. The slums of Cairo and Mumbai serve as the bright examples of such limitations of any descriptive model. Consequently, the ideal city is not a representation of theories and plans. It becomes perfect when people can achieve harmony and find a balance between different aspects of urban life.