Urban Violence Is not (Necessarily) a Way of Life
AbstractAs the world moves towards its so-called urban ‘tipping point’, urbanization in the global South has increasingly come to be portrayed as the portent of a dystopian future characterized by ever-mounting levels of anarchy and brutality. The association between cities, violence, and disorder is not new, however. In a classic article on ‘Urbanism as a way of life’, Louis Wirth (1938: 23) famously links cities to ‘personal disorganization, mental breakdown, suicide, delinquency, crime, corruption, and disorder’. He does so on the grounds that the urban context constituted a space that naturally generated particular forms of social organization and collective action as a result of three key attributes: population size, density, and heterogeneity. Large numbers lead to a segmentation of human relations, the pre-eminence of secondary over primary social contact, and a utilitarianization of interpersonal relationships. Density produces increased competition, accelerates specialization, and engenders glaring contrasts that accentuate social friction. Heterogeneity induces more ramified and differentiated forms of social stratification, heightened individual mobility, and increased social fluidity. While large numbers, density, and heterogeneity can plausibly be considered universal features of cities, it is much less obvious that they necessarily lead to urban violence. This is a standpoint that is further reinforced by the fact that not all cities around the world – whether rapidly urbanizing or not – are violent, and taking off from Wirth’s characterization of the city, this paper therefore seeks to understand how and why under certain circumstances compact settlements of large numbers of heterogeneous individuals give rise to violence, while in others they don’t, focusing in particular on wider structural factors as seen through the specific lens of urban gang violence.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number UNU-WIDER Working Paper WP2010/20.
Length: 14 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
urbanism; violence; gangs; Chicago School of Sociology; Wirth;
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-04-04 (All new papers)
- NEP-HAP-2010-04-04 (Economics of Happiness)
- NEP-HPE-2010-04-04 (History & Philosophy of Economics)
- NEP-SOC-2010-04-04 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
- NEP-URE-2010-04-04 (Urban & Real Estate Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- B�lent Diken, 2005. "City of God," City, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 307-320, December.
- Gary S. Becker, 1968.
"Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach,"
Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press,
University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
- Gaviria, Alejandro & Pages, Carmen, 2002. "Patterns of crime victimization in Latin American cities," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 181-203, February.
- Paul Collier, 2001. "Implications of ethnic diversity," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 127-166, 04.
- Jo Beall & Sean Fox, 2011. "PD4: mitigating conflict and violence in Africa’s rapidly growing cities," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 41855, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Bruck Tadesse).
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.