The topic of urban culture for a long time was understudied, as scholars were more attracted to the research questions about politics and the economy. Such imbalance reflects the overall perception of the importance of these topics. Only in recent decades has the urban culture become perceived as something unique and worth of study. For sociologists of the past, cities were viewed as places where economic, political, and social processes were much more dynamic than in villages, for example. Therefore, topics such as economics and politics were easier to study, and many trends and discoveries were made solely through researching life in the city. Still, by the 19th century urban sociology has become its subfield (Monti, Borer, and Macgregor 83).
For instance, the word “bourgeois” can be frequently heard in the discussion of the topics such as the bourgeois revolution or as part of Marxist theory. It refers to a certain social class and can be broadly defined as a middle class. However, the term solely comes from the French language and is translated as a citizen or city dweller. Therefore, the origin of such a broad socio-economic category comes from the urban setting.
Life in the city was constantly evolving, as it offered more diversification, which was reflected in political and economic processes. Chicago’s sociologists, being not content with injustices in the city, adopted new policies, which led to a population boom, attracting immigrants and Americans from rural areas (Monti, Borer, and Macgregor 84). Slowly, city-dwellers were becoming more and more economically independent, which resulted in new behaviors which were interesting to scholars. For example, the financial behavior of city dwellers had a great impact on the economy in general; therefore, it was important to study those research questions first.
Economic independence or even freedom of a larger population had caused the development of new ideas and communities. New forms of political thought had also emerged in the city. It was a fertile environment for the development of new theories as well as provided a ground for the first political campaigns because it was easier to spread the political idea. Hence, politics in the city brought the attention of numerous scholars who saw the potential in studying the dynamics of political ideas in the city.
Finally, politics and economics were connected, and historians studied the causes and effects that each of those sciences had on each other. The links between political ideas and economic well-being are more evident in the city (Monti, Borer, and Macgregor 121). This attracted scholars to such topics, which were in addition influential to the larger picture of life in the country. Capital cities, which had a distinct economic gradation of their largest populations, were especially interesting as the condition of the capital often determined the condition of the country in general.
However, only recently have scholars begun to identify patterns of cities’ culture and the way it contributes to the life in them. Suburbs, towns, and cities became much more populated, as the majority of people in the developed countries started to live there. The culture in each type of city has its characteristics; for example, there are clichés about small towns and cultural stereotypes about life in big cities with a population of millions of people. Therefore, scholars began to include culture in a bigger picture of city life. Research questions about urban culture began to frequent because the economic and political questions were mostly analyzed, and the main discoveries were already made throughout XIX and XX centuries.
Monti, Daniel Joseph, Michael Ian Borer, and Lyn C. Macgregor. Urban People and Places: The Sociology of Cities, Suburbs, and Towns. Sage Publications, 2014.