Urbanisation and Development

Urbanisation refers to the growth of cities, typically involving the movement of populations from rural areas.

The post considers some of the perspectives on urbanisation and development. This topic is relevant to the Global Development option within A-level sociology.

The world is rapidly urbanising

The introduction to the video below provides a nice overview of the process…

Improving the quality of urban life is Sustainable Development Goal number 11.

Modernisation Theory – Urbanisation promotes development

Modernisation Theorists argued that urbanization had an overall positive impact on developing countries. They argued that cities are better environments to promote positive economic and social change compared to the correspondingly ‘backward’ traditional rural (countryside) communities. 

How cities can promote development?

  1. Giving a boost to economic growth – Cities attract Industrial-Capitalists into setting up factories because they give them access to a large pool of labour. The wages paid to factory workers then trickle down to other city services.
  2. Cities can also play a positive role in cultural social change – They encourage the emergence of a new entrepreneurial middle class who aspire to modern lifestyles
  3. Cities also weaken the ties of individuals to families in rural areas which challenges and overcomes the traditional values of collectivism and patriarchy.
  4. Finally, Cities can promote development because it is easier for governments to establish health care and education in areas with dense populations compared to the more dispersed populations found in rural areas.

Dependency Theorists see Urbanisation as primarily benefitting the wealthy.

The last 30 years has seen the emergence of dozens of truly ‘global cities’ – London, Cairo, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai, Rio –globally interconnected via satellite communications and air-transport networks, with exclusive shops, housing and entertainment, but only actually available to the relatively well off – the minority.

Increasing amounts of urban poor work in low-paid service sector jobs, hidden away in sub-standard housing, just about earning a ‘living wage’. Also, an ever increasing amount of developing countries’ economies become oriented to developing infrastructure in the city for the benefit of middle classes, tourists = Olympic and Football stadiums, rather than improving the lives of the majority in the more rural areas.

Dependency Theorists also point out the Modernisation idea of Industrialisation leading to Urbanisation and development is a myth. What actually happens with Urbanisation is that there are too few jobs available for people who flood to new urban centres and huge amounts of unemployed people in slums come to form an urban underclass – which is actually beneficial to TNCs as this enables them to keep the wages of the unemployed low. Marxists like to think that this concentration of masses of disempowered people may have the potential for revolution. Dependency theorists point out that this is unlikely, however, as a lot of state power in the developing world is oriented towards suppressing this potential for revolution.

Problems associated with rapid Urbanisation

There are several problems associated with rapid urbanisation as infrastructure development cannot keep pace with the influx of people. Some of the problems are explored in the video below.

There is also an issue with covid-19: the overcrowding and lack of infrastructure (for hand washing for example) also make it more difficult to combat the spread of Pandemics, such as Covid-19, in slums.

There are also positives of ‘slum living’

Some ‘slums’ involve local people innovating to ensure their areas are liveable in….

This is a brief ‘starter’ post on Urbanisation, many updates to follow!

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