For today’s class we discussed the response to the conditions created by industrialization in London and the response in Paris, how it was different and similar.
We began our discussion by summarizing Ferdinand Töennies article. He saw the creation of an unstable social system and the role of the state as a coercive mechanism for cohesion. We discussed the shift from a Gemeinschaft to a Gesellschaft, the dissolution of traditional ties and norms replaced by self-interests leading to an inherently unstable condition.
We then went on to discuss the role of self-interest in regards to poverty in London. The middle and upper classes in London owned the means of production and the lower classes made up the main portion of the working class. This division of classes led Töennies to become afraid of where industrialization was leading society.
Töennies is ‘building’ on the ideas of Marx and Engles in regards to industrialization. Töennies was not against industrialization but supports the benefits of industrialization in terms of the workers. Töennies seeks to give back to the people and focus on society not capitalism and ‘big business’. Thereby the working class owns the means of production (the ability to produce wealth). In summary, Töennies viewed the modern industrial city as exploitation of people. Marx and Engles saw it as de-humanizing conditions that would create the state for revolution.
We later discussed different social scientists views of the city.
- Emile Durkheim – A French social scientist who had a more optimistic approach and disagreed with Töennies. Durkheim disagreed with the idea that in modern industrial societies people rely on self-interest. Durkiem believed the division of labour created a greater interdependence and fostered a better consciousness. Industrialization should increase ties between people, thus he concluded that instead of having increased interconnectedness he identified ‘anomie’ whereby each individual becomes to feel more and more lonely.
- Georg Simmel – a German sociologist, theorized that modern life leads to nervous overstimulation and nervous exhaustion. Intensification of urban stimuli – noise leads to feelings of indifference not caring about anything.
- Max Weber – another German sociologist approved of the city and what the city can do. He views the city as a place of liberty and autonomy that came into being by a way to defend oneself from feudal society.
We also spent time examining the English response to the slums. We discussed that the new residential neighbourhoods would be built on greenfield sites on the edge of counties. The only downsides was the lack of existing infrastructure and transportation into the city. By 1918 the Committee on Housing had met to discuss the building of suburbs on the green fields.
- They concluded that the government had to be the main actor, they couldn’t rely on private enterprise.
- They should build on cheap, undeveloped land near tramways.
- Build a single family house per acre, making sure everyone has their own private lot that separates them from others.
- Lastly, plans for the building needed to be approved by architects and local government.
Lastly, our discussion centered around Paris, specifically Hausmann’s Paris. Following World War I there was a critical housing shortage. Creation of the office of the Habitations à bon Marché (HBM). Following the dismantling of a fortification that was built in 1844, a large amount of green space opened up after World War I. Seeking refuge, the working class built ‘shanty’ towns around the city of Paris. In this zone the HBM built garden cities and created community.