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History of Urbanization and Expansion of Cities: The Need for Sustainable Cities

9887 words (40 pages) Dissertation

9th Dec 2019 Dissertation Reference this

Tags: Environmental StudiesHousingSustainability



  1. Background

At the time of very beginning, human beings had always been submerged in the social world. Their relationships were cooperative, long term and had always involved with common sense. After the Industrial Revolution, the way of traditional life style has changed gradually. Societies have shifted in unparalleled ways and formed new collective of complexities that would have never occurred before. Especially, Western countries were transformed and the development of knowledge made changes and altered society at every level. These post-industrial changes impact all societies in positive and negative ways (Giddens, 1989). Global communication and interaction have increased and the world we survive today is very confusing, exciting and contradictory. Technological advancement and knowledge improvement provide more opportunities and improved the living standard of people (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

Industrial revolution and urbanization led a path towards modernization where people started to move out of their villages to industrial areas. This movement from villages to urban and the natural growth in urban areas created enormous cities in the world. If anyone who don’t have the experience of visiting the urban cities encounter a shock after the visit to huge cities in the world. Kingly Davis in 1965 pointed out that more than half of the world population would live in cities in the world. His prediction is absolutely correct and we can find number of cities in all developed and developing countries. The “Command Centres” of world such as Now York, London and Tokyo cities are classical examples of the evolution of cities which have influences beyond their own national territories. Massive transnational and multinational corporations and financial, technological and consulting services have their headquarters in these global cities which is resulted due to the immeasurable advances in the fruition of cities and its services (Giddens & Sutton, 2013, p. 205).

By impending over the world, one can find two types of nations as developed and developing which is based on both economic and social development. Numbers of westernized countries are currently being in the peak level in social and economic development, especially their city life is more comfortable and convenient to the people to lead their life happily and healthy, on the other hand cities in the developing countries are becoming a worst place to live where all the problems are increasing day by day.

The city life provide number of advantages where people find more opportunities to seek progress in their lives; can find job opportunities and making more money, good education for their children, communication facilities, convenience of public transportation, endless entertainment facilities, the quality shopping and restaurants, best medical care, sports and recreation,  and cultural diversification. Though, at the same time many residents in the urban areas and cities find number of issues, social problems, isolation and loneliness in the cities. The pre-industrial societies lived happily with limited resources and opportunities, natural environment and shared characteristics (Rao, 2007). In contrast with village corporative lifestyle, the urban residence and city life is very complex and people find it as an unfriendly place to survive. The contemporary urban life is an interactive phenomenon with strangers. If we live in an urban area we should limit our day today life only with our family environment and there is no connection with other outsiders.

Why should this condition be so? Why the contemporary city life is very different from other living areas today? What had gone wrong with our process of modernization, globalization and westernization? In this context, this paper is going to analyse about “The City” and its development in sociological perspective which gives us an awareness and understanding about the social world. This sociological awareness helps to identify the problems around us which help to initiate good practical policies to enhance the mankind and sustainable city development. This study was based on secondary data which were already published. Books, journals, review reports, magazines, articles and reliable websites were used to get sufficient information. Content analysis method was used for this study to get the needed information. Collected data were summarized and presented in text, table and figure in an appropriate manner which could be easily understandable by the readers.



  1. What is City?

According to geography, the city is defined as an “urban area”, which includes of a core administrative-government centre linked by work movements. The city is considered as a complex system of independent units where exporting and importing goods and services take place. The city is controlled by local politics and benefits by exchanging and accumulating wealth of other areas. These benefits include people, material, services, information, etc. The city has mere bond and connection with other areas which led to maintain the function and evolution of it. Most of the scholars suggest that the cities exist because people find more advantageous and efficient personal, social, and economic relationships. Concentration, accessibility and spatial interaction are the three important factors for the existence of cities (Barcelo, Pelfer & Mandolesi, 2002).

Cities are relatively large forms of human settlement where a wide range of activities are performed. Cities enable the people to become centres of power in relation to distant areas and other smaller settlements. There is no generally agreed definition for city, the following definition is widely accepted and considered as the suitable one to the contemporary world. “The city is an inhabited central place distinct from a town or village by its greater size and by the activities practiced within its boundaries usually religious, military-political, economic, educational and cultural settings. Collectively, these sorts of activities involve the exercise of power over the surrounding countryside”(Jary and Jary, 1999, p.74).  This definition is pretty applicable to big cities in the developed nations like Tokyo, London and New York and less applicable in the situation of smaller cities in the developing nations due to the lack of power and resources within their territories.

City is a bounded space or place where we can see high population and the population density and people have political awareness and permanent residence and culturally they are heterogeneous.  There is no any clear definition to define the city and urban area, some prefer administrative boundaries and some prefer race and some go for political basis characteristics. United Nations define city based on number of population. 60% of the total population of developed nations are currently living in cities and can observe several top skylines and mega cities in the world and this cities are differ from one to another. The city comprises with heterogeneous people where they diversify in socially, psychologically, economically and culturally.  People often differ from each other which could make deeper changes in all aspects of life. The cities exist with high rotation of economy than the other areas of the nation. Complexity is highly evitable in city life. All activities are based on market oriented, infrastructure and social and economic indicators higher in city areas.  At the beginning of 21st century more than 3 billion people live in urban areas around the world. By the 2030 it is expected to increase to more than 5 billion people and it is estimated that 60 percentage of the total population in the world. This will be considered as the first urban century in the world (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006).

  1. Emergence of the City

The origin of cities is not as long as the length of human existence in the world. City is considered relatively a recent innovation to the world. The cities and urban civilizations existed in many parts of the world (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006). The earliest human evolution is believed to have emerged anywhere from 40,000 to 1,000,000 years ago and the first permanent human settlements have begun for about 8000 B.C.E. However, the evolution of first city has developed between 3500 and 3100 B.C.E. According to the sociologists and scholars in the urban field emphasized that, a city could exist or develop along with three preconditions such as a favourable physical environment which means favourable weather and soil conditions that supports for the growth of plants and animals and adequate water facilities. Second one is an advanced technology that supports to produce more in agricultural and non-agricultural goods and services. The third one is a well enhanced social organization which could provide social stability and power to the economic system. Based on the above mentioned three preconditions, the first city is believed to have emerged in the Middle Eastern region of Mesopotamia in 3500 B.C.E. However, some other scholars predicted that the earliest city developed with about 600 people in Jordan at about 8000 B.C.E. The prehistoric cities were not larger by today’s condition and standard of modern cities in the all parts of the world (Kendall, 2014, p. 492).


The cities in the ancient world shared some common characteristics such as high walls that stood as a military defence and separate the urban community from outsiders. The central area of cities has temple, palace, government, commercial buildings and public space. The elite people captured the centre parts of cities and less privileged people lived in the edge or the outside of the city’s boundary walls. Different ethnic communities lived in separate neighbourhoods and arranged their activities and work in their own neighbourhood boundaries. Cities in the ancient era also played a significant role in scientific innovations, art and multi-ethnic culture (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

  1. Reasons behind the Origin of the City

The modern cities are totally different from the ancient cities due to the lack of advancement in all sectors. All scholars were interested to study the process of urbanization. The formation of city was a part of urban revolution that brought special social relations and modern way of life. At the beginning, the people in the ancient civilization did hunting and Gathering for their survival, the shift from the food production or agricultural products to the trade formed a complex of new social life among people. Specialization of work and increased independence of social tasks developed the basis for modern civilization of forming cities (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006).

The process of urbanization and industrialization are other reasons behind the origin and development of cities from the past.  Industrialization and urbanization are the two major and related causes that changed the structure of the society and its environment. Industrialization shifted people away from working in the agricultural setting and urbanization led to larger human settlements that generated new living environments largely divorced from natural things. Urbanization is considered as the movement of population into towns and cities which is away from the countryside based on agricultural livelihood (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

Britain was the first city which underwent industrialization in eighteen century. The urbanization in other European countries and the USA took place later. In 1950, only 30% of the world’s population were urban dwellers then it reached the level of 47% (2.9 billion of people) in 2000. The forecast of future population will reach 60% in 2030 (5 billion people). Today, urbanization is a global phenomenon that has influenced not only the developed nations but also the developing nation. Most of the urbanization is currently happening in developing nations. Urbanization is rapidly increased in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean in the recent past. This process of urbanization highly increased the population in the urban areas which lead to form number of cities in the world (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

  1. Evolution of the City

The emergence of cities is closely associated with a significant historical change, which we call the Neolithic Revolution. This Neolithic Revolution patented the transition of human society from exploiting the livelihood like hunting and gathering to production livelihoods like breeding and cultivating agriculture. It would not be possible without this transformation to attain permanent settlement of people and consequent emergence of the first cities. Early cities arose in number of regions, and considered to have developed for agricultural products and economic activities. The earliest cities were not huge by today’s standard and their arrangements are totally differ. The evolution of cities is classified into major three categories as pre-industrial cities, industrial cities and post-industrial cities according to the massive evolution of cities throughout the history.

  1.      Pre-industrial Cities (Pre-Medieval & Medieval Period)

The largest pre-industrial city was Rome with 650,000 populations.  The nature of ancient cities changed with the fall of Roman Empire in 476 C.E. The pre-industrial cities have arisen naturally as trading centres, though pre-industrial cities served as the collection of political entities and capitalists economies (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006). Max Webber was primarily interested in the role of medieval city. Webber pointed out that; medieval city was “a fusion of fortress and market”. Medieval cities offered an immaculate freedom from all rural obligations. This independence of the city allowed capitalism to grow in the cities. Also pre-industrial cities fell under the control of political and administrative structure and mostly governed by the own laws which separated them from lords’ rule. Cities in the pre-industrial period benefited from trade and commercial activities (Kendall, 2014, p.492-493).

The characteristics of pre-industrial cities are attractive and it clearly describes about the way of city life in the pre-industrial period. Many pre-industrial cities had a great sense of community. People had a set of social relationships operating within given spatial boundaries that gives people with a sense of identity and a feeling of belongingness. People lived with the feeling of community than individual. The pre-industrial cities had people from all walks of life both rich and poor, high and low caste where people felt high level of social integration and attachment in the society. Social relationships were based on personal bonds where people felt a sense of togetherness (Kendall, 2014, p.492-493).

Pre-industrial cities bounded with number of problems too. Pre-industrial cities were constrained with limited in size by a number of factors. The crowded housing condition and lack of adequate sewage facilities increases number of problems and hazards at that time in pre-industrial cities.  Hazards plagues and fires, and death rate were very high in those days in pre-industrial cities. Food supply also limited in the cities where farmers had to work in the fields to grow foods for city residents. People in the pre-industrial cities used animal power to bring foods to the city from villages.  Even though, there was no effective ways of preserving the food item to some extended period of time. Also migration was difficult in cities. Many people were lived as slave and caste system also existed where they were bound to the land in village areas. The transportation facilities also poor where people face difficulties to travel to the cities from rural areas, it would take several weeks to reach the cities thus making financial, physical and psychological barriers to become city dwellers. Therefore, most of the people stayed remain in the outer areas in ancient era (Kendall, 2014, p.492-493).

  1.      Industrial Cities

The industrial revolution changed everything in the society. The inclusion of new industries remodelled the nature of cities in the pre-industrial era. Factories stood up rapidly in all parts of cities.  Technological innovation including new forms of transportation facilities and agricultural products made easier for people to travel to cities. The mode of production shifted from primary agricultural products to secondary production sector as manufacturing new goods to the market. Large industries employed huge number of people and became the focal point of new concentrations of population that were greater than the size of pre-industrial cities. Cities in the industrial were perished with new development in production, communication and consumption (Kendall, 2014, p. 493).

Around the years of 1900, many European cities mushroomed with high population, for instance London population increased from 550,000 to 6.5 million. Industrial revolution also created suburbanization in the industrial era which is a process of moving from cities to suburban areas. During the industrial era, people not only moved from the rural area to cities, some people also shifted their habitats from the cities to the suburbs after the new mode of advanced transportation emerged which made them to getting home to work and work to home easier (Kendall, 2014, p. 493).

Capitalism played a vital role in changing structural and functional adjustment from the medieval city to industrial city. The production of capitalist led to industrialization and the emergence of new kind of cities in the industrial era in 19th century. The capitalism in the industrial cities changed the relationship between Capital and Labour (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006). The lands in the urban areas were not only used for to the human settlement but it also had market value which was bought and sold. Also the capitalism exploited the labour force for their betterment without providing the services like healthy housing and education. Collective consumption started to exist in the era where government bodies gave basic necessities to their citizen to eradicate poverty (Kendall, 2014, p. 493).

  1.      Post-industrial Cities

The ancient world lasted for 3000 years; the pre-industrial era for less than 1000 years and the industrial era for about 100 years. The post-industrial revolution has occurred in recent 25 years and it is rapidly evolving in the developed cities in the world. Post-industrial revolution remodelled the characteristics and behaviour of capitalism and broken down the national territories and boundaries (Savitch, 1998). The post-industrial cities are the continuation of industrial cities and it appears to be different from the industrial city. Large scale of manufacturing, the thrust of new innovating systems and large scale of population growth, physical growth of cities, decline of heavy industries like iron and steel created another way of lifestyle among city dwellers which is simply called as knowledge revolution in cities helped to emerge post-industrial cities in the current competitive world (Shaw, 2001).

The concept of post-industrial city can be easily understood by using the five dimension or components of it. Economic activities are changed from manufacturing sector to service sector, occupation are distributed among the professionals and technical class, theoretical knowledge are used as the input of innovation and policy formulation, the future will be controlled by technology and the innovation of new intellectual technology have the control of decision making (Bell, 1973). The post-industrial cities mostly depends on scientific knowledge rather than industrial production that is dominated by light industries such as software manufacturing, information services, educational investments and world trade centres (Kendall, 2014, p. 494).

The majority of the families do not reside in the central business district of post-industrial cities. Compared with the industrial cities, the technological advancement in transport and communication give great possibility to middle and upper class people to travel and have more work opportunities in the inner cities from distance places. However, this option of living out of the central business district is often not available to low class and caste people. In the world context, New York, Japan and London are the first cities came up with post-industrial features. The people in these cities have the highest number of paid professional workers and fall under the category of the highest income earners. Despite of the advances in post-industrial cities, number of social issues and problems exist in the post-industrial world, like environmental degradation and highway congestion (Kendall, 2014, p. 494).

  1. Global Cities

In the ancient time cities were self-contained entities that grew and stood up against the rural areas in which they located. But today the scenario is different from the past where people are located in the globalized world in where global cities exist in the world. Global city is considered as one group of cities that have come to play an increasingly important part in directing the world economy. World cities controlled the resources to exploit and getting benefits from new way of internationalised economic order in the world system.  These global cities have become detached from national economies in many ways and hardly controlled by outside of the national economies (Shaw, 2001). Globalization stimulated the growth of cities in unexpected way where it has had profound effect on cities. Globalization makes cities more interdependence and encouraging the explosion of horizontal links between them across their own territories. Many older functions of the cities are carried out in the cyber space rather than the own congested urban territories. Globalization is altering the cities into vital hubs within global interaction where cities have become important in coordinating information flows, managing business activities, innovating new technologies and providing services (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

The global cities in the world have been attracting a great deal of attention by all. Global cities are home for the headquarters of the transnational corporation and superabundance of financial, technological and consulting services. Global cities have been served as trade centres and they also comprise four new traits too as being as command post that directs policy making for the global economy, serve as key location for finance, be as the sites of production and innovation and finally they are the markets of buying, selling and disposing the financial and service industrial products (Sassen, 1991). New York, London and Tokyo are the classical examples of high rank global cities which has the control and flow of the world economy. Hong Kong, Singapore, Chicago, Frankfort, Los Angles, Milan, Zurich and Osaka are also serving as major global centres in the world (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

  1. Most Populous Cities in the World

21st century is considered as a milestone of city evolvement and majority of people live in urban environment. According to the latest figures from the United Nations, over 50% of the world’s population currently resides in urban environment. This number is predicted to reach 60% by 2030. 23% of the population lives in cities exceeding the amount of one million in population and specifically 7% of the world’s population lives in megacities with massive settlements. The world highest populated and largest cities fall under the category of “Megacities” with a huge population over 10 million residents. We can find 512 cities and 31 megacities in the world. Not surprisingly, majority of the megacities are found in Global South. China has six megacities, India has five and Japan, Brazil and the United States have 2 megacities in the world. The following table 1 illustrate the world’s largest cities with highest population as follows (World Population Review, 2018).

Table 1: The largest cities in the world with highest population 2018

Rank Name 2018 Population 2017 Population Change
01 Tokyo, Japan 37,468,302 37,397,437 0.19%
02 Delhi, India 28,513,682 27,602,257 3.30%
03 Shanghai, China 25,582,138 24,862,075 2.90%
04 Sao Paulo, Brazil 21,650,181 21,391,624 1.21%
05 Mexico City, USA 21,580,827 21,500,251 0.37%
06 Cairo, Egypt 20,076,002 19,648,312 2.18%
07 Mumbai, India 19,979,955 19,756,049 1.13%
08 Beijing, China 19,617,963 19,210,643 2.12%
09 Dhaka, Bangladesh 19,578,421 18,894,385 3.62%
10 Osaka, Japan 19,281,188 19,289,029 -0.04%

Source: World Population Review, 2018 (http://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/)

Figure 1: Urban centres with more than 10 million inhabitants (2017).

https://news.cnrs.fr/sites/default/files/styles/asset_image_full/public/assets/images/carte_en_anglais.jpg?itok=Gp4yvWjASource: Ever Larger Cities, 2017 (https://news.cnrs.fr/articles/ever-larger-cities)




Urban sociology is the sociological study of social life and social interaction in metropolitan areas. It is considered as one of the disciplines of the sociology that studies about the structures, processes, changes and problems of an urban area with the aim of planning and policy making of sustainable cities in the world (Garg, 2013). Many early sociologists were interested in the study of city and urbanization. The sociologists who studied city did not concentrate on land use, instead they concentrated on social organization, way of city life and socio-psychological impacts on cities (Martin, 1985).

  1. The Founding Fathers and City Life

The contribution of the founding fathers of sociology like Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx and Max Weber is significant in the study of changes in the society that took place after the industrial revolution. Even though, none of these three had studied city as the separate entity in their analysis. They simply focused on the growth of urban institution and way of life as an expression of deeper. Other Earlier sociologists like Ferdinand Tonnies and Georg Simmel closely focused on the sociology of city and tendered to concentrate on the important features of urban change (Martin, 1985, p.18).

  1.      Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

Emily Durkheim viewed society as a collection whole where people interact among all members of the society. Emile Durkheim wrote about the changes brought by the industrialization on his famous book ‘The Division of Labour’ in 1883. He discussed about ‘Social Solidarity’ among the people under the types of ‘Mechanical Solidarity’ and ‘Organic Solidarity’. Durkheim distinguished between the mechanical solidarity of small pre-industrial societies and the organic solidarity of modern industrial societies. In the pre-industrial city, individuals were bounded together by mechanical solidarity, they had face to face relationships, their relationship were highly personal and division of labour is limited, all knew about others, they did a range of tasks rather than specialised one, all knew others rights and privilege and family and religious places had high influence and controlled the society (Martin, 1985). On the other hand, in the industrial city, people were no longer bounded to mechanical solidarity and organic bonds were highly evitable among individuals. Extensive division of labour, impersonal relationship, variety of ethnic group, new sub-cultures, broke down of traditional control; isolation and social disorder were existed in the industrial city. Durkheim finally pointed out that, the new industrial cities replaced the earlier ways of village life and brought industrial economy to the world (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006).

  1.      Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895)

Marx and Engels are similarly criticized about the growth of cities and urbanization. Industrial city is a sign of progress in the form of economic richness and socialism for both of thinkers. They considered it is a step away from backwardness and slavery in where class consciousness is evitable. The raise of city also brought unity and social revolution among the masses who had the awareness about the oppression which brought them together and create a new working class. Engels pointed out that cities are the birthplaces of the labour movements where workers began to fight for their struggles.  Marx and Engels focused more on class struggle and exploitation of the labour class by the capitalist class. Thus for Marx and Engels, the industrial city reflected the features of the capitalist mode of production. The city served as the hub for the new division of labour, new technological innovations and new productions that separated the society into two classes as capitalist and labour. Finally they concluded that, city was the outcome of the effect of capitalism (Martin, 1985).

  1.      Max Webber (1864-1920)

Max Webber’s ‘The City’ published in 1921 is a classic example of the study of medieval Western city. Compared to Durkheim and Marx, Max Webber was the only person among the three who specifically wrote about the City. Though, he didn’t write about the modern industrial city and he focused only about medieval city where he found the features of modern city. The rise of bureaucracy, democracy and the modern government, new merchant class and capitalist enterprises are the key features of the city in the medieval era.  He pointed out that cities played a key role in transition of society from feudalism to capitalism. The city also changed the tradition and brought rationality and efficiency. The cities attracted new social order and administrative structures. Civilisation also occurred due to the individual enterprises. Webber concluded that new order of development in the medieval cities brought great changes in the ancient society where new western capitalism was occurred to control the all aspects of life and he criticized the new industrial cities where the rise of monarchs and nation state and capitalism started the rule the cities (Martin, 1985, p.20)

  1.      Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936)

The German sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies concerned more about the effects of urbanization on the social bonds and community solidarity. Tonnies used the concept of ‘Gemeinshaft’ and ‘Gesellshaft’ to describe about the relationship of traditional society and industrial society respectively. Tonnies by using the concept of Gemeinshaft described about the sense of community where the society had the intimacy of face to face relationship, the sense of social and geographical belongings, honoured tradition under the control of the family and church in the traditional society. On the other hand Gesellshaft talked about impersonal relationship in the industrial society. The people drove with the support of industrial society where relationship was based on profits and calculative. Business ethics played a considerable role in controlling the society. In the traditional society relationship was based on ascribed status but in the industrial society was based on achieved status. According to Tonnies industrialization transformed the societies from community to associaltion. His concepts of Gemainshaft and Gesellshaft differentiate about the village life of the pre-industrial period and city life of the industrial period (Gottdiener & Hutchison, 2006).

  1.      Georg Simmel (1858-1918)

German sociologists George Simmel in his essay on ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ (1903) argued that city life is highly stimulating and its shapes people’s thoughts and actions. The city dwellers are quickly influenced by the generality and pace of the economic relations. City life create unique personality among individuals such as rush, complexity, and calculation of urban life. The relationships among people are based on money. The residents in the urban areas treat people as an object rather than individuals. City life is highly critical because of the intensity. Most of the urban people avoid emotional relationship and involvement with others and try to ignore the closeness of relationship with others. According to Simmel, the relationships in the urban residents are thoroughly based on economical purpose rather than the social. He also attributed that punctuality and exactness are rewarded among city population while friendliness and cooperativeness are considers as weaknesses of individuals (Kendall, 2014, p. 499). However, Simmel did not completely view city life in negative perspective, he also pointed out that urban living can bring liberating effect on people where they escape from traditional control because they surrounded with number of opportunities for betterment of their life, individualism, they can also gain power of autonomy and they can work creatively (Martin, 1985).

  1. The Chicago School and City Life

The contribution of Chicago School thinkers in the field of urban sociology is immeasurable (1916-1940). Robert E. Park, Ernest Burgess and Louis Wirth are the most famous scholars set out and explained about the city life by using ecological models. The Chicago school thinkers argued that spread of urban settlements should be understood in their own context. The ideas that were developed by the three thinkers serve as the basis of studying and making new researches in the field of urban sociology for many years (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

  1.      Robert E. Park (1864-1944)

Robert Park came up with human ecological perspective that focused on the study of the relationship between people and their environment. Park emphasized that economic competition creates certain regularities in land-use patterns and distribution of population. He talked about the process of competition, invasion and succession in accumulating the different segment of zones in the city area. City has become into different zones or area, where people struggle to get their places in each zones (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).  Park also argued that cities changed through a complex interaction of physical and moral forces. Struggle for existence was a key feature of urban settlements, which the strongest individuals and rich people accumulate the most favourable locations and other poor adjusted to live in an unsuitable places. Also Park concluded that, along with the changes in time, people developed their own way of life in their respective places. If changes occurs the group of people could push out the existing inhabitants and invade others territory too (Martin, 1985).

  1.      Ernest Burgess (1886-1966)

Burgess talked about the city life through his famous theory of concentric urban zones (1925). He described that most of the cities spread outwards likes ripples on a pond. This each zones occupied by a particular class of people. In this model we can find central business district (CBD), then surrounded by a transition zone, then a belt of working class people’s residence, then a residential area of high class people’s apartments and finally a commuter zone of suburban areas. Burgess elaborated that rich people had the power of choosing their residential area which was far away from the industries and poor and minority ethnic groups had no choices in it and live in the inner city. If the population grows, factories expand, and then it again creates an invasion and succession process where new segregation occurs in the city boundaries. Transition zone viewed in negative perspective due to the disorganization exists here. Lack of social and moral order in this zone creates demoralisation where crime and deviant behaviour spread. Even though, other scholars criticised that the model brought by Burgess, such as many cities did not display the same model of concentric model and the rich do not always move out to the suburbs (Martin, 1085, p. 22-24). The following figure 2 clearly shows the Burgess Spatial Model of city.

Figure 2: Concentric Urban Zone’s Model of Burgess

  1. CBD
  2. Transition Zone
  3. Workmen’s Home
  4. Residential Zone
  5. Commuters Zone
  1.      Louis Wirth (1897-1952)

The other members of the Chicago school focused on understanding the shape of the city while Louis Wirth focused more on ‘Urbanism as a way of life’. Wirth analysis on city life was more cultural than ecological one. His argument is built up on urbanism could not be understood by measuring the size of the population, instead it should be studied based on its social existence (Giddens & Sutton, 2013). Wirth defined city as a relatively large, dense and permanent settlements of heterogeneous individuals. Wirth focused three factors such as urbanism was a product of large population size, high density and heterogeneity. The city created social segregation, impersonality and social and geographical mobility. Relationship with other members of the society was rational, artificial and temporary. There is a little social meaning given to the all aspects in the city life. City dwellers feel isolation, powerless and can be easily lost. Wirth emphasized that urbanism not only a way of life but also a way of modern society. Wirth’s study about urbanism was criticised by other scholars too. He used Chicago as a laboratory for his study; his arguments are not applicable to all cities and also the concept of urban culture influence over individual behaviour also rejected by many. Despite these criticisms, Chicago school’s contribution was praised by many (Martin, 1985)

  1. Radical Perspectives and City Life

The Ecological perspective of city life of the Chicago school were criticized by the mid of 1960. The ecological tradition could not explain the conflicts in city life. Marx and Webber didn’t focus on the city life as a separate entity. This absence of urban sociological theories from the founding fathers created new path to develop theories to understand the city as a separate entity. Neo-Weberian and Neo Marxist tradition focus merely about the city life.

  1.      John Rex and Robert Moore

Under the Neo-Weberian tradition, John Rex and Robert Moore studied about the inner-city area of Sparkbrook in Birmingham. They have written a book ‘Race, Community and Conflict’ in 1967. They explained about why black groups tend to situated in the twilight zones of the cities. They pointed out that this separation was not only the outcome of low income and racial discrimination but also the outcome of the rules and regulation of the city housing market. Black people in the city areas were not given mortgage to buy own houses because of their unsecured job. Membership of the housing class is primarily important to determine the person’s associations, interest, life style and the position in the urban structure. Rex and Moore emphasized that housing in the city areas were not distributed by market structure but by the class struggle between different housing classes. Rex and Moore came up with 5 types of houses and later extended to 7 types as the outright owners of large houses in the desirable areas, mortgage payers who own whole houses in desirable areas, local authority tenants in houses built by the local authority, local authority tenants in slum houses awaiting destruction, tenants of private house owners, house owners who must take tenants to meet repayments and tenants in rooms (Martin, 1985, p.31-32).

  1.      Manuel Castles

Manual Castles was considered as one of the leading figures in the new urban Marxism. In his writing ‘Urban Question’ in 1977 Castles tried to form a foundation to a new scientific urban sociology. Castles focused on the traditional Marxists concept of class struggle in new basis. He argued that new forms of urban conflict is not based on the problems between the labourer and the capitalist in the city, it is a conflict in the international level where modern capitalism controlled the local and international economy through the world system. Multinational Corporation plays a key role in the modern capitalism which is located in the world cities. Today, urban conflict is shaped by collective consumption and urban planning. Castles explained through collective consumption exists where welfare state provides housing, health, education and transportation to the labour class people instead of modern capitalism. Welfare state arose to control the class struggle where goods are distributed by the government to the people in cities. Castles also criticised that local government uses urban planning to make urban environment conducive for only profit making rather than considering the benefits of people. Infrastructures are basically built up for earning money and run the private enterprise which is a form of controlling the class struggle. Also Castles pointed out that modern state also has independence or relative autonomy which allows it to protect the long term interest of capitalist’s exploitation (Martin, 1985, p. 35-36).




The urban population of the world is forecasted to reach almost 5 billion people by 2030 and the United Nation highlighted that among them 4 billion people will live in cities of Third World countries. Also the estimation shows that more than 10 million people are currently living in cities of the developing world. One of the urban largest settlements in history is currently being formed in Asia. Not surprisingly, majority of the largest cities are found in Global South Third World countries, for example India has five megacities in South Asia. The all megacities in the Third World have very high rural-urban migrations (World Population Review, 2018). The primary reason behind this phenomenon is the population growth rate is higher in developing countries which are fuelled by high fertility rate among the city dwellers in the Third World. The widespread of internal migration from rural area to urban area to find better opportunities to continue their lives is considered as the second factor of this situation. People from outer urban areas in the Third World countries are highly attracted due to better job opportunities. Urban-rural disparities and rural poverty prompts many rural residents to try city life. People in the Third World countries migrate only for a relatively short period of time and most of them find themselves forced to stay as city dwellers by losing their status in the previous communities (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

Globalization has brought more opportunities for urban areas in developing countries. Third World cities able to enter the international markets through economic integration, they can also do investment and development of their nation due to its benefits of relationship. Third World countries can create economic links across their territories. Indeed, many cities in Third World are already joining with global cities (Giddens & Sutton, 2013, p.232).

  1. Challenges of Urbanization and Growth of Cities in the Third World

Most of the cities suffer from various problems associated with the process of their urban development and management in the Third World countries. These numerous problems have a great impact and influence on the environmental performance of the Third World cities. Growing number of unskilled and rural farmers migrate to cities in where the formal economy struggle to engross these workers into the work force. This condition creates informal economy in the Third World cities that only offer casual and labour works among the workers. Cities in everywhere face environmental issues. However, the issues related with environment are higher among Third World cities. Pollution, shortages in housing, unsafe water supplies, poor sanitation facilities create diseases and unhealthy life among the residents of city area. The congestion in the cities also created serious environmental issues where people cut down all natural things and built a new environment with artificial materials. Pollution from vehicles and industrial areas has also become a serious concern today. Along with that, poverty is widely spread in Third World cities. Demands for health care, family, education and other social services are very low here. Problems among younger generation due to the improper education and unemployment condition also create mess in the Third World cities (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

Improving access to housing, water, sanitation, public infrastructure, foster institutional capacity, reducing number of urban poor and disaster risk, improving social cohesion, reducing youth unemployment, improving waste and recycling management, supporting consumption of local produce, changing overconsumption patterns of high income households and creating productive employment for older persons are the social challenges faced by the Third World cities. Creating policy space for inclusive development, reducing underemployment, promoting economic diversification, improving access to food and increasing productivity are economic challenges in the cities.  Providing access to clean energy and reducing the use of dirty energy in households, discouraging high-energy consumption in high income households, reducing the impact on livelihoods, reducing carbon emissions, generating financial resources for adaptation are the environmental problems faced by the people due to the city expansion today (Hegazy, Seddik and Ibrahim 2017).

Third World cities continue to play a marginal role in the global economy. These countries will face a black future without balanced policies of development. Third World governments have failed to achieve better quality of life of its citizens. Most of the population in the Third World countries often distressed and disadvantaged in their poor facilitated city life. If this situation continues further, it will cause serious issues in near future where people suffer below the poverty line and live in massive unhygienic urban slums and shanties that increase the unmanageable social and environmental problems in the cities. The response of global capitalism, people and the government are very much essential to overcome this issues related to over and improper urbanization in Third World countries.



5.1 The Largest City in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka which is described as the pearl of Indian Ocean comprises huge resources like beaches, rainforests, highlands, plains and ruins of ancient forts.  Even though, the country has lost its reputation due to the tragedy of political and economic changes over the years. Civil war and Tsunami has devastated numbers of human resources, natural resources and properties in the nation. A 30 year long armed conflict ended in 2009 and the country is currently experiencing a rapid development in all sectors. This war free environment offers an opportunity for the government to start on reforms and work with foreign sector together with private sector to initiate a more energetic and dynamic economy and development of the citizen. Construction of mass projects like, international harbours, power plants, stadiums, airports, highways and roads, bridges and also other infrastructure development and social development programmes show the positive way of enhancing the development in the whole island (Pushpakumara et al., 2012).

Sri Lanka is a lower middle-income country. However, it has a considerable population of 20.95 million in the year 2018. The rapid urbanization and a natural growth of the city population also increased in Sri Lanka in the recent decades. The average population density per square kilometer is 319 individuals in Sri Lanka. There is no big cities exist in Sri Lanka having more than a million population, 12 cities can be identified with 100,000 to 1 million people and 48 cities are existing with between 10,000 to 100,000 population. Sri Lanka has two capital cities. Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte serves as the administrative capital and Colombo serves as the economic capital and largest city in the nation. Anuradapura was the ancient capital city of Sri Lanka and has well-preserved ruins more than 2000 years back. The city of Colombo is well known financial and cultural centre of the nation. Colombo is an ancient trading city in Sri Lanka where harbour and the route for East-West sea trade is located. Today, the Colombo city contains both traditional and modern buildings. The Colombo city with a population 648,034 serves as the industrial and economic hub in the country. The economy of Sri Lanka is transitioning from predominantly rural agricultural based economy towards a more urbanized economy oriented around manufacturing and service sector. We can find different ethnicities in the cities of Sri Lanka which makes the country as a multi-cultural identity in the world order (Population of Sri Lanka, 2018). The following table 2 visualizes the top ten largest cities in Sri Lanka with its population.

Table 2: Largest Cities in Sri Lanka

City Population (2018)
Colombo 648,034
Mount Lavinia 219,827
Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia 219,827
Galkissa 215,941
Moratuwa 185,031
Jaffna 169,102
Negombo 137,223
Pita Kotte 118,179
Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte 115,826
Kandy 111,701

Source: Population of Sri Lanka, 2018 (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/sri-lanka-population/)

5.2 Challenges in the Sri Lankan Cities

Sri Lanka as a Third World Country is currently facing the urbanization process which creates urban-rural disparities in Sri Lanka. While this progress is comforting, Sri Lanka has failed to balance both urban and rural development and failed to keep pace in economic growth and poverty reduction in rural areas. According to the last Census of Population and Housing (2012) of Sri Lanka, urban population is 18.2% and rural population is 77.4%. Distorted development between urban and rural areas is expanded in Sri Lanka, especially skewed distribution of growth in all sectors. Economic and social development has been strongly concentrated in Western province while growth in rural areas has lagged far behind (Kadirgamar, 2017). Overall, poverty reduction records have been encouraging excluding Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka and living standard of the rural people remains low and severe poverty persist in rural areas all over the nation (The World Bank, 2017).

Not only in rural areas but also can find problems due to the improper planning of city life in Sri Lanka. The unequal distribution of the benefits and development programmes and projects has resulted in very low living standard of urban slum and shanties population in Sri Lanka. Still some part of the urban areas in Western province lack behind the easier and quicker access to the basic needs such as water, sanitation, housing, education, market facilities, proper road and employment opportunities. The income disparities across this country consolidate slums and shanties in the urban and suburban areas of Sri Lanka. The city life in Sri Lanka highly increases the built environment with primate cities. Continuing growth of this problem brought adverse environmental consequences in the city area of Sri Lanka.

The congestion in the cities of Colombo increased rapidly. However, government took some initiatives to control it by introducing the plan of ‘decentralizing’ where government buildings and offices were moved to Kotte area. Building the new Parliament in the Diyawanna Oya, construction of ‘Sethsiripaya’ to accommodate many government offices like Ministry of Education, the Central Environmental Authority and others are some of these initiatives took by the government to overcome the congestion issue.



The cities in the world context brought different benefits and disadvantages in numerous ways. Though the there is a growing concern in altering and changing the cities into sustainable cities. Cities across the world are not identical, very diverse in population size, in the state of their industrial development. Therefore, cities could face challenges in moving towards sustainable cities. Many cities in the in the developed nations have the problem of consumption-oriented, traffic congestion, pollution from industrial production  while most developing countries have industrial pollution, poor infrastructure, increasing traffic problems and a lack of service endowment. Sustainable development should focus on these issues in all developed and developing nations and should take initiatives to the development (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).

A sustainable city has the capacity to minimize its inputs of energy and resources and to reduce its outputs of pollutants and waste products to the outer world. This sustainable city can also maintain the freedoms, opportunities and cultural diversity of city dwellers along with protecting the natural world from disasters and damages. Environmental degradation is the serious issue that shaking the healthiest city life of the people. Recycling waste using renewable technologies such as solar power and wind turbines reduces CO to the environment, emissions and air pollutants. Redesigning the city space to create a pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and introducing more ways and green environments are effective ways of preserving the environment of cities. Sustainable urban development also need to educate the people to become an environmentally knowledgeable and committed citizens who are willing to change their routine, everyday actions to improve the quality of city life So, finally creating sustainable cities are on the hand planners and policy makers of the city life, and it’s depend on the people’s attitude too where they have the chance of rebuild the polluted cities into sustainable cities (Giddens & Sutton, 2013).



Twentieth Century brought three important realities to the world as severity and worsening the state bio-physical environment of the earth; second one is globalization and third is rapid urbanization. Third World Countries in the world are currently facing serious problems due to the rapid urbanization process. Urbanization and expansion of cities are recognized as unparalleled in human history. This urbanization process and its consequences are apparent mostly in Third world countries. The Global Network of Science Academies announced unplanned urbanization among the ten most serious global concerns. Many international bodies have identified the necessity to develop and implement urban planning policies that only reap the benefits to the whole population of the world.


  1. Giddens, A., & Sutton, P. w. (2013). Sociology. Haboken, New Jersy, United States : john Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  2. Giddens, A. (1989). Sociology. Oxford: Polity Press.
  3. Gottdiener, M., & Hutchison, R. (2006). The New Urban Sociology (3rd ed.). Boulder, Colorado, United States of America: Westview Press.
  4. Pushpakumara , T., Senanayake , I., Puswewala, U., & Maduranga, M. (2012). Impact of Rain on Road Accidents in Sri Lanka . Global Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 2(4), 297-300.
  5. http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/sri-lanka-population/cities/

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