Urbanism as a Way of Control: How the Self is Lost to Forces of Development

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In The Tragedy of the Commons, Garrit Harding argues “freedom in a commons brings ruin to all” (Hardin, 1968, p.1244). The possibility that Hardin’s words can be used to represent whether or not the self will be lost due to capitalism will be presented in this paper. By looking at fourteen different sociological articles—spanning the last century—there exists a trend relating to the role of the individual being a key driver in communities, and their development. Although the individual is of primary importance under the blanket of capitalism, this essay will question the validity of this. I will attempt to decipher what actually drives change within cities, in relation to development, subcultures, and social capital. I argue that within communities people do not act out of their own interests, but instead go along with the decisions made by growth machine motivated elites, and global development machines.


In order to analyze whether or not individuals are motivated within communities to comply with the elites, or to establish their own identity, we must look at the relevant foundational articles that are critical to understanding the role of the individual within communities. Tönnies sets the stage with a dialectical discussion about the differences between natural and rational will (1887). Wirth, in Urbanism as a Way of Life, addresses the notion that people become alienated and isolated once living in cities (1938). In contrast, Fischer argues that cities do not create disorganization and alienation, but instead critical masses and subcultures (1975). Hardin believes that people opt for self-interest, which, in turn, leads to a social dilemma (1968). Lastly, Molotch argues that land is devel...

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