Compare and Contrast the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools of Urbanism

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Essay: Compare and Contrast the Chicago and Los Angeles Schools of Urbanism.

Urban studies aims to develop an understanding the modern city metropolis. As Savage et al. have pointed out, the urban encompasses far more than just the physical city itself; understanding the city help us to understand many aspects of modern life (2003, pp.4). Many of its features, such as mass media and public transport systems have spread throughout society over the past century. Sociological studies of urban life began with the landmark publication of 'The City' in 1925 by sociologists Robert Park, Ernest Burgess and Louis Wirth from the University of Chicago, students of Georg Simmel who shared his belief that the urban environment changed man's
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113). In addition Knox and Pinch suggest empirical evidence supporting Wirth's theory to be lacking (pp. 152).

The Los Angeles school begins with quite different precepts, disputing the hypotheses of the Chicago School. They contend its orientation towards individuals as explaining the environment (for example the genius/criminal type creating vice and disorder (Park 1925, pp. 41)), its historical determinism and its view of the city as a cohesive, stable unit (Dear 2008, pp. 109). Its theoretical bases, rather than the structural, modernist paradigms of the Chicago School are postmodern, 21st century ones. For example Mike Davis, one of the leading thinkers of the LA school, cites Fredric Jameson's conception of postmodernity, with globalised, temporary forces producing uncertain outcomes (Davis 1998, pp. 84). Edward Soja, another sociologist of the LA school, has employed Foucault's post-structuralist paradigm to explain some aspects of the postmodern city, for example he has likened the central 'downtown' district of the city to a new 'panopticon', Foucault's conception of a form of total surveillance and control for the centre over the periphery. He suggests as a headquarters of space, knowledge and power with universal visibility throughout the city, it can supervise economic and social activity, and is able to surveil the surrounding city (Soja 1989, pp. 234-6). Another highly influential postmodern theorist in the LA School has been Henri Lefevbre
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