Social Structure – Urban Dynamics – Distortion

November 5, 2018 Humair Subhani

An intrinsic timeline of evident transformation in social structure in all existing/historic/ancient societies was observed and documented in great detail by some of the sociologists and anthropologists. Today, In cities; In almost every developing urban society which is either sitting in one of the central positions of a metropolis or is sprouting as a peri-urban locality on the boundary recites morphological stories of their formation and evolution. These are the settlements which grew as a consequence of adjacent development; Urban centers, institutional precincts or employment junctions which invited masses and drove an infrastructural spree for settling people in and around the activity center. Consequential settlements are formed in-line with the zonal/master development goals, planned; but a major proportion of such settlements are either Squatters or Unauthorized Colonies which are sustaining tirelessly since years.

Reports suggest, infrastructural values of such societies are ill; but the residents, on a contrary, are seemingly happy with the amenities and services available at such costs or we could say, they've have just adapted to the situation. These societies bear similar grain and texture but pronounce distinct stories which have theatrical drama of life, active dynamism of urban growth and a multi-branch social structure.

The following article deals with the urban-social-structure of modern and post-modern settlements in metropolitan cities while highlighting an area specific framework of social and cultural activities.

Sociological excerpts of primitive societies reveal a completely different structure of a clan, a family which is a consolidate and not fragmented. Community efforts were aimed towards panoramic headway of the group and not for individuals, collective management for growth and that system, no matter how archaic it may sound, pulled out definite results. Primitive in nature and simple in composition, even those societies had a well laid social structure with clear understanding of position and designation. Members rightfully followed codes of conduct and pursued endeavors within set limits framed by the leading personnel of the community. Life in primitive societies, as observed, was least competitive for glorious upper ground but instinctive of survival.

Primitive Society

As the time raced ahead, changes were observed, Evolution made survival easy and sustenance became a challenge in the contemporary world. In this new strife to search for means to sustain a life in urban societies, rapid urbanism flooded the canvas of cities and the social structure changed along with the transforming social contours of the modern man. Unlike rural settings, urban scenario demanded a competitive and versatile personality which would walk an extra mile to score an extra run.  There was a prominent shift from communist to capitalist order which focused more on monetary per-capita statistics than societal values. Emotions started drowning, human bonds weakened, segregation became common and a new concept of individualism came into being. Ultimately it led to Isolation, but this phenomenon started trending and accelerated exponentially.

Urban social structure hit the streets post Industrialization and strengthened after proper colonization. Everything became mobile as material and information started moving from one place to another. People moved, temporary or permanent shifts became viable and hence Rural-Urban Migration was the next corner stone for this societal arrangement.

The drifting urban scenario changed towns to cities and sooner into megalopolises, a dynamism of completely new breed which shook the available infrastructure as the demand rose sky high within short spans. An inadvertent stress was laid on urban areas, land values shot up, affordability indices for basic housing stooped and this fiasco led to the birth of urban villages. Less land area, high dwelling density, shrunk domain of basic amenities, poor living conditions, absent recreational grounds and a completely mundane urban social lifestyle. Such localities are an outcome of uncontrolled incidence of employment seeking populace which is incapacitated to hold any land ownership in a potent urban atmosphere with the available pay scales and hence fit in the context, meagerly surviving.

Disparity

But the question is;

Is this ongoing exodus leading to livable conditions? Better than what we’ve all left behind?

Analytically, economy is the driving force for this out-pour; Urban centers are promising millions of people a job which is better than what they’d have while being in a town or a village. Apart from economy being the flag bearer; institutional availability, hospitality centers, administrative headquarters, legislative groups etc are the subordinate directors of the show, but have proportionally smaller impact. We are here because of certain promises; the promise of an improved pay scale and a global exposure. The promise of better institutional support, the promise of a liberal mind set amid social chaos, the promise of independent living. The promise of transparency & absolute inclusion, promise of being among dexterous brains and brilliant ideas.

Unquestionably almost all the promises were given due regard but at the cost of what?

Primarily; our physiological and psychological health! A factor which wasn’t listed to the urban amateurs and came in with a surprise, too late for recovery; The damage has been done. Metropolitan culture has forced us inside our boxes, with localities being uninteresting, even the box feels good. Cultural and recreational hotspots are created near urban centers to let people take a break but the residential localities are devoid of such shimmers. Once, there existed a life between buildings but the streets have become too narrow to let anyone stand, recreation seems like an alien thought. Urban social structure demands a house to be filled with all possible essentials, they definitely are filled; Is that why the streets are empty?

Limited social interactions, conversations have become too formal, even the greetings have turned into meager gestures. Where has the flavor gone?

By the way, when was the last time your family happily walked the street post dinner? Have you ever sat with your friend on a sidewalk instead of going to a café?

These are tremors of urban development which have one way blissfully levitated the societies and their users but have also crippled the very foundation of a rational social structure. The missing factor; A factor which was certainly weak to be realized at the beginning but turned detrimental afterwards. There is an inevitable impact on societies, a cycle of vicious transgression from being radiant to being monotonous. The cycle has pressing impacts which are negligent at the threshold but horrendous afterwards.

Worst part is, the impacts of this cycle started on day one!

Everyone has rightfully accepted the proliferate urbanization and are moving along the lines, getting attracted like broken iron pieces to a large magnet. A whistle blow is heard and the wheels start to pace.

For further reading within the same lines, refer to Urban Cultures by Richard G. Fox.

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