Distinguish Between The Ghetto And The Urban


Distinguish Between The Ghetto And The Urban Village Essay, Research Paper

The Œghetto¹ and the Œurban village¹ are two very distinct phenomena. They differ fundamentally both in their structure and in their function. In this essay I hope to outline the difficulties in distinguishing between them and then arrive at a functional definition of the two phenomena. Furthermore there have been a number of differing theoretical and methodological approaches to their analysis. Of these, I shall outline and contrast the humanist, marxist and quantitative approaches to the ghetto and the urban village. These are three radically different aprroaches to the problem and I hope to show that an amalgamation of all three might provide a firm basis from which to approach this major affliction of, in particular, North American cities. For many the ghetto is a term referring to a very poor, run down, inner city area with a host of social and economic problems. For some the inhabitants might simply be those on the bottom rung of the social ladder, for others the inhabitants may be predominantly black. Massey and Denton in their book American Apartheid, suggest that the ghetto refers only to racial make-up, irrespective of class, defining it as such. The ghetto “.. is a set of neighbourhoods that are exclusively inhabited by members of one group, within which virtually all members of that group live”. This situation is clearly different to the popular conception of a ghetto, a multiracial society with many social and economic problems. In fact the African Americans of Northern America are the only ethnic group in the US to have ever experienced ghettoisation. The institution of the ghetto was built by the white population of America to deny blacks housing markets and thereby reinforce spatial segregation. Massey and Denton argue that “The urban ghetto…represents the key institutional arrangement ensuring the continual subordination of blacks in the United States”. This definition clarifies the distinction between the urban village and the ghetto. The ghetto describes a situation of involuntary segregation, whereas the urban village or enclave, describes voluntary and temporary segregation of more than one ethnic group. Three further differences between the ghetto and the ethnic enclave arre identified by Massey and Denton: 1. The immigrant enclaves were not homogenous, but instead consisted of a multitude of nationalities. 2. Not all of the ethnic group inhabiting the enclave actually lived within the enclave. 3. The ghetto is a permanent feature of black residential life, where as the immigrant enclave is merely a transitional stage in the process of immigrant assimilation. In a classically quantitative analysis, The Slum and the Ghetto, Thomas Lee Philpott provides evidence to support these three observations. His data refers to his analysis of neighbourhood deterioration and middle-class reform in Chicago, between 1880 and 1930. His data is reproduced below. Group Group¹s city population Group¹s ghetto population Total ghetto population % of group ghettoised Group¹s % of ghetto population Irish 169 568 4 933 14 595 2.9 33.8 German 377 975 53 821 169 649 14.2 31.7 Swedish 140 913 21 581 88 749 15.3 24.3 Russian 169 736 63 416 149 208 37.4 42.5 Czech 122 089 53 301 169 550 43.7 31.4 Italian 181 861 90 407 195 736 49.7 46.2 Polish 402 316 248 024 457 146 61.0 54.3 African American 233 903 216 846 266 051 92.7 81.5 Source T L Philpott The Slum and The Ghetto (1978)pg 141 His major observation was that, contrary to the teachings of Burgess, who in 1933 published a map showing the spatial location of Chicago¹s various immigrant groups, identifying German, Irish, Italian, Russian, Polish, Swedish and Czech ghettos, thses ghettos were actually made up of on average by 22 different nationalities. In none of these ghettos did the ghettoised group constitute a majority of the population, except the poles who constituted 54.3% of their, so called, ghetto. Where a Black ghetto was identified, 81.5% of the population was identified as being African American. Indeed most european ethnics were found not to live in immigrant ghettos. Consider Burgess¹s Irish ghetto. This so called ghetto was home to only 2.9% of Chicago¹s Irish population in the 1930¹s. 49.7% of Italians lived in “Little Italys”, yet 92.7% of African mericans lived in the black ghetto. It is very interesting to note at this point that even during the highest levels of European immgrant assimilation and segregation, the levels of segregation were relatively low. At the end of the peak decade of northern European in migration in 1910, among the 100 or so indicies that Stanley Lieberson computed for seven European ethnic groups in seventeen cities in 1910, only seven had isolation indicies above 25% and all but two were under 40%. The highest recorded levels of spatial isolation were for Italians in Boston (44%), Buffalo (38%) and Milwaukee (56%), and for Jews in New York (34%). In contrast African American isolation exceeded 25% in eleven of the seventeen cities Lieberson examined in 1930. Furthermore, black ghettos were only in their very early stages in 1930 and had not yet begun to approach their maximum isolation. The ethnic enclave is a transitory phenomenon. It is a stage in the proces of assimilation. For europeans enclaves were places of absorption, of adaptation and of adjustment to American society. Massey and Denton sum this effect up by describing these enclaves as “springboards to greater social mobility”. For African americans these ghettos were a trap behind an increasingly “impermeable colour line”. Analysis of empirical data enable Philpott to clarify the distinction between the ghetto and the urban village.One might question the origins of phrases such as “Little Italy” or “Chinatown” when I have been arguing against the existence of these ethnic ghettos. This is best explained usind Philpott¹s observations. The residents of Hull House, the area of Philpott¹s study in Chicago, spoke of the “Greek colony on Blue Island Avenue. In fact tto no more than 7% of the districts popuation. The atmosphere was therefore not set by a majority population, instead by the social involvement of the Greek population. The prescence of Greek Newspapers and abundance of Greek Shops, restraunts and poolrooms stets the tone of the village. Another eed by Philpott concerns the area west of Wentwoth Avenue, between 22nd and 63rd Street. It was known as the “Polish” and/or “Irish” territory, where statistically it was a melting pot , consisting of a patchwork of nationalities. In 1920, 27 ethnicities existed in that area. The Irish ranked third and the polish 15th. The Italians , instead, were the leading ethnic group. To quote Philpott, “the immigrant ghettos never existed . They were we relations; Œstates of mind¹, not geographic constraints”. On the other hand the blackbelt and its satellites in Chicago, were physical entities, sharply outlined by the borders which the whites imposed. Whereas African americans were forced to segregate and live in ghettos, ethnic villages arose as their inhabitants mainly chose to live there fora period of time. There is no other ethnic group in the US which has experienced the conditions of a ghetto. African Americans are the only such group to experience forced segregation. Ghettos exist also in other parts of the world at different points in time. The Jewish ghettos of Nazi Germany would be one example. I have therefore outlined the primary characteristics of the ghetto and differentiated it from the concept of an urban village. The ghetto is a form of involuntary segregation. It is populated by one significantly dominant ethnic group, irrespective of social class. Furthermore, the majority of those members of the ethnic population in the city are concentrated in that geographical area. The differences outlined above are universaly accepted a s being the primary characteristics of the urban ghetto. However different schools of thought approach the problem in different ways. In this second half of the essay I hope to compare and contrast the humanist, quantitative and marxist schools of thought. The quantative school of thought believes in the objectivity of the world. Their approach to social geography is to measure and quantify data and phenomena in a similar way to the physicist. They believe in the objective reality of race and ethnicity and have measured distribution in an attempt to explain social processes through spatial patterns. The humanistic approach is an off shoot of anthropological analysis and emphasises the human element involved in every situation. They study behaviour, inter-relationships and senses of identity, usually in a small scale territory. They consider everything to be contingent of space and time. Thus it is not the action but the socially defined perception of that action which is important, and the circumstances of a particular incident define how that particular incident is viewed. As a consequence of their method of study, the humanistic school of thought tends to be highly subjective. In the context of social geography, the humanistic school studies the spatial structure of social relations. The Marxist approach is again different in its approach. It has developed so that amongst other things, old concepts can be broken down, and re-evaluated from another perspective, in the hope that a solution might be discovered. It is very much a revolutionary approach to geography. Marxist geographers therefore believe that the only division in society is along class lines derived by the capitalist mode of production. They believe a reserve supply of labour to be a necessary feature of the capitalist society. This manifests itself as unemployment. Without the exploitation of the workinfg class this would be impossible. If this reserve army of unemployed labour can be physically distinguished then it will significantly aid the capitalist system. Marxists therefore believe that race and ethnicity are not real objective divisions of society, but social constructs in order to perpetuate the system. The discussion of Philpott¹s work is an ample example of the quantitative approach to the problem of ghettoisation. It is characterised by the frequency of hard data, of measurable quantities which form the backbone of the quantitative approach to analysis. This is in marked contrast to the humanistic approach which I shall consider next. Gerald Suttles work on The Social Order of the Slum is a good example of the humanistic approach to the probem of ghetto formation. His work is basd on the assumption that “intensive observation of microunits, that is of the family and age graded groups, is the initial step in the analysis of community structure”. He centers his study around the Addams area of Chicago. It is one of the oldest slums in the city and has experienced a great many waves of immigration. At the time of study, between 1962 and 1965, the area was occupied by Italians (33%), Mexicans (25%), African Americans (17%) and Puerto Ricans (8%). Greeks and other ethnic minorities make up the rest of the community. We see therefore that it is not a ghetto, instead an urban village following our previous descriptions. It is thought of as an Italian area of the city, probably because the Italians make up the majority of the community and have been the only group to achieve hegemony over the area. He concentrates his study on the concept of territorial grouping and on the interpersonal relationships between the groups inhabiting the Addams area. For Suttles the key to the successful co-existence of the different racia groups in Addam¹s area is due to its provincialism. It is not total and does not therefore constitute a total rejection of societasl norms and values. A belief in the stereotypes held by the wider society arouses much mutual distrust betweehe inhabitants. In this way they are forced to find another basis for moral order. In this way the inhabitants organise themselves according to age, sex, ethnicity, territoriality and personal reputation. In the Addams area more traditional categories of occupation, education and other attainments play little role in personal identification. Although each of the four areas of Addams differ significantly between themselves, there is a general aggreement upon the social categories beyond which relationships are not encouraged. In this way spatial boundaries, such as Roosevelt, Halsted, Congress and Ashland are barriers which are not crossed unless neccessity demands it. Free time and recreation is therefore spent within one¹s own ethnic boundary Within these boundaries, Suttles observed age and sex to form the basis of further social interaction. Your ethnicity and then your age and sex determine where you spend your time and who you spend it with. The social order produced is remarkably organised, with allegiance varying from level to level according to the situation. In this was two rival ethnic gtroups might unite against a larger threat external to the Addams area, such as those “people over on Van Buren”. The system is really very similar to that described by the anthropologist Evans-Pritchard, a system of segmentary organisation, differing according to various levels of opposition. Atevel this is manifest as a joint resistance to the clearance ofthe area for the University of Illinois. One of the main themes throughout Suttles¹ writing is the importance of perceptions. Thus a myth, such as the cannablistic practices of another tribe, is taken as information. In so doing that myth becomes the basis on which people determine their actions. David Harvey approaches the problem from yet another angle. He is a marxist geographer and in his book, Social Justice and the City he proposes the marxist approach to the problem of the ghetto. Harvey believes that the humanistic approaches are vunerable to idealism and the quantitative approaches to endless analysis. Both unable to explain those things they aim to show. Harvey sees the benefit of Marxist ideas as being an area where positivist and humanistic approaches are able to overlap and thereby move towards a solution to the problem. The marxist aproach concentrates upon economic forces, which are believed to be more realistic than the cultural determinants investigated by Park and Burgess. Harvey considers using the marginalist economic theories of Alonso (1964) and Muth (1969) to gain a better understanding of the causes of the ghetto, thereby enabling solution to be found. Both these thoeries incorporate the marginalist concept of bid-rent theory, as pioneered by Von Thünen. Urban land use is determined by competitive bidding for the use of the land. Assuming a central location as the center of employment, land rent is greatest near the centre of the city. By considering a groups ability to pay for transport, it is theoretically possible to determine the location of residential zones, according to the steepness of the bid rent curve. Because of the high income groups ability to afford transport costs, they have a shallow bid rent curve. However as the low income group is unable to afford the cost of transport, they have a very steep bid rent curve. The result is that people live on the central land, which is also the most expensive , whilst the rich live in the suburbs which are the cheapest. In reality Harvey recognises that the rich will actually live whereever they wish as they have the resources to manipulate the working class. Harvey believes the solution to this injustice is the removal of the economic forces, ie capitalism, which lead to the conditions resulting in ghettoisation. Indeed such a policy has been implemented remving private ownership of housing. Harvey considers also various paradoxes within the capitlist economy and how they too cause features of urban morphology, such as the ghetto. Hoer, marxist theory appears to have a crucial limitation. The belief that ethnicity and race are social constructs, and by concentrating on economic forces, marxist theory fails to explain the ghetto, a grouping of individuals of similar ethnicity. I therefore conclude that there is a fundamental difference between the ghetto and the urban village. Although both are manifestations of segregation, they differ in a few crucial aspects. The ghetto is a product of involuntary segregation, the urban village, voluntary segregation. The ghetto is in fact a real entity, it exists, whereas the existence of the urban village is less easy to identify in such a concrete way. Furthermore the ghetto is a concentrated agglomeration of members of the same ethnic group. The Urban village is comprised of a variety of different ethnicities. Whilst distinctions can easily be made between the two phenomena, a unified approach is more difficult to maintain. Whereas the quantitative, the humanistic and the marxist approach all have their merits and inadequacies, I believe a more useful approach towards a solution to the problem would be along the lines of a combination of efforts from all schools of thought.

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