How does mathematics relate to urbanism?

Urbanism as a way of life

Industrialism not only increases the number; it distributes them in a special way and concentrates the mass population in cities. Modern life is undoubtedly urban life.

It can be argued that in the cities of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome, a distinctive urban existence was first brought to that refinement that signifies an advanced civilization. Certainly the Athens of Pericles offered a comfortable existence for those fortunate who were free citizens. The Italian cities of the Renaissance also made for a decidedly urban culture.

Industrial urbanism differs from pre-industrial urbanism in two ways. The first lies in its quantitative scope and intensity; The second is the new qualitative relationship between city and society.

For all the culture and sophistication of the pre-industrial city, it remained a minority experience. Full participation in urban life was available to no more than 3 or 4 percent of the population who were urban residents in the 3rd millennium before Egypt and Mesopotamia, as well as 10 to 15 percent of the Romans who lived in cities at the zenith of the Empire Rome (but who were heavily dependent on food from North Africa). The latter represent a high point of pre-industrial urbanism.

Industrialization brings growth in trade and industry. Centralized manufacturing, sales, exchange, and credit locations are required to accommodate these activities. It requires a regular communication and transportation system. It multiplies the need for political authorities to establish reliable coinage, a standard system of weights and measures, an adequate level of protection and safety on the streets, and regular enforcement of the law. All of these developments lead to an enormous increase in urbanization. While in typical agrarian societies 90 percent or more of the population lives in rural areas, in industrial societies it is not uncommon for 90 percent or more to live in cities.

The growth of cities with industrialization can be seen using the example of the United Kingdom. In 1801 about a fifth of the population lived in cities with 10,000 or more inhabitants. By 1851 two-fifths had been urbanized in this way; and if smaller cities of 5,000 or more were included, as was the case in this year's census, more than half of the population could be counted as urbanized. The world's first industrial society had also become its first truly urban society. By 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death, three-quarters of the population were counted as city dwellers (two-thirds in cities of 10,000 or more and half in cities of 20,000 or more). Within a century, what was largely a rural society had become a largely urban one.

The pattern was repeated in the course of industrialization at a European and then worldwide level. At the beginning of the 19th century, continental Europe (excluding Russia) was less than 10 percent urbanized in terms of cities with 10,000 or more cities. By the end of the century it was about 30 percent urbanized (10 percent in cities of 100,000 or more), and by the end of the 20th century the urban population was about 78 percent. In the United States, in 1800, only 6 percent of the population lived in cities of 2,500 or more. The 1920 census reported that for the first time, more than half of Americans lived in cities. By the end of the 20th century, that number had risen to 77 percent - roughly the same as the Japanese urban population - and nearly two-fifths of the population lived in metropolitan areas of a million or more. Around the world, in 1800 no more than 2.5 percent of the population lived in cities of 20,000 or more. by 1965 it was 25 percent and in 1980 it was 40 percent. This measure enabled slightly less than half of the world's population to be classified as urban in 2000. This trend has been accompanied by the rapid growth of very large cities, of a type practically unknown in the pre-industrial world. In 1800 the largest city in the world, Beijing, had a population of 1.1 million. A hundred years later, London was the largest city in the world with 6.5 million inhabitants. Cities with more than 1 million inhabitants had 16 in 1900, 67 in 1950 and 250 in 1985. In 2000, 16 cities had more than 6 million inhabitants.

As with population growth, the underdeveloped countries experienced the fastest urban growth rates. The rapidly growing population of a rural area unable to support itself sought the city for both escape and opportunity, although in many cases it was a dangerous choice. While the world population grew by 50 percent between 1900 and 1950, the urban population grew by 254 percent. Urban growth was 444 percent in Asia and 629 percent in Africa. At the beginning of the 21st century, Africa and Asia were more than 40 percent urbanized. Cities like São Paulo, Mexico City, Mumbai, and Shanghai had skyrocketed, exceeding the size of large cities in the developed west.

While urbanization in the underdeveloped countries repeats some of the more depressing traits of its western counterpart - overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and unemployment - there has been a largely lack of compensation and ultimately remedy for economic growth. With a few partial exceptions, the underdeveloped world has known urbanization without industrialization. The result was the rapid growth of slums on the outskirts of large cities. It is estimated that around 100 million people live in slums in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Urbanism cannot be understood simply through statistics of urban growth. It is also about a distinctive culture and a strong awareness. Urbanism is a way of life that is classically analyzed by the German sociologist Georg Simmel and the American sociologist Louis Wirth. City life, with its tendency towards nervous over-stimulation, can lead to a bored and blasé outlook on life. It can promote frivolous and fleeting cults and fashions. It can dislodge people from their traditional communal berths, leave them morally stuck, and thus prone to cherishing unreal expectations and feverish dreams. In the number of social contacts it inevitably creates, it can force individuals to put up barriers to protect their privacy. Individuals can be forced into an attitude of restraint and isolation. Hence, as Simmel noted, the superficial paradox that “nowhere does one feel so lonely and lost as in the metropolis”.

At the same time, cities promote diversity and creativity. They attract the best and the brightest. If anything is to be accomplished in modern society, it almost certainly will be in the city. Karl Marx spoke of "the idiocy of rural life." Only in cities, many sociologists have felt, are human beings able to realize to the full all their potentialities. Cities are the forcing house of change and growth. “Great cities,” declared the French sociologist Émile Durkheim, “are the uncontested homes of progress; it is in them that ideas, fashions, customs, new needs are elaborated and then spread over the rest of the country. . . . Minds naturally are there oriented to the future. "

But whether they deplored or praised urban life, most commentators have agreed that, with industrialism, the city moved into a pivotal new relation with society as a whole. Preindustrial cities were islands in an agrarian sea. They hailed each other across vast alien tracts of nonurban life, which remained largely indifferent to and unaffected by their practices. Essentially they were parasitic on the countryside and on the peasant masses whose agricultural labor sustained them. Their disappearance not only would not have mattered to the peasants but would in most cases have been welcomed.

With industrial urbanism, this relationship was reversed. The countryside now became dependent on the city. It became an integral but peripheral part of a single economic system revolving around trade and commerce that was centered on the cities. Largely emptied of people, the countryside was now in effect simply another theater of industrial operations for city merchants and bankers. Political and economic power resided in the city; industrial and financial corporations became the dominant landowners, replacing individual proprietors. Except in pockets largely maintained as quaint retreats for tourists, rustic life virtually disappeared; certainly it no longer significantly affected the values ​​and practices of the larger society. What remained of “country life” was often little more than a persuasive and nostalgic motif in the hands of advertising copywriters, preying on the fantasies of city dwellers.

The city became both a symbol and a reality for industrial society as a whole. The city was no longer in a purely mechanical relationship to other parts of society as it used to be and took its place at the center of an increasingly organic whole. Industrialism created a central network of social relationships, and the city was the hub. It dictated the style and set the standard for society as a whole, imposing its own economic, political and cultural frameworks on all of them.