BES Book of the Year, 2014-2015: Gottdiener and Hutchinson, The New Urban Sociology

The previous Book of the Year focused on bio-ecological theory.  Because BES is a social-ecological research and education endeavor, the Project Management Committee agreed that this year our book should focus on social theory.  An ideal book to help all of us in the project who are not social scientsts is Mark Gottdiener and Ray Hutchinson’s book, The New Urban Sociology, 4th Edition, published in 2010.  Some of us have profited by reading earlier editions of this book, which combines social processes and social heterogeneity thinking.  Hence, it is an excellent social mirror for our originally biological and geophysical spatial approach summarized by patch dynamics and the nested watershed concept.  They label their approach, “socio-spatial,” but those of you in the social sciences should not jump to the conclusion that this book is a resurrection of the discredited aspects of the Chicago School, or that it is an exercise in environmental determinism. 

Because BES is a social-ecological research and education project, the Project Management Committee agreed that this year should focus on social theory.

The book is written as a text book and therefore will be an accessible (but not condescending) introduction for biophysical scientists and educators in BES.  Hopefully, it will also provide fodder for our social science members to weigh in with their own insights and experience on the concepts, cases, and controversies the book discusses. 
The book comprises 14 Chapters that address the foundational theories in urban sociology and the contemporary issues and controversies about the topic.  The chapter titles are as follows:
1. The New Urban Sociology.  Including topics such as urban regions, megacities, and articulation of the socio-spatial approach.
2. The Origins of Urban Life.  The long history of urbanization through capitalist industrialization.
3. The Rise of Urban Sociology.  Here are the field’s founding giants, whose  theories continue to echo in current controversies and applications: Simmel, Wirth, the Chicago School and the rise of human ecology.
4. Contemporary Urban Sociology.  Theories and applications of political ecology, class conflict, capital accumulation, real estate, and urban culture.
5. Urbanization in the United States.  Our national urban history, through the rise of the post-war metropolis.
6. Suburbanization, Globalization, and the Emergence of the Urban Region.  This chapter includes deindustrialization, uneven development, suburbs and beyond, multi-nucleated regions.
7. People and Lifestyles in the Metropolis: Urban and Suburban Culture.  Class differentiation and space, gender, revitalization, and migration are topics.
8. Minority Settlement Patterns, Neighborhoods, and Communities.  Neighborhood dynamics, new forms of community, and interaction without proximity.
9. Metropolitan Problems: Racism, Poverty, Crime, Housing, and Fiscal Crisis.  The socio-spatial approach to social problems, income inequality, affordable housing, and service problems are additional topics beyond those in the subtitle of the chapter.
10. Urbanization in the Developed Nations.  This chapter compares and contrasts urban processes in Western and Eastern Europe and Japan vis a vis the US.
11. Globalization and Urbanization in the Developing World.  Changing perspectives on urbanization, the demographic transition, primate cities, shantytowns, and informal economies are discussed here.
12. Metropolitan Planning and Environmental Issues.  Sprawl, the sociology of land use planning, trends in planning are covered.
13. Metropolitan Social Policy.  Topics include the “tragedy of the commons,” uneven development, privitism, and social justice.
14. The Future of Urban Sociology.  Understanding the new urban world features here.
These topics are all helpful in understanding the social side of the Baltimore equation, as well as for understanding the national and international context in which Baltimore fits.  The changing nature of the global network of urban areas is a crucial ingredient in this understanding.
Each chapter ends with a list of key concepts, important names, and discussion questions.
The book is published in paperback by Westview Press.  The authors chose this publisher to be able to produce a book that was more affordable than the average university textbook.  You can order it from your local bookstore, or your favorite online source.  Used ones go for the mid 20 USD, and new for a little less than 50 USD.  It is also available as an e-book from some sources.  Those of you at colleges and universities might request that your library obtain a copy and put it on reserve.  The OCLC website – – can tell you whether local libraries have the book.

We will be planning a series of webinars to discuss various chapters or topics in the book.  If you want to be alerted to these, contact the BES Project Facilitator, Holly Beyar at beyarh at caryinstitute dot org.