Week 1 — Brief History of Cities

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/national/class/OVERVIEW-FINAL.html

As part of the discussion in class on the development of early cities, the issue of class and social hierarchy was addressed and although in modern society it is thought that these lines between classes have been more or less blurred, there are still some vague remnants. The linked article examines American society and the remaining characteristics of what was thought to be an almost extinct idea; social hierarchy.

With the advances in technology that have shaped modern society as we see it today, the availability of goods, education and an opportunity to further oneself is so widespread it makes distinguishing Americans of different class somewhat difficult, or at least this is what most would like to believe. Though there are still the rich and the poor in society, supposedly what matters and makes American society unique is the belief that one has the freedom to move up or down in the social hierarchy– an idea that defeats the validity of class barriers. In contrast with this idealistic take , the article argues that mobility up and down the American hierarchal ladder has slowed or possibly even declined in recent years. One’s success in his or her education is closely linked to their respective position in the hierarchy, and those fortunate enough to be at the top gain momentum up the ladder as they gain access to better healthcare and lifestyles, thereby widening the gap between the rich and the poor even more. Though from a moral standpoint it is disheartening to see a bolding of the lines between different classes in society, it does bring for the question of how essential a social hierarchy is to the development of urban centers and what may come of the possible development in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Week 1 — Brief History of Cities

  1. This article posed a interesting theory about social class in America. It is much more difficult to be able to distinctively tell what social class a person is in. During the 1800s it would have been painfully obvious, people were branded with a scarlet letter on their chest according to their social ranking in society. Although, now it is true that “mobility is the promise that lies at the heart of the American dream. It is supposed to take the sting out of the widening gulf between the have-mores and the have-nots”. In today’s society you really can work your way up the ladder with hard-work. But these lines that had become so blurred now seem to be slowly reappearing from the clear distinctions on Wall Street and the current “We are the 99%” slogans seen frequently, the health care system, and the vastly different lifestyles that Americans live. I agree that it is “disheartening” to see the vague reappearance of a social hierarchy.
    –Melanie Hughes

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