chapter  6
12 Pages

Urban life

The opposition between rural and urban has been a major theme in Western thought for thousands of years. As soon as the rst cities were established-during the Urban Revolution 5,000 years ago-writers began praising the virtues of cities over the countryside. To the ancient Sumerians, life was ordered and safe in the city, while wild beasts and outlaws prowled the countryside. To the Romans, the city was the home of civic virtue. In recent centuries, however, these judgments were reversed: the countryside is seen as the source of positive values, which are corrupted by the city. Even if we ignore the value judgments, we are left with the widespread notion that the city and the country are very dierent places. This perspective has become enshrined in both urban scholarship and the popular imagination to the point where it seems right and appropriate: life in the city is unlike life in the countryside.