Sociology of the City SOCIO4113

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

From the early days of industrialisation to the present 'age of urbanism', the city has occupied a unique position within the sociological imagination. As a site of conflict and community, inequality and identity, continuity and change, depictions of the city have attracted a distinguished alumnus of scholars: from Benjamin to Jacobs, Whyte to Wacquant, Simmel to Sassen. For these thinkers, the city represents a concrete manifestation of broad-based social forces that is simultaneously general and specific, global and local. Particularly through traditions of urban ethnography, the city has proven time and again to be a complex, contradictory and nuanced social tapestry with distinctive social, spatial and cultural patterns. For similar reasons, the city has also captured the imagination of countless writers, musicians, film-makers and artists, for whom the city operates as muse, inspiration and challenge.


Over the past ten years, the global population has reached a tipping point, with more than half of the world's populations now living in urban environments; rural-to-urban migration has become the dominant form of mobility in many developing economies. The twenty-first century has also inaugurated the hyper-speed growth of so-called megacities - consisting of 20 million or more inhabitants - many of which are situated in developing economies in the global South. Against this backdrop, many of the most pressing issues of the period have been articulated through the lens of the city: from ghettoization to gentrification, political protest to urban riot, global mobilities to local identities. In short, a sociology of the city represents a critical means of understanding and explaining the foundations of social and cultural life in the twenty-first century. This course aims to draw together threads of classical, critical and contemporary urban scholarship to evaluate the sociological importance of the city in the twenty-first century. Using both international and local case-studies, and drawing on an interdisciplinary approach, students will be exposed to a range of critical questions pertaining to the past, present and future of social life in cities.


20 contact hours over the course of a single semester. This will normally consist of 2 hours per week and may be a combination of lectures and seminars.

Requirements of Entry

In order to take this course you need to have met the requirements for entry into our Honours Programme. This means achieving a grade of 'D' or better in Sociology 1A and 1B and a 'C' or better in Sociology 2A and 2B. You also have to comply with the College of Social Science regulations for progression to Honours.

Excluded Courses





One 3,000 word essay (60%) and a one hour exam (40%).


Essay: Students will be required to submit an essay from a range of questions.

Exam: Students will answer one question from a range of questions.

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? No


Course Aims

The course aims to:


■ Introduce students to the history of sociological approaches to the city.

■ Analyse creative and ethnographic representations of the city.

■ Assess the relationship between global and local forces in understanding contemporary urban life.

■ Compare local and international case-studies to explore similarity and difference between cities in a global context.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:


1. Describe and explain the main theoretical traditions in sociological approaches to the city.

2. Reflect on the value of interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the city.

3. Evaluate the significance of processes of globalisation to cities in the twenty-first century.

4. Critically assess the relationship between global and local forces in understanding contemporary urban life.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.