Wirth, an eminent sociologist, put forth three major definitions for a city. The three definitions or dimensions are: the numbers of the population, the density of settlement, and the heterogeneity of the population and life of groups. The size of the population actually affects diversity in the city. Diversity comes in the form of the personalities, culture, occupations, and the ideas of the members of the population. This diversity in turn, influences the segregation of the population, and some form of zoning takes place in the city. The variations in personalities, skill levels and culture also give rise to variations in the tasks to which these individuals are assigned, and thus become somehow become dependent on one another. Those who are not bakers depend on those who bake, and those who are not plumbers will call on plumbers when they are in need of the same. The differences in personalities, cultures and occupation likewise drive the density characteristic of the city. As for heterogeneity, while the cultural backgrounds and personalities of the city dwellers are indeed on the table when the move to the city, the mobility that the city offers also helps contribute further to the merry mix, making the city more heterogeneous (Wirth, 1938, 90-97).
Burgess on the other hand, provides a model which is quite physical in its foundations. A city is actually a group of smaller towns that have slowly grown in size and expanded until the individual areas become one greater area that eventually is called the city. The extension of these smaller areas also give rise to the concentration and decentralization of the various types of dwellings that can be found there. Along with this physical expansion and movement of sectors, there is a series of metabolic processes that occur at the same time. The metabolic process can be defined in terms of social organization and disorganization that happens. A former quarter of a certain culture can become the new quarter of another culture, and eventually, all of these metabolic processes aim for unity and prosperity (Burgess, 1925, 150-157).
Therefore Wirth defines his city in terms of three major dimensions: population, density and heterogeneity. These three dimensions are interrelated and evolve almost simultaneously. Burgess, on the other hand, emphasizes the social disorganization and organization a part of the metabolic process that accompanies a city’s growth, leading to prosperity and unity in the long term.
Burgess, Ernest. The Growth of the City. In Legates, R. and Stout, F. (eds). 2007. The City Reader. London: Routledge.
Wirth, Louis. Urbanism as a Way of Life. In Legates, R. and Stout, F. (eds). 2007. The City Reader. London: Routledge.