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Master 2019/2020

Public and Private Spheres Dynamics in the Process of Urbanization/De-urbanization

Category 'Best Course for Broadening Horizons and Diversity of Knowledge and Skills'
Area of studies: Sociology
Delivered by: School of Sociology
When: 2 year, 1, 2 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Nikita Pokrovsky
Master’s programme: Sociology of Public and Business Sphere
Language: English
ECTS credits: 4

Course Syllabus


According to the UN Population Fund, since 2007 for the first time in history over half of Earth population lives in cities. But what is a city? And what is the nature of everyday life in it? What, to invert the title of Louis Wirth’s famous paper, does ‘urbanism’ mean as a way of life? In this course we will unfold the nature of urban everyday life from a broadly construed nested ecological/transactional standpoint, that is, looking at multiple levels of organization of life (from a single person going about their routine daily activities; through the interactions between multiple people as they self-organize into various social forms of common living, such as neighborhoods or ‘the public’; through the spatial embeddedness of human patterns of common activities in urban spatial and architectural forms; to the broad processes of urban change in context of globalization). We will examine these levels as they all project upon everyday life—that ‘common denominator,’ as Henri Lefebvre termed it, of the various facets and dimensions of social and economic life. The main purpose of this course is to understand urbanism as a complex process, and to examine how the various dimensions and domains of urban living arise out of everyday life and, simultaneously, enable, structure, organize, restrict, and project themselves into everyday life. Thus, our point of reference at all times will be the lived experience of a person inhabiting an urban milieu. We will bring in perspectives from urban sociology, urban psychology, and urban geography to explore these complexities.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • As a result, students should: Know: - seminal texts in urban-studies - basic concepts and principles of urban-studies and main areas of research on which this discipline focuses. Be able to: - construct productive research questions using approaches of urban-studies - apply the concepts of urban-studies mainstreaming to their research designs in comparative social research - to distinguish, collect and apply various social data to urban- issues - to criticize urban-studies. Have: - the skill to criticize and evaluate the quality of outcome of different forms of urbanstudies - the skill to meaningfully construct urban- research questions - the skill to model research in the field of urban-studies.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • знать основные принципы и понятия общей социологии, ключевые теоретические подходы к изучению общества и его подсистем
  • уметь анализировать события и факты с позиций социологии
  • уметь применять разнообразные аналитические инструменты, используемые в современных экономико-социологических исследованиях
  • знать основные подходы к изучению хозяйства и общества, выработанные в экономической социологии
  • усовершенствовать навыки публичных выступлений и работы в группе
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • SESSION ONE: Globalization and the City.
    Human, City, Community, World: Varieties of Settlement Organization We will discuss the basic idea of globalization as reflected in urban living and urban everyday life, and what kinds of different systems, processes, domains, and levels of organizations are involved in its organization. We will search for inspiration in the work of Walter Benjamin, Guy Debord, and Georges Perec, who famously recorded their wanderings and perceptions of cities of their time and place.
  • SESSION TWO: Person-Environment Transactions and the Nested Ecology of Urban Living.
    This class is dedicated to basic concepts and models that we will use in our study of the city. In particular, we will explore what is known as ‘transactional’ approach in person-environment-behavior research, and discuss Urie Bronfenbrenner’s nested ecological model of human development.
  • SESSION THREE: Perceiving, Remembering, and Going About the City
    What does it mean to perceive environment? How do we receive, process, organize, and make sense of environmental information and stimuli? Is our role that of passive receivers or active explorers of environment? How do we plan our actions in, and find our way about, the city? We will discuss the basics of cognitive information processing, storage, and retrieval, the active nature of our perception, and the troubles of remembering where things are and how to get to them.
  • SESSION FOUR: City Plan: Concentric Circles, Grids, Complex Patterns (and Rivers and Mountains Too)
    How is the city organized physically? What are the basic elements that comprise ‘urban environment’? How are they connected between or separated from each other? We will discuss some of the basic ideas and models of urban planning, including the Burgess concentric circles model from the Chicago School, the idea of modernity in urban planning, and the purported collapse of this idea in late twentieth century. We will also discuss the different actors and factors that influence the city plan on various levels, and the ways in which human everyday life ultimately is embedded in this physical structure.
  • SESSION FIVE: Orders of Public Interaction.
    What does it mean to be ‘in the public’? How does one interact with others in public space? We will discuss the basic tension between public and private behavior, and attempt to unfold it into a complex dimension with multiple degrees and possible regimes of ‘public-ness’. We will draw on the work of symbolic interactionists and on the focus theory of normative conduct to explore the ways in which complex social behaviors in public settings are ordered, and how individuals navigate these situations.
  • SESSION SIX: Culture, Community, and Class: Courtyard, Neighborhood, District
    What are the larger social units into which humans self-organize in their settlements? Who are the ‘Muscovites’ and how can we know one when we see one? Can we infer the social and spatial structuring of the city just by looking at the physical environment? How do different people culturally mark the city? We will discuss the social and cultural structure of the city, particularly focusing on the culturally and historically specific phenomena of ‘courtyard’ and of ‘creative class’ as potentially discernible in the environment of Moscow. We will explore the notions of identity and belonging, the ways in which they are anchored in urban environment. Our methodological anchor will be Jerry Krase’s idea of ‘vernacular landscape’ and his visual sociological approach to it.
  • SESSION SEVEN: Globalization, Mobility, and Splintering Urbanism
    What are the consequences of globalization for urban environment and urban living? How does the increased mobility (of humans, of commodities, of signs, of information, of corporations) change the constitution of urbanism? What attracts people to Moscow and what makes them move on (or out)? We will discuss the idea of ‘global city’ and the push and pull factors that influence urban populations. We will also explore the changing practices of consumption, and the ways in which these are reflected in the environment.
  • SESSION EIGHT: Urban Futures: Concentration or De-Urbanization
    What is the future of urban living? Are people going to continue to flock to highly urbanized and highly concentrated urban agglomerations? What are the ecological repercussions of concentration and de-concentration? Does ‘downshifting’ have potential to become a mass social process? We will discuss the potential future of urban everyday life in light of ecological, cultural, economic, and psychological challenges for urbanism as a way of life. We will also try and pull the different strings together, and to gather a general sense of what we can understand through the lens of person-environment-behavior transactions when these are mobilized at different levels of organization.
  • SESSION NINE: Phenomena of panic and disorder in psychology and sociology
    where to look to find out how they are possible? The social significance of panic in contemporary society: theory and applications. Panic and disorder in the society. How we identify both phenomena in an everyday life experience? The difference between psychological and sociological approach. An observer of the city: how to make and structure your observations of panic and disorder in urban life in habitual settings.
  • SESSION TEN: What do we mean by society? What is Risk Society?
    Social structure and culture. Persona and collective life. How is individual related to social structures through culture—personal and collective? The specific of contemporary social life. Globalization and it influence on human communication. Conceptualizing contemporary social life in terms: ‘informational society’/’postmodern society’/’globalized society’/’consumption society’/etc. What social changes relevant to phenomena of panic can we reliably identify? ‘Risk society’ theory and its foundation. U.Beck, A.Giddence, N.Luman about “risk society”.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking Weekly readings
    The course attendees are expected to complete the weekly readings ahead of the class sessions.
  • non-blocking Final test
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (2 module)
    Grading Four position papers make up 30% of the final grade – 7.5 percentage point per paper. 5 Class presentation makes up 10% of the final grade and is optional. Activity and participation in class work constitutes 20% of the grade. The oral exam makes up 40%. If the final grade is non-integer, it is rounded according to algebraic rules. If has a half (.5) at the end, we are rounding upward.


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Sociology : a global introduction, Macionis, J. J., 2005

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Introductory sociology, Bilton, T., 2002
  • Sociology : a global introduction, Macionis, J. J., 2008
  • Sociology : a global introduction, Macionis, J. J., 2012
  • Sociology, Giddens, A., 2017