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Essay on City Life vs. Village Life!

One of the most striking features of industrial age is the growth of city
life. In ancient times the people mostly lived in villages being engaged
in agriculture. Cities arose here and there as centres of trade or seats
of government. Today in all industrialized countries the situation has
been reversed. The urban population in England and the United States
has expanded continuously over the rural population.

New facilities of transport and communication have brought

thousands of people nearer to each other and made it convenient for
them to live together in large aggregations. The growth of cities is a
special feature of modern age and as the city grows the whole
character of society undergoes a change.

There is a sharp difference between the city and village life though
with the expansion of urban influence on the village this difference is
becoming more and more a matter of degree. However, in spite of the
recent trends of urbanisation the villages still retain many of their
traditional features and present a sharp contrast with the urban life.

(i) Force of Traditional Mores:

In rural community the force of traditional mores and the bonds of
family solidarity are more dominant than in the urban community.
According to Biesanz and Biesanz, “In the rural community custom is
the king, the folkways and mores control most of behaviour,” The
sense of group responsibility which tends to be more and more
dissolved in the growth of the city prevails in village life.

The type of village family is generally patriarchal in which the status of

the individual is the status of his family. There is less individual
questioning and rebellion. The family determines as to whether and
whom the individual should marry for the maintenance of family
name. There is lesser freedom in the selection of life partner. There are
few love-marriages.

Not only marriage but also religion, recreation, occupation pre

determined by family traditions. Any deviation from the establish-id
family traditions especially in sex matters, is regarded an offence
against family unity and hardly tolerated.

The life of all men and women is merged in family life. In short, family
dominates individual’s life in village community. Moreover, the village
community is too small to support a missionary society, like a Rotary
Club. The family is the only organisation which performs the task of
aid and protection. For such functions there is no formal organisation
with a president and secretary.

On the other hand, in the city community life is conspicuous by the

absence of family life. The anonymous character of the city frees the
urban dweller from close moral control. Social control becomes the
activity of specialized agencies. Family control is lessened. Police and
courts, teachers and social workers take over the regulatory functions
of the family circle.

A “free lance” detached from family bonds is looked askance at in the

village while such a person, even his norms of conduct, sexual and
otherwise may pass unnoticed in the city and be admitted to those
places where high class gentry goes. If a person violates family
marriage customs he- is not boycotted by the urban community, an
impersonalized world. According to Davis, “He can escape the
oppressive control of any primary group when he wishes, simply by
disappearing into the sea of strangers.”

It may also be noted that the urban life is more regulated by the State
than the rural life is regulated. Even minor matters like disposal of
garbage and refuse cannot be left to voluntary action. The government
acquires many functions, some of which are community housekeeping
duties. Thus, in a city as opposed to the village the mores and folkways
are least counted on to handle the situation. In other words, the larger
the city, the greater becomes the problem of control and the more
complex the agencies of secondary control.

(ii) Primary Contacts:

Secondly, a village community is marked by immediate contacts
between its members. There is a strong ‘we-feeling’ in the rural
community. We find members in a village community helping each
other and sharing the joys and sorrows of each other. In the village
everybody is known to everybody.

Their relations are personal. Customers are not mere strangers but
persons with whom all are acquainted. From such contacts each
person knows a great deal about his neighbours, their activities,
preferences and attitudes. Status of each one in the village community
is well known.

Written contracts are less important than a word of honour. Crime in

village community is rare. Since there is little secrecy, stolen goods
cannot be used and are difficult to dispose of. Things are done by
mutual understanding. In city life, on the other hand, nearness counts
much less. The inhabitants of a city hardly know each other.
Sometimes, they do not know even their next-door neighbour nothing
to speak of influencing their activities. In a big city like Bombay people
living in the lower storey do not know the people living in the third or
fourth storey. There is an atmosphere of indifference and callousness
in a city.

In a city like Calcutta, an inhabitant may spend a whole day in the

street and never see a person he knows, though he may see tens of
thousands of people. Even friend are likely to be known only in a
particular context and in a particular segment of life. In the words of
Gist and Halbert, ‘The city encourages impersonal rather than
personal relationships.” Most of the relations are indirect.
Competition has a far greater velocity in the city than in the village.

(iii) Simplicity and Uniformity:

Life in a village community is simple and uniform. There are few
ambitious men and fewer excitements. The villagers lead a uniform
life tilling land and rearing animals. Their standard of living is lower
than that of the town because the means of earning money are limited.
They view land as the most substantial of all heritages.

Agriculture is their major occupation. When oppressive taxes or other

measures threaten their ownership of land, they align themselves with
radical movements as happened in Soviet Russia. The standard of
living of the urban people is higher.

They are more prodigal than the village people. Country life suggests
‘save’, City life suggests ‘spend’. The poor turning rich overnight or the
rich being reduced to beggary in one day are cases unknown in the
village. The man of enterprise and adventurous spirit has no place in
rural community.

The city dweller becomes indifferent to extremes of all kinds. Indeed

the distinction between public and private, between what is shown and
what is concealed, is much sharper in the city. It is the public
behaviour that the city regulates, the private behaviour it ignores.

(iv) Specialization:
Another contrast between village and urban community is concerning
the modes of production. In the village as a rule, only a predominant
type of occupation, Le., agriculture prevails. Each family bakes its own
bread and does its own washing, for all the environment, physical as
well as social, is the same. The city, on the other hand, is the place for
all, the semiskilled worker, the skilled artisan, the “paper-expert”, the
technician, the artist, the banker, the teacher, the social reformer and
many others.

It is a heterogeneous group of people engaged in various pursuits. The

city tasks are divided and sub-divided to such an extreme that even the
work of unskilled labour becomes specialized. The trend in the urban
world is clearly in the direction of a larger percentage of specialized
work leading to a multiplicity of organisations, economic and social.

The residents of a city become affiliated with a number of

organisations. Their social relations are mostly indirect and secondary.
Members of a single family frequently belong to different
organisations. Since these various organisations have different
customs and procedures, there is opportunity for confusion and lack of
(v) Proper Placing of All:
The process of selection for the specialized work is keener. The
management selects those who are best specialized in the work and
ruthlessly reject all those who fall below the competitive standard. The
owner of special ability has greater chances of quick promotion. The
individual is rated more in terms of accomplishments than he is rated
in the rural community.

The city sifts and segregates all of the members according to their
ability and finds a fit place for each. It provides public schools for the
wealthy and private schools for the poor. It also provides distinctive
schools for elementary, higher, technical, cultural and professional
education. It even provides separate schools for defective persons, e.g.
Deaf and Dumb school.

(vi) Social Mobility:

The city requires and promotes great social mobility. It lays emphasis
on achievement rather than the ascription of status. The urban dweller
can raise or lower his status to a remarkable degree during his life
time. The caste element in social stratification is minimized.

Status centres on the occupation, on the nature and competence of the

activity, rather than on the accident of birth. As opposed to the village
in a city social climbing is most prevalent. Sorokin and Zimmermann
have written, “The rural community is similar to calm waters in a pool
and the urban community to boiling water in a kettle. Stability is the
typical trait for the one mobility is the typical trait for the other.”

(vii) Areas of specialization:

Specialization is also seen in the physical structure of the city.
Distinctive areas are marked for different activities. Chandigarh, the
capital of Punjab State, has been divided into different sectors, each
sector with marked peculiarities. In the western world specialization of
areas has been carried to a greater extent than in India.

The structure varies from city to city in accordance with the size, site
and needs, of the city, but generally everywhere in the western world
there is a clear division of space into zones of business activity, of low
rentals and residential congestion, of transitory abode, of “middle-
class” residence, of industrial concentration, and so forth.

(viii) Position of Women:

Specialization in the city has also influenced the life of women. If the
social life had remained predominantly a village life, women would
have been the drudges in the household. Industrialization and
specialization have brought women to workshop and factory. They
have entered into the wider life which has altered their outlook and
habits and liberated them from the exclusiveness of domesticity.

As MacIver observes, ‘The individualization of women has been

fostered by urban life and the resulting freer reciprocity of relationship
between men and women, as individuals, is exercising and will
doubtless continue to exercise, since the process is still advancing, a
significant influence on the whole structure of society.”

(ix) Contrast of Qualities:

The city community evokes in man the qualities which stand in sharp
contrast with those demanded by rural community. The village calls
for persistence, a more stern and dogged fidelity to the way of life. He
is fatalistic and is in constant contact with nature. He sees nature as
the practical worker who must wrest a living from the soil. He sees
nature as friend and enemy, as the ripened of crops and sender of

The forces of nature are beyond his control and reckoning. He is

attached to- rituals and becomes superstitious and religious. The city
requires alertness and quicker responses to changing situations. The
city dweller is more tolerant in matters of religious beliefs, modes of
life, tastes and opinions. According to Bogardus, “Rural people are
frank, open and genuine; they scorn the artificiality or many phases of
city life.”

The city is ruled by impersonality of law and the caprice of fashion. In

a rural community the rural moral codes are fixed and strict. Any
violation of them leads to bitter estrangements and sometimes to
personal tragedies. In a rural community there is much mutual aid. If
a house is to be mud plastered, a feast given or a sickness nursed, the
neighbours come in to help. There is an atmosphere of kindliness.

There is a good deal of visiting, several times daily, between the

people. In an urban community there is no strong ‘we feeling’. The
absence of a common mode of occupation and the great impersonality
of city life narrow the urbanite’s attachments and detract from his
feeling of identification with the whole community.

The secondary and voluntary character of urban association, the

multiplicity of opportunities, and the social mobility all force the
individual to make his own decisions and to plan his life as a career.
The city instead of suppressing the individuality emphasizes it.
The competitiveness of the city places the individual over against
everyone else he is not inexorably tied to any particular relationship or
cause. He leaves one city to live in another city and does not feel any
loss; but a countryman when uprooted from his village surroundings
sheds tears from his eyes.

(x) City a Home of Wealth:

Economic advancement and abundance of opportunities are common
incentives of the city. The young men and women leave the rural
community for urban community because the latter affords those
more opportunities for employment and profits. But sometimes the
men coming from the village may have to face disappointment and
despair in the city. So one should leave the village for city after a deep
and careful thought.

The above are then the features that distinguish rural from urban life.
In the city “opposite conditions are found”, aggregation ;instead of
physical isolation; associations of many kind’s supplementing or
supplanting the functions of family or categorical relationships;
contacts with human beings and civilization diversity superseding
contacts with nature; differentiation of economic classes and
specialization of economic tasks, ranking and grading men in ways
often unknown in the country; limited and intensified work, with its
endless varieties and disparities of opportunity and of fortune creating
an intricate design of competitive living traditionally alien to the rural
sense.” It may, however, be pointed out that urbanization of the rural
population has reduced the differences between rural and urban
The urban influence on the rural people can be seen in matters like
social organisation, family organisation, food habits, standard of
living, dress habits, cosmetics, religion, rituals, beliefs etc. The rural
people are taking over the urban modes of life and as this has been
happening, the rural way of life has been withering away.

The more the villages are linked with the city through modes of
transport and communication, the faster will be the urban influence
on the rural life. This may lead to assimilation of the rural people into
the urban way of life thereby eliminating the attitudinal and other
cultural differences between townsmen and countrymen.