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Louis Wirth


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A US urban sociologist whose work at the University of Chicago had widespread worldwide impact. His article ‘Urbanism as a Way of Life’ (first published in the American Journal of Sociology, XLIV, 1938) identified size, density, and heterogeneity as the core features of contemporary urban living, affirming ‘the growth of great cities’ as a critical index of ‘what is distinctly modern in our civilization’. In cities, sport and leisure interests are among the forms of collective behaviour that Wirth considered to be vital forms of social organization. So cities prompted ‘the enormous multiplication of voluntary organizations’: ‘It is largely through the activities of the voluntary groups, be their objectives economic, political, educational, religious, recreational, or cultural, that the urbanite expresses and develops his personality, acquires status, and is able to carry on the round of activities that constitute his life career.’ The recognition that voluntary associations could generate status was an insight that was pivotal for the study of the social and cultural significance of leisure and sport organizations.

Subjects: Social sciencesSociology

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