Max Weber, in “The Nature of the City”, argues on the possible definitions of a city. According to Weber, there is no clear, definite only definition exists for the city. First of all, Weber proposes an economical definition of the city; a space in which trade and commerce dominates agricultural activities: “Economically defined, the city is a settlement the inhabitants of which live primarily off trade and commerce rather than agriculture.” However, Weber underlines that not all settlements in which trade organizations are practiced may be described as cities. There are several villages governed by hereditary rule, containing trade establishments as trade cities; necessarily there has to be certain versatility for a settlement to become a “city”. At this point Weber distinguishes the city from settlement; his understanding of the city maintains versatility and multiplicity of economic organizations. Besides, for Weber the city is basically a marketplace in which “inhabitants and traders exchange goods”. Weber’s definition of the city does include individualism in the way that the city is not a space with certain rules, dynamics, a structure. It is a city because of its versatility which comes out of individuals’ daily life practices. On the other hand, there are different kinds of cities as Weber suggests, such like land-rent city of Moscow, Peking as the city of officials, producer city, trade city, merchant city, consumer city. Weber’s different definitions of the city imply that economically there is no certain, clear understanding of the city. Each city has different characteristics economically, if one economical component dominates the others, the city exists in the character of that dominating parameter.
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Furthermore, the city should be considered as a space with rules, regulations other than economical relations. The political administration of the city is crucial in the way that it has the tendency either to reproduce ongoing relations of economical, cultural practices or to conduct revisions, reforms or policies in order to regulate daily life practices. One of the important aspects of political administration in relation to the city is that it forms policies to regulate urban economy. Firstly, stabilizing the conditions of the local urban economy is required. Secondly, there has to be regulations in the interests of permanently and cheaply feeding the masses. And lastly, the urban economic policy tries to “standardize the economic opportunities of tradesmen and merchants”. Weber argues that “the urban economic policy does not represent a universal stage in economic evolutions”, as it emerged only under the political regime of the guild. Besides it is not a transitional stage of all cities.
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The notions of regulation and organization are very important in Weber’s understanding of the city. During the evolution of the cities in Modern era, the states began to centralize and bureaucratize. It is the era when the power of ideology was spread nationwide by institutization. Even though the ideas on individual freedom or free market have arisen, the regulative force of state organization seemed to get stronger. The political administration made policies to regulate economical relations. According to Weber, urban economic policy is determined for inhabitants, not by them. In this regard, the city is not a democratic space. It is a settlement in which rules, regulations are constructed for individuals to obey. On the other hand, Weber does underline that the city is an autonomous association which includes special political and administrative organizations.
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On the other hand, according to Karl Marx, urbanization is the “natural outcome of the development of the productive forces as well as the launch pad for sustaining that development.” Marx’s approach to urbanization is different than Weber’s in the way that he assigns sort of progressivism on urbanism. Marx rejects the rural and seperates it from his understanding of the city. According to him, urbanization has “rescued a considerable part of population from the idiocy of rural life”. Besides, the city is a structure in which ideology is reproduced. While 19th century capitalism was dominating the urban space, for Marx, the ultimate point which urbanization would possibly reach is communism and the revolution of the proletarian classes. In this respect, Marx points at the socialist city which should maintain the following attributes: “Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes, a heavy progressive or graduated income tax, abolition of all right of inheritance, centralization of credit in the hands of the state, centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state, extension of factories owned by the state, and improvements of soil in accordance with a common plan, free education for all children in public schools, and gradual abolition of distinction between town and country, by a more equable distribution of population over country.” For Marx, urbanization process is inevitable and necessary, however currently the city structurally serves to the reproduction of ongoing capitalist relation in the society.
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Unlike Weber, Marx is critical of the marketplace character of the city. He rather describes it as the center of division of labor which enables industrial capitalism to reproduce, and class struggle. Both Weber and Marx dismiss the impact of agriculture in urbanization. While Weber implies that the city is partially autonomous and the urban economic policy is determined for inhabitants, not by them, Marx develops a similar critical approach towards this uneven aspect of the city. For Marx, it is the domination of bourgeoisie which “anti-democratizes” the city in Weberian notion. For Weber, there is a clear cut distinction in the city between inhabitants and administrative-political organizations. On the contrary, Marx argues that there are classes struggling with each other and it’s the dominant class which makes use of political organizations.
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