Who is Louis Wirth?June 25, 2021
Louis Wirth was a German-American sociologist and thinker who lived from August 28, 1897 to May 3, 1952, and pioneered the study of urban problems.
The Life of Louis Wirth
Louis Wirth was born in 1897 in the small German village of Gemundan.
His uncle had recently moved to the United States. While visiting Germany in 1911, he and his sister decided that there were more opportunities for Louis in the United States. Wirth, who went to America with his uncle and mother, lived in Omaha, Nebraska until he transferred to the University of Chicago.
Wirth returned to Chicago, where he left after earning his undergraduate degree, to pursue further studies, eventually earning his doctorate at that school in 1925 under Robert Ezra Park’s thesis advisory.
Throughout his professional career, Wirth has done extensive work on urban life. In 1938, he published a book called Urbanism as a Way of Life, which advocated urbanism as the dominant way of life in modern society.
Louis Wirth lecturing at the University of Cicago…
Wirth argued that the size and density of modern cities changed modern people and their relationships.
“Because of the size of the city, it is not possible for people to know all the other citizens of the city. There is a shift from primary relationships to secondary relationships because of necessity. Urbanites interact with others in specific roles, not as individuals. For example, a city dweller encounters many people during the day, such as the cashier of a grocery store and the doorman of his apartment. The citizen does not develop deep personal relationships with these people, but only interacts with them as part of their role. Thus, personal relationships become superficial. Urban life is determined by utilitarianism and efficiency. The density and heterogeneity of urban dwellers make people live in homogeneous groups, which transforms a city into a ‘mosaic of social worlds’. Transitions between groups are difficult, and many social strata contribute to the segmentation of urban life.”
(World of Sociology, Palmisano (editor), 2001, p. 714)
Wirth was elected by his colleagues as president of the American Sociological Association in 1947. The Presidential address was given at the organization’s annual meeting in New York in 1947 under the name “Consensus and Mass Communication”.
In 1952, at the age of 55, Wirth traveled to Buffalo, New York, to speak at a conference on community relations; He collapsed to the ground after his presentation at the conference and passed away.
The Works of Louis Wirth
Known for his contributions to the birth of sociology as a profession, Louis Wirth was one of the most famous academics of the University of Chicago, where he began working in 1926. Wirth was one of the rare scientists who followed a unique scientific method, blending experimental research and theory.
Wirth, who was the president of the American Sociological Association (1947) and the first president of the International Sociological Association (1949-52), made a lot of noise with his famous book Our Cities: Their Role in the National Economy (1937). Written for the US National Resources Committee, this book was an important first attempt to outline a national urban policy based on the findings of the social sciences.
Wirth also wrote “The Ghetto” (1928); He is also the author of the classic books Urbanism as a Way of Life (1938) and Community Life and Social Policy (1956) and Louis Wirth on Cities and Social Life (1964).
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer Yıldırım