Who is Robert Ezra Park?June 26, 2021
Park is considered the theorist to analyze the city systematically for the first time. The theory, which is expressed as ecological-human ecology in urban sociology, was developed by Park.
“R. While developing the discipline of urban ecology, Park was influenced by many thinkers such as Comte, Spencer, Darwin, Durkheim. (…) Park took the theoretical framework from Darwin and Durkheim’s method. It is possible to find the Durkheim effect in the relationship between the individual and society.” (Aslanaoglu, 1998: 26)
R. Park claims that humans are born with uncontrolled desires and emotions, and that civilization is necessary for the control of these uncontrolled senses. Cities are the areas where this control will take place. According to him, cities are something other than administrative institutions such as roads, buildings, infrastructure services, schools, churches, courts.
Cities are “a state of mind, a unity of customs and traditions, and of the organized attitudes and feelings transmitted from or attached to them.” (Tuna, 1987: 59) Cities are not just a material system, an artificial formation. “The park emphasizes that the city was formed by the effect of natural and unchanging forces (…) and accepts that removing ghettos and slums in the city is synonymous with destroying human instincts”. (Aslanoğlu, 1998: 26) The city is a product of human nature.
Park puts the view that plants and animals are interconnected, defined in Darwin’s approach as the web of life, at the foundation of his view of human ecology. Living things that have to live together enter into struggle and relationship with each other in order to survive. In this struggle for life, they create the conditions for a common life. Park uses this approach to biology to analyze the relationships and problems between people living in cities. (Yörükan, 1995: 74-77)
Robert Park also underlines the economic characteristics of cities. The city is a phenomenon that needs to be grasped not only with its ecology but also with its economic dimensions. The shaping of the urban space is evaluated by the concept of domination, which Park uses again by quoting from Darwin. Cities are shaped depending on the dominance of industrial and commercial activities, and the urban development shaped towards the center increases the economic value of this region and the rent value decreases as it moves away from the center. The ecological and economic organization of the city also plans its social relations.
“R. In Park’s conceptualization, urban units formed as a result of individuals living together for reasons such as race, culture and economic status are called natural areas. It is natural because it is the product of an unregulated environment of competition and conflict.” (Aslanoğlu, 1998: 27) With the transition from competition to a balance based on division of labor within the urban settlement, different natural areas have emerged in terms of urban settlement and functions. These areas are also cultural units.
“In ecological theory (…) it is accepted that the city differentiates from a center towards the periphery in the form of natural areas. It has been argued that first a central workplace was formed, and then people and institutions dispersed in a certain set of patterns going from this center to the periphery. This view finds its clearest expression in the concentric circle theory of Ernest Burgess. (Yörükan, 2005: 78)