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suburbanism

suburbanism This term refers to social and cultural characteristics which some sociologists have claimed typify suburban residents. Accounts of suburbanism as a way of life differ widely but commonly refer to the dominance of younger, middle-class, and family-oriented patterns of work and social life; a high level of social activity based on friendship rather than kinship networks; and a considerable degree of uniformity, even conformity, in style of life. A series of studies—notably by the American sociologists Herbert Gans and Bennett Berger—largely undermined these claims, showing that suburban areas vary considerably in class and age composition, and in patterns of social life, so that suburban life-styles and social relations are not determined by physical location (‘suburbia’) as such. Like the ‘folk’ and ‘urban’ ideal-types, the suburban ideal-type is largely a myth. The best general overview of this literature is David C. Thorns , Suburbia (1972)
. For an interesting case-study of processes of social control in the suburbs see M. P. Baumgartner , The Moral Order of a Suburb (1988)
. See also ORGANIZATION MAN; SUBURBANIZATION.

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Gans, Herbert

Herbert Gans (găns), 1927–, American sociologist and educator, b. Cologne, Germany. He came to the United States in 1940 and became a U.S. citizen. In The Urban Villagers (2d ed. 1982), an important analysis of second-generation Italian Americans, he argues that ethnicity is partly a manifestation of deeply rooted class dynamics. His other writings include The Levittowners (1967), People and Plans (1968), Popular Culture and High Culture (1974), Deciding What's News (1979), The War against the Poor (1995), and Making Sense of America (1999).

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