Compare Jane Jacob's Theory & Tonnies' Theory

Jul 21, 2020 in Comparative Essays

Jacob's & Tonnies' Theory

How does City Life Affect Our Mentality, According to Jacobs and Tonnies?

A city is a word used to define the location in which a diverse and large population of people have settled mostly for commercial purposes. The unique thing about city life is that most individuals found here are not related to one another, but they always coexist based on different factors that are presented by the city itself. Several scholars have developed various theories channelled toward shedding more light on the manner in which people coexist in the city. Some of those who have developed the cities coexistence method include Jane Jacob and Tonnies. Their theories focus on different aspects of city life, but both of them appear to answer the question on how city life affects people mentality (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). This paper will give a detailed comparison of Jane Jacob's and Ferdinand Tonnies' theories concerning how city life influences people's mentality; the primary focus will be on how these two scholars defer in their analysis, with only a few points of intersection concerning the city life.

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Similarities of the Theories

First, Jacob's and Tonnies' theories discuss how the population found within the city are made up diverse individuals, and how all such persons come to coexists together even without having any communal ties. According to Jacob, cities have different functions, and thus they attract diverse population. She argues that the population forms the primary asset of the city, and thus the higher number of residents, the more the city is likely to prosper (Jacobs, 1961). She outlines that the importance of a large population is to provide security of the city. According to Jacobs (1961), the higher the population, the safer the city streets and pathways because despite the fact that people may not have something in common, they give each other a sense of trust and safety.

On the other hand, Tonnies also examines the nature of the population found in the city as the building factor of city life. In this theory about Gesellschaft, he states that the city is formed from towns where people increase in population and loses their customs and religious traditions which enhances a communal way of life. The city dwellers live independent of each other, and thus, they tend to be very diverse in their origin and ways of life (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). The behavior thus increases the level of socialism among different people and with time, the notions of natives and the strangers in the city becomes irrelevant. However, this uniqueness in their characteristic that makes them coexist together in a city.

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Both theorists also agree that people in the city live independent on each other as they are not related at a community level. Jacobs (1961) finds that the independent existence is quite challenging in the determination of the city security. She believes that this calls for the creation of trust among the independent people, and it is only through such trust that individual can live within the city (Jacobs, 1961). With such faith, the social life of the city which is based on the streets is made possible.

Tonnies on his analysis also stated that city's individuals are independent of the community commitment mostly found in village areas. He says that such independence creates animosity among the groups present in the city, and it is only with the agreement that a market society is formed (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). The different side of the people within the city is required to develop trust in each other so that they can transact in a commercial market. He concludes that it is through such trust that all city dwellers agree on a common value of exchange.

Differences in the Theories

The main difference that Jacob's theory and Tonnies' approach present is that they both perceive the behavior within the city to be shaped by different aspects. Jacobs, in her analysis of the city, writes that the most important aspects that determine the life of the city is the stress and the walkways. She states that these two are the main founding features of the city, and the city would not exist without them (Jacobs, 1961). She states that the streets need to be in abundance, and they need to be active and safe for a city to attract a lot of people and for it to be productive.

On the other hand, Tonnies in his theory finds that the primary founding factor of the city is social market. He states that cities are made up of commerce, and it is the nature of business found in the city that determines how the cities are likely to progress. The cities are developed and sustained as standard value of exchange that is agreeable by all parties (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). In such circumstance, the individuals thus come to the city to offer or to receive the services they need. Such behavior helps to form a capitalistic city, which determines people’s way of life as either capital owners or laborers.

The two theorists also differ in the manner at which security is offered within the city. Based on Jacob theory, the streets and the pathways are the primary determinants of whether the city is safe or unsafe. In light to this, she finds that providing security to the streets is the most important objective as it enhances the entire city security. She states that the activities and presence of the people within the city are the main factors which determine the safety of the streets. The events are defined by the neighborhood of the streets. If the buildings in the city are full of activities and neighborhood watching, then the streets are more likely to be secure (Jacobs, 1961). Moreover, Jacobs finds that when there are more events in the streets neighborhood, then they are likely to attract more people, and these people are in return offer streets and sidewalk security. In summary, Jacob theory concludes that the city security relies on people, and it is the duty of the city society to enhance their safety.

On the other hand, Tonnies in his theory on the city, finds that the city experiences the form of the state. When the capitalist market is developed in the city, the two largest antagonist groups who are the capital owners and the laborers form the government system that intervenes and develops policy on their operations. He argues that the governments elected in a city are mainly tasked with the duty of making laws which enable the coexistence of main antagonist groups living within the city (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). Apart from the laws, the new government formed also collects tax from the city dwellers and in return it provides police, who ensure that legislation and order are maintained within the city. Tonnies' in his theory concludes that the security in the city is offered by the developed governance system which is created by the coalition of both the capital owners in the city and the laborers.

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Jacob's and Tonnies' theories differ in the determination who controls the affairs of the city. According to Jacob, the affairs of the cities are determined by all individuals that exist in the city. The city life does not discriminate on the poor or the rich as both are equally represented in the streets and the sidewalks of the city. Jacob argues that the city life depends on the neighborhood; whether it is alive, vibrant and safe (Jacobs, 1961). If the above qualities are met in the city, then even the low-income earners are likely to enjoy the same level of city life as those who have a high income. However, she notes that cities should compose both new and old houses to accommodate both poor and rich. She argues that both are important to the city; hence, they needed to be accommodated so that they can enhance the city activities in the neighborhood.

On the other hand, Tonnies states that there is a big difference between the high-income and the low-income earners. He states that the rich in the city, those that are well educated, and the upper class are always in a more advantageous position in the city. His primary argument is that a market society forms cities, then the owner of the business tends to control all the aspects of the city (Tönnies & Harris, 2001). They owners of the capital tend to misuse the labor which is offered by the poor in the city. Tonnies theory shows that there exist no equality between the rich and the poor in the city. Therefore, the introduction of a neutral policy can help the two different groups to coexist in the city. 


In conclusion, the above comparison has shown how Jacob's and Tonnies' theories concerning how city life influences the people's mentality, intersect and differ from one another. Based on the analysis, the point of intersection identified between these two theories is only two. The first one states that cities are made up of a large population with diverse background, while the second similarity is that such individuals live independently associating with other through trust. Concerning differences, several points were found among the two theorists. While as Jacobs believes that streets and sidewalks are the primary determinants of the city, Tonnies argues that the social market is the main factor of city life. Jacob also believes that neighborhood provides a sense of security and that the poor are equally important in the city. However, Tonnies argues that government provides laws and safety and that owners of capital are found in a more advantageous position than the laborers.

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