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  The process of becoming urban: in general usage, urbanization refers to the relative concentration of a territory\'s population in towns and cities (i.e. relative urban growth).

As a demographic process, which is the commonest use of the term, urbanization involves towns and cities growing in relative size within a space-economy through, first, an increasing proportion of the population living in urban places and, second, their concentration in the larger urban settlements. The end of the sequence is an almost completely urbanized society, with the great majority of its population living in just a few large places (but see counterurbanization).

Linked to these demographic processes (with migration the main contributor to urban growth) are the structural changes in society consequent upon the development of capitalism (i.e. structural urbanization). Cities are the foci of the production, distribution and exchange processes at the heart of this mode of production, because of the economies of scale and scope from agglomeration: urbanization is a necessary component of industrialization and development (though see overurbanization).

Finally, there is behavioural urbanization. Urban areas, especially the larger ones, are centres of social change: values, attitudes and behaviour patterns are modified in urban milieux (cf. urbanism), and new forms (which may be reflected in the townscape, as with architectural styles) then spread through the urban system by diffusion processes. (On the role of particular cities as centres of economic, social, political and cultural change, see Hall, 1998.)

This three-part model of urbanization has demographic change as a dependent variable within a process driven by structural imperatives. As a model it is particularly suited to analysis of modern capitalism. It has been demonstrated, for example, that substantial urban growth and urbanization occurred in other parts of the world, notably Asia, long before the industrial revolution and rapid urbanization of the North Atlantic area in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. City growth is not a feature of industrial societies alone and large settlements have characterized other forms of economic integration; similarly, rapid urban growth is occurring in many parts of the contemporary Third World as migrants flock to cities with aspirations for both better economic and social conditions than found in smaller places. Thus, as the arguments over counterurbanization and overurbanization also show, demographic urbanization can occur in a variety of contexts and what is typical of one time and place may not be typical of others. (RJJ)

References and Suggested Reading Hall, P. 1998: Cities in civilization. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Johns ton, R.J. 1989: City and society: an outline for urban geography. London: Unwin Hyman. Knox, P.L. 1994: Urbanization: an introduction to urban geography. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Taylor, P.J. 1989: The error of developmentalism in human geography. In D. Gregory and R. Walford, eds, New horizons in human geography. London: Macmillan, 303-19.



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