Interdependence and cities.


“How does living in the city perturb interdependence?”  “Is it not exactly the opposite?” ” With many people in close proximity, of course there must be interdependence!”      Not so.

The residents of cities have, of course, a mutual or co-dependence upon the infrastructure of cities for transport, sanitation, access to food and similar.

Said another way the dependencies of each individual on utilities are parallel, at least for a period, but ultimately diverge with no sustaining residual link.

The concept of interdependence differs from co- dependance. Inter-dependence is a direct relationship between humans. This allows constant direct and dynamic adjustment and readjustment between people. It incorporates moral, cultural, compassionate unity into the relationship equation.  It also allows an un-distorted communication.  This interchange through speech might be only between relatively small groups, but that is the point which is being made.  To rely on communication provided (and filtered) by mass media reduces or abolishes interdependence.

Of course there will be “friendships”. But the number will likely be restricted in cities  because of high densities, logistic loads, associated time constraints and diminished privacy. But these friendship are not “societal interdependencies” such are (or were) present in the parish or pastoral dimension.

Leaving aside family, the way to assess whether interdependence exists and is provided by “society” is to consider removing an individual from a city-society.  Would it make any difference?  Clearly it would not. There is not sufficient dependence to make a notable difference to either party.

In the crowded environments of cities people are often intimidated and protect their privacy more forcefully, acting defensively. They are more afraid of inviting intimacy. This often narrows contacts, reversing the relatively easy acquaintanceship of smaller, more hospitable communities.

It is also demonstrated by the famous psychological illustration of the “familiar stranger”, where the persons who had stood on the same railway platform for a great many years recognized the individual who had stood beside them, but had never conversed or interrelated with that individual.  The endeavours, hopes, aspirations, and productive direction of these two persons would be expected to be widely divergent.  Hence the interdependence is null.

Extending this illustration, if one of the travelers were to fall onto the railway tracks it is probable that a third party would intercede. The first action of that “independent authority” would be to shepherd away all the “Familiar Strangers” before the independent operators took control.

The only link of interdependence between most people in most cities is taxation; even this is routed through the filter of the government sanitizing machine, which effectively makes anonymous whatever contribution one city dweller might make compassionately to another. No one knows to whom their compassionate tax dollar goes. The parish and pastoral domains are also taxed, but there is often the latitude for “parallel compassion” directly linking  inhabitants.


About jp

Orthopaedic Surgeon
This entry was posted in Humans as social animals and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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