SOC208 2019 Tut 3 Mon 1130 – ‘The most suburban nation in the world’ – origins and influences for the Australian nuclear-family suburban model

Australians were amongst the first to claim the space between city and country as sites to raise nuclear families, and laid the foundation for a way of life that would see Australia become the world’s most suburbanized country in the 20th century. They were inspired by religious interests in purer lives and European/American movements to create and live in healthier, greener environments. The English Garden City movement started by Ebenezzer Howard encouraged an interest in creating new communities in places like Northern and Western Sydney.

American innovations had even more to offer us. The Chicago School of Sociology provided a model for the rise of the suburbs in most countries, with the movement of wealthier families into these outer regions as a natural progression away from the poverty, ill health and poor sanitation in the cities. American experiments also influenced the design and spread of our cities, from the proto-suburban model communities of Llwellyn Park near New York – featuring set-back houses, fixed blocks, contoured streets, and shared gardens funded by private owners’ association levies – to the back to front design of Radburn houses that were incorporated into Australia’s large scale, post-war, public housing projects.

And critical to the development of American and Australian suburbs was the taxpayer-subsidised ascension of the automobile over pedestrians and streetcars. Motor cars enabled longer commutes, ‘easy’ movement in and out of suburban spaces, and the creation of shopping plazas with large car-parks built around highway junctions – precursors to our modern, Westfields, mega-shopping malls.

All of this lead to the rise of the ‘special’ 1950s, and the dominance of the ‘quarter acre block’ suburban nuclear family in Australia at this time and for several decades thereafter. Families had never seemed tighter, smaller, younger, or more specialised, with most adults married (only 22% single), an absence of grandparents and extended kin, a median marriage age of 23, and with less than a third of mothers working in some form of paid employment.

However, these movements already began laying the seeds of their own undoing by the 1960s. The unsustainable sprawl of houses since the 1970s, the congestion of cars, and the stifling, mono-cultural and patriarchal nature of the dominant nuclear family – all living in the most suburban country in the world, lacking in cosmopolitan culture and riding its somewhat accidental good luck – these things would all become apparent within a few short decades.

S208UOW19 #Tut3 #Mon1130

Posted in SOC208 - Cities, Communities and Families, UOW, Urban Studies.

9 Comments on SOC208 2019 Tut 3 Mon 1130 – ‘The most suburban nation in the world’ – origins and influences for the Australian nuclear-family suburban model

Charles Lenarduzzi said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

I found this weeks lecture and the readings very interesting. the lecture discussed garden cities and the differences between the city and country. I found the reading by Fischer (1984) to be especially interesting where he contests the compositional approach of Lewis and Gans, who express disapproval for urban effects such as critical mass, shape and size and instead look to the cultural, demographic and class differences in communities. I personally agree with Fischer when he says the impacts of environment are just as important as cultural, class and demographic differences. Fischer (1984) also highlights three key theories; determinist theory, compositional and subcultural theory, which all outline the different affects the urban landscapes of different areas, be it city or country have different negative effects on the people who live there.

Madison Ashton said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

I really enjoyed this weeks topic as it related to my home as well as Australian family life. The focus on garden cities (in the UK) in the lecture, where my cousin now lives, I see as an ideal family lifestyle with the mix of city and country on your doorstep and I would be happy to live there. However, in America people wanted to move out of the city and into country spaces with their own nice houses and greenery in the village. The development of the car was crucial in America and worldwide as it led to to advances in every aspect of family life. People would move further out as they could now travel faster and further but it also led to developments like shopping malls. This was also a problem as it didn't stop overcrowding within cities as it was the middle classes who were moving out resulting in further exclusion of the working classes who could not afford to live in these villages. In the reading this week, Fischer identifies that urbanism isn’t always the case of a good family life. Fischer identified three theories of urbanism. The determinist theory claims that features of urbanism produce social disorganisation and some personality disorders which had been found with the Chicago school studying the city of Chicago. Chicago school found that urbanism led to new ways of life and different types of people (Fischer, 2005, 54). This determinist theory causes people to become emotionally distant from each other, with bonds between people being loosened (Fischer, 2005, 55). These aspects of urbanism come across very negative and not beneficial for society however, this urban life may suit some people where country life doesn’t.

Yasmin Latif said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

Australia is an extremely multicultural country made up of many different religions, cultures and beliefs. The topic for the week discussed the idea of garden cities and the differences between the city and the country side and how they were able to work together. This weeks lecture gave an insight on how one should be able to take advantage of the benefits of living in the city and living in the country. The reading for the week (Fischer, 1984) also highlighted three different theories which can affect the difference between city living and country living. These three theories being the ‘’determinist theory”, the “compositional theory” and the “subcultural theory” (Fischer, 1984, pg. 53). All three theories discussed the views of these different living environments.

Brendon Fishwick said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

The concept of the ‘Garden City’, as spoken about in the lecture, was one that was truly intriguing, with it being described as combining the best of the city and the countryside. A ‘Garden City’ would essentially allow for an individual to be able to enjoy the benefits in which a city can provide, while also having the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the country. Whether this is a system that could have been truly practical in addressing urban problems plaguing the city is still up for debate, as I truly don’t believe it would solve an issue such as overpopulation. However, when considering the idea of determinist theory, as highlighted in a reading, there is no doubting how living in a place like this would be intriguing to some. The determinist theory highlights how “bonds that connect people to one another are loosened”, and that “people are left both unsupported and unrestrained (Fishcher, 2005)”. While possibly seen as a negative, this may permit people in the city to “spin the wildest fantasies, and it is here where the ‘Garden City’ may be attractive to some, even if it is not to solve the problems it intended to.

Liam O'Neill said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

Australia has always been a country made up of many different cultures (no matter what some people say) Australia is a multicultural country and the same can be said of our cities. Both the reading and the lecture discussed several theories regarding urbanisation and I agree with the Determinist theory of cities over the Compositional theory because it appears more prevalent in the majority of western cities today and from my perception is evident in Australian cities. The Determinist theory blames the city for the diminishment of social bonds and applying Durkheim’s theory of Organic society and Mechanical society it is clear that the city has caused this disconnection between people as Organic society is about this disconnect caused by urbanisation. Compositional theory is also not a substantial theory because of its claim that the city has no direct effect on the erosion of social bonds, but location will always be a fundamental part in determining social relations and bonds because of its link to social construction.

Lexe Evans @lexe_evans said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

This week’s topic was interesting in looking at the idea of garden cities, the mix between city and country and how this worked together. It was highlighted in this week’s lecture that an individual should be able to enjoy the benefits of both city living and country living. However, I somewhat disagree with this idea of the garden cities, as I personally don’t think that this would work, from my opinion, I live in the country and I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to live somewhere where these two are combined, due to fact that it takes away from the real experience of country living and wouldn’t necessary solve the cities overcrowdings and the idea of mixing these two very different living situations for me are not practical. In the lecture, the built model village of Letchworth attracted middle-class Londoner’s, who rose prices, resulting in the exclusion of city workers, working class and local industry, therefore in this respect it is extremely impractical and exclusive of particular groups of individuals. As discussed in this week’s reading, determinist theory discussed the loosening of bonds, kinship ties and loss of community sense resulted from urbanities (Fischer 2005). Despite, the disadvantages, it is understood that the idea of garden cities are great for those who love both city and country and are wanting to experience both at the same time, particular who need or want to still maintain that city living with the added benefit of country living, without necessarily being in the country. References: Fischer, Claude 2005, 'Theories of urbanism' in Lin, Jan, Urban sociology reader, Routledge, London, pp. 51-58. Patulny, R 2019, ‘Modern suburban families’, lecture, SOC208, University of Wollongong, delivered 18 March 2019.

Meaad Alqahtani said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

It is incredible what we discussed this week about the idea of the garden city and how that will be healthier for people. The reading from Fischer illustrates some side effects of living in the urban environment such as schicologial and social troubles (Fischer, 1984, p51). In this reading, Fischer explains the subcultural theory and how the urban environment strengths the social relationships between individuals.

Bronte Petrolo @brontemai said : Guest Report 4 weeks ago

Additional to this week’s focus on the history of Australia’s suburbia, the lecture and reading from Fischer also touched on subcultures which are deemed as a prominent result and feature of cities. One of the major theories of urbanism is the subcultural theory (Fischer, 1984, p53). Although I do agree with this theory’s belief in urbanism forming and nourishing social groups (Fischer, 1984, p57). However, I disagree with this theory’s principle of critical mass (Fischer, 1984, p58). The theory states that the formation of subcultures involves two processes; critical mass and contacts. For this instance, critical mass will just be examined. Critical mass, in regards to the theory, is the idea that large populations are a requirement for the development of subcultures because of its ability to achieve greater recognition and to draw enough attention to attract a widespread audience. My disagreement with the critical mass principle is demonstrated through the example of the popular Australian subculture, known as the ‘Elvis Presley Fanatics’ (Martin, 2016). This subculture was established in the rural town of Parkes which also holds the annual Parkes Elvis Festival. Despite its location, this subculture’s popularity is not only proven from the 27 years existence of the festival, but also its growth with over 26,500 visitors and at least 200 million fans watching the event globally via media. This festival proves that the location or community, whether rural or urban, does not impact on the creation, maintenance and expansion of subcultures. Another criticism of this theory could be its absence of recognising the influence families may have on subcultures within communities or cities. Thus, a question that could be considered for future research is; ‘What effects do families have on the dynamics or creation of subcultures?’

Rhiannon Mackie (@Soc208RhiannonM) said : Guest Report a month ago

The lecture about suburbia’s beginnings and the different models USA and England had were very different from each other. I really like the idea of a garden city with the green belts to separate the towns from merging together. I like the idea of having both the benefits of the city and beauty of the country in one place. It may not have been very practical but I think out of all the ideas everyone had, this would attract me to live there the most. It's interesting that the American model inspired Australia to create new communities, more so than the English model. From an outsiders view it would offer more of a modern feel and more options, so I can see why it would be more attractive as an idea overall.

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