The Symbolic Ecology of Suburbia

  • Albert Hunter
Part of the Human Behavior and Environment book series (HUBE, volume 9)


Where we live is a statement of who we are. In the exploding modern metropolis fewer and fewer people live in central cities, but people continue to live and find meaning for their lives in local communities. As metropolitan areas continue to grow in size and numbers, the communities people increasingly come to live in lie beyond the bounds of the central city in the fissionable fragments of countless surrounding suburban communities. For the most part, these suburban communities are far removed from the small towns and villages, the pastoral settings of a bygone era depicted in nostalgic Norman Rockwell paintings. The shopping mall has replaced Main Street, the regional high school the two-room schoolhouse, and the suburban split-level the frame farmhouse. The melding of urban and rural, for better or worse, that was attempted in the idealized Utopian setting of suburbia has generated a long list of both apologists and critics. Only within the past few decades, however, has the more neutral eye of the analytical social scientist begun to elicit the crystallized pattern of social and spatial order and the patterns of change apparent in this metropolitan puzzle. No longer is it sufficient to denigrate the conformity and complacency of suburbanites who fled the teeming freedom and anonymity of the cultured city left behind nor to wax bucolic about the spacious greenlands of innocent euphoric childhood on the city’s rim to which people migrated. Rather, the questions have more prosaically come to center upon the realities of how it is people go about the routine business of constructing their everyday lives—of getting a living, making a home, raising a family, and finding meaning to lives lived on the fringe of the modern metropolis.


Metropolitan Area Central City Collective Identity Suburban Community Ecological Reality 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Albert Hunter
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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