The Theoretical Background of City Development

Cities have been the subject of various scientific disciplines throughout history as an organization of differentiation. Quantitative growth, increased division of labor, and this division having become a more complex organization have led to cities having quite a number of elements subjected to scientific fields. These developments are also the reason that many different perspectives have emerged about cities. In addition, the elements that produce cities and the elements that ensure a city’s sustainability have not been the same historically. Different city types have emerged in different geographies based on historical, sociological, political, and religious factors. Even at times when agricultural societies were dominant, cities had disparate characteristic features. A multitude of theories about cities can be talked about as a result of these developments.

The variety of theories about cities as a subject not only emanated from the types of cities and the elements that have led to cities’ characteristic features, but different theoretical perspectives have also had different emphases in explaining cities. The assumptions about reality have been changing in scientific explanatory models.

Thus, the same reality can be explained by placing different emphases on different aspects. Not only do theories diverge on how to explain the cities, so do the criteria on how to ensure urban development. The models from theories also diverge in the sense that, whereas some focus on the functional and solidarist aspects of the sub-organizations constituting a city, others emphasize the potential the same division has to produce conflict and inequality.

These points show the theoretical assumptions to be important when preparing a city development model. City development focuses on economic data when regarded as an area of economic competition for various organizations. Based on this understanding, one can consider city development to be traceable using wealth-related data. However, the existence of imbalances related to the distribution of wealth among the inhabitants or regarding participation in production may indicate wealth to be shared among a certain section of society rather than the city as a whole. Even if economic resources are distributed equally, city inhabitants’ life satisfaction may differ. Thus, one can speak of city development based on the equal distribution of all the resources and indicators, not just economic resources, and indicators.

Another issue regarding theories on city development is data assessment related to city life sustainability and the data that render this measurable in terms of its own time and context. Accordingly, data such as the number of cars in a city and electricity or water consumption may have a corresponding historical context. A datum that is interpreted as a development indicator whose rate increases over a period may not be interpreted as a development indicator when its rate decreases over time. For this reason, changes in urban development theories will inevitably occur similar to the upgrading of theories based on differences in the reality being experienced. The change of data over time and the issue of how this change reflects reality has vital importance because cities have a dynamic structure by their very nature.

A theoretical perspective on city development must develop based on the general and fair distribution of factors that affect the ongoing life of cities as well as its own change in relation to the reality of cities. Many pieces of datum such as the high value of economic indicators, the youth in a population, and the high number of theater-going members in a city can only be interpreted meaningfully by integrating a city’s reality with its process of change. Just highlighting or excluding certain data and indicators is not enough. Therefore, a balanced and fair distribution of measurable data is more important than their equal distribution. Of course, one should also consider the relationship these data have not only with urban criteria but also with regions, countries, and world cities. According to these theoretical assumptions, a city development index can be created by calculating and grouping measurable data over various standards. Different theoretical assumptions have developed indices by calculating the data highlighting their own emphasis on city development. This index study, called the City Development Index, has calculated its data by considering cities integration level.

What is The City Development lndex?

The City Development Index is based on three main domains (i.e., social, economic, and cultural) and their sub-dimensions. In other words, the formation of the index has focused on the three basic domains of city life. These three domains correspond to the three main structures upon which all cities throughout history have been built and which ensure the continuity of a city’s social reality. In addition, these three basic domains also have their own dimensions. Ideally, urban development basically depends on the harmony of these three elements and the balanced distribution of their measurable sub-indicators.

The first domain focuses on social life and the measurable data reflecting social life. A city is the producer of a general social life and also has social relations of its own in all its different sub-organizations. For example, the demographic structure of the city is related to social life. Cities with large industrial production or cities with a large number of university students will have different data and profiles in terms of demographic structure. At the same time, this change reveals different economic and cultural consequences. The demographic dynamism of a city and the rates of events such as immigration, births, and deaths have a central place in determining city development and producing accordant policies. The spatial configuration of a city and the level of development of its social welfare, security, and living standards also affect social life. Access to resources in city life is also among the social indicators related to development.

The second domain covers economic data and indicators. Economic development and wealth come directly to mind when addressing urban development. Economic development has vital importance in sustaining city life and in being able to compete with other cities. In the City Development Index, economic development emphasizes economic welfare beyond just the measurable economic data. For instance, the fact that public organizations exist to fight poverty is noteworthy despite the existence of poverty. For this reason, economic prosperity indicates a more balanced economic distribution both in a city and in the different units that make up a city. A city’s economic activity, its ability to use regional and global competition opportunities, and the prominence of certain sectors are the most important dimensions explaining economic life.

The third domain of the City Development Index is related to cultural life. While cities have differed from other settlements with their uniqueness and diversity of cultural life throughout history, a city is a unit of inhabitance in which a city culture of its own is formed and maintained. At the same time, a city has diverse culture. For example, metropolitan cities are also rich in cultural diversity. The cultural life domain involves subjects such as education, cultural consequences of migration, external openness, political differentiation, and the interactions of different units. Therefore, the cultural development of a city is also an important part of city development.

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Our Expert Team

  • Doç. Dr. Lütfi Sunar
    Istanbul Medeniyet University
  • Prof. Dr. Mahmut Hakkı Akın
    Istanbul Medeniyet University
  • Dr. Ümit Güneş
    Yildiz Technical University
  • Dr. Muhammed Ziya Paköz
    Gebze Technical University
  • Uzm. Mustafa Emre Kızılca