Louis Wirth

Louis Wirth

Louis Wirth (August 28, 1897May 3, 1952) was an American sociologist and member of the Chicago school of sociology.



Louis Wirth was born in the small village of Gemünden im Hunsrück, Germany. He was one of seven children born to Rosalie Lorig and Joseph Wirth. Gemünden was a pastoral community, and Joseph Wirth earned a living as a cattle dealer. At the time Louis left Gemünden to live with his older sister at his uncle's home in Omaha, Nebraska in 1911, Gemünden had 900 inhabitants, 20 percent of whom were Jewish. The town was locally known as “Little-Jerusalem”. Both of his parents were active in their religious community and emigrated in 1936 to the USA. Soon after arriving in the United States, Louis met and married Mary Bolton. The couple had two daughters.


Wirth studied in the United States and became a leading figure in Chicago School Sociology. His interests included city life, minority group behaviour and mass media and he is recognised as one of the leading urban sociologists. Wirth's major contribution to social theory of urban space was a classic essay "Urbanism as a Way of Life", published in the American Journal of Sociology in 1938.

His research was concerned with how Jewish immigrants adjusted to life in urban America, as well as the distinct social processes of city life. Wirth was a strong supporter of applied sociology, taking the knowledge offered by his discipline and using it to solve real social problems.

Wirth writes that urbanism is a form of social organisation that is harmful to culture, Wirth details the city as a "“Substitution of secondary for primary contacts, the weakening of bonds of kinship, the declining social significance of the family, the disappearance of neighbourhood and the undermining of traditional basis of social solidarity”". [Wirth, Louis (1938) "Urbanism as a way of life"] Wirth was concerned with the effects of the city upon family unity, and he believed urbanisation leads to a ‘low and declining urban reproduction rates … families are smaller and more frequently without children than in the country’. Wirth continues, marriage tends to be postponed, and the proportion of single people is growing leading to isolation and less interaction.

But Wirth also stressed the positive effects of city life:„the beginning of what is distinctively modern in our civilization is best signalized by the growth of great cities“ [Wirth, Louis (1938) "Urbanism as a way of life"] ; „metropolitan civilization is without question the best civilization that human beings have ever devised“ [The City. (The City as a Symbol of Civilization.); The Papers of Louis Wirth, The Joseph Regenstein Library, Special Collections/University of Chicago, Box: 39, Folder: 6] ; „the city everywhere has been the center of freedom and toleration, the home of progress, of invention, of science, of rationality“ [Life in the City. In: Wirth 1956: p. 206-217] or: „the history of civilization can be written in terms of the history of cities“. [Wirth, Louis (1940): The Urban Society and Civilization. In: Wirth, Louis (ed.), Eleven Twenty Six]

The profound social understanding of minority groups that Wirth obtained first-hand as an immigrant Jew in America, can equally be applied to understanding the problems of other minority groups in society, such as ethnic minorities, the disabled, homosexuals, women and the elderly, all of whom have also suffered, and/or continue to suffer prejudice, discrimination and disenfranchisement from the more numerically dominant members of a host society. It is in this respect that Wirth's path-breaking and insightful work still amply rewards detailed study even today, some seventy years after his original investigations.

A good example of Wirth's work, which includes a comprehensive bibliography, is "On Cities and Social Life", published in 1964.


*(1928): The Ghetto. Chicago
*(1936): Preface to „Ideology and Utopia“, by Karl Mannheim. In:Shils, E.;Wirth, L. (ed.), Ideology and Utopia, by Karl Mannheim, NY, p. XIII-XXXI
*(1936): Types of Nationalism. In: AJS, Vol. 41, no.6, May, p. 723-737
*(1937): The Urban Mode of Life. In: New Horizons in Planning. Chicago, p. 23-30
*(1938): Urbanism As A Way of Life. in: AJS 44, p. 1-24
*(1939): Social Interaction: The Problem of the Individual and the Group. In: AJS, Vol. 44, May, p. 965-979
*(1940): Ideological Aspects of Social Disorganization. In: American Sociological Review, Vol. 5, no.4, p. 472-482
*(1940): The Urban Society and Civilization. In: Wirth, Louis (ed.), Eleven Twenty Six: A Decade of Social Science Research, p. 51-63
*(1941): Morale and Minority Groups. In: AJS, Vol. 47, no.3, November, p. 415-433
*(1941): The Present Position of Minorities in the United States. In: Studies in Political Science and Sociology. Philadelphia, p. 137-156
*(1944): Race and Public Policy. In: Scientific Monthly, Vol. 58, April, p. 302-312
*(1945): Group Tension and Mass Democracy. In: American Scholar, Vol. 14, No.2, p. 231-235
*(1945): Human Ecology. In: AJS, Vol. 50, no.6, May, p. 483-488
*(1945): The Problem of Minority Groups. In: Linton, Ralph (ed.), The Science of Man in the World Crisis, New York; p. 347-372
*(1946): A Sociologist Looks at the Community. In: Wirth, Louis; et.al. (ed.), Community Planning for Peacetime Living. Stanford, Calif.: p. 3-89
*(1947): American Sociology 1915 - 1947. In: AJS. Index to Volumes 1-52, 1895-1947, Chicago; p. 273-281
*(1947): Ideas and Ideals as Sources of Power in Modern World. In:Bryson,L. et.al. (ed.), Conflicts of Power in Modern Culture. NY, p. 499-508
*(1948): Consensus and Mass Communication. In: American Sociological Review Vol. 13, no.1, February, p. 1-15
*(1948): World Community, World Society, and World Government. In: Wright, Quincy (ed.), The World Community, Chicago; p. 9-20
*(1951): The Significance of Sociology. In: International Social Science Bulletin (UNESCO), Vol. 3 , no.2, Summer, p. 197-202
*(1956): Community Life and Social Policy. Wirth Marvik, E./Reiss, A. J. (ed.), Chicago/London
*(1964): On Cities and Social Life. Reiss, A. J. (ed.), Chicago/London

*Reiss, Albert J.jr. (1964): "Introduction", Sociology as a Discipline. In: Wirth, Louis (1964)
*Salerno, Roger Allen (1987): Louis Wirth: A Bio-Bibliography. New York, Westport, London
*Vortkamp, Wolfgang (2002): Partizipation und soziale Integration in heterogenen Gesellschaften. Louis Wirths Konzeption sozialer Organisation in der Tradition der Chicagoer Schule, Opladen ISBN 3-8100-3069-4

See also

*German Wikipedia: Louis Wirth


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  • Louis Wirth — (* 28. August 1897 in Gemünden im Hunsrück; † 3. Mai 1952 in Buffalo, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Soziologe (Chicagoer Schule) deutsch jüdischer Abstammung. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben 2 Wissenschaftliches Werk …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Louis Wirth — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Wirth. Louis Wirth XXème Naissance 1897 Gemünden Décès 1952 École/tradition École de Chicago …   Wikipédia en Français

  • WIRTH (L.) — WIRTH LOUIS (1897 1952) Né dans une famille de juifs ruraux de Rhénanie, Louis Wirth émigre aux États Unis à l’âge de quatorze ans. Il suit à l’université de Chicago les enseignements de Thomas, Park et Burgess, et rédige en 1925 sa thèse (The… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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  • Wirth — is a German surname which may refer to any of the following individuals:* Ann Fisher Wirth, American poet and university professor * Christian Wirth, notorious member of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS) involved in the T4 euthanasia program *… …   Wikipedia

  • Louis — or Louÿs may refer to the given English and French name Louis, or the following:Royalty* Louis, 7th duc de Broglie, French physicist and Nobel Prize laureate * Louis, Duke of Savoy, the Duke of Savoy from 1440 to 1465 * Louis I of Hungary, King… …   Wikipedia

  • Wirth — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Patronyme Christian Wirth (1885 1944), un officier nazi, commandant du camp de Belzec Joseph Wirth (1879 1956), homme politique allemand Laurent Wirth… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Wirth, Louis — ▪ American sociologist born Aug. 28, 1897, Gemünden, Ger. died May 3, 1952, Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.       American sociologist who pioneered in the study of urban problems.       A noted teacher at the University of Chicago from 1926, Wirth blended… …   Universalium

  • WIRTH, LOUIS — (1897–1952), U.S. sociologist. Born in Gemuenden on the Main, Germany, Wirth emigrated to the United States as a young man and studied medicine and social work and then sociology. He taught at Tulane University and from 1940 to 1952 at the… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Louis huart — Louis Adrien Huart Pour les articles homonymes, voir Huart. La Physiologie du flâneur de Louis Adrien Huart (1841) …   Wikipédia en Français

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