Big cities promote new ideas

Big cities are generally thought of centers of innovation for both business and culture. This article suggests this effect is particularly pronounced in developing Asian countries:

“Cities are the first to embrace many concepts that are a taboo in towns and villages,” says Sandhya Patnaik, a sociology professor at Delhi University, referring to pre-marital sex, live-in relationships or divorces.

“Anything new or modern touches cities first. Trends percolate to smaller towns at a very slow pace.”

Occasionally in India, the battle between village tradition and liberal city culture can have deadly consequences, such as the “honour killings” seen in Delhi’s migrant areas…

But experts say cities across the world generally serve as a positive melting pot, where different cultures intermingle, encouraging tolerance and the interchange of ideas.

“The freedom in a big city comes from diversity,” Jirapa Worasiangsuk, a sociologist at Thammasat University in Bangkok, told AFP. “It’s the choices and the opportunity to choose that make Bangkok or other big cities a better place.

“People have more choices to choose how to live, to choose their career, to do whatever they want.”…

Sociologists say the freedom of cities often stems from a feeling of anonymity — but this can often tip over into loneliness.

This article seems to suggest that modern, Western ideas are found in the city. I assume most Westerners would look at news like this and think that these changes are long overdue but the article suggests these new ideas are not always met favorably. Such changes are not easy (and some places could argue whether they are desired) as the early sociologists recognized when looking at the changes urbanization was bringing to Western Europe in the 1800s.

It would be interesting to read diffusion studies from these countries that track how new cultural and social ideas leak out of cities and come to dominate social interaction.

Thinking more about this, are there major cities in modern times that have been business centers but also that remained culturally conservative? Or does being open to business tend to correlate with more liberal ideas? This would be interesting as neoliberalism is often thought of as being conservative since it is capitalistic.

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