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Broadly, Urbanism is a focus on cities and urban areas, their geography, economies, politics, social characteristics, as well as the effects on, and caused by, the built environment.

Urbanism is distinct from new urbanism in that it shies away from greenfield development in favor of revitalizing existing urban areas.

Urbanism as a philosophy

The philosophy of urbanism posits that traditional cities are vitally important to society. Cites or other dense human settlements are said to serve a variety of important functions.

Diversity

Outside of cities, most people are not exposed to the same level of diversity-in both thought and personal characteristics-as they are within them. According to urbanists, this mingling of diverse people is vital to fostering tolerance and acceptance in the broader society.

Environmental Protection

It is well established that people living in a modern city have a significantly smaller impact on the environment. Those living in cities have a reduced or eliminated need for an automobile and a heavier reliance on walking, cycling, and transit. Land in dense urban areas is also more efficiently used than in suburban or rural areas which require an enormous amount of infrastructure to service. Further, in apartment buildings, or shared dwellings, as well as many other aspects of city living, there is a sharing of common goods and services. A thousand people can share the same small park, rather than each have a lawn. Renters in a large apartment building lower their heating costs by sharing walls, effectively only needing to heat one sixth as much as a person in a standalone structure of the same size.

Culture

Cities have historically been the driver of culture. Most cultural institutions throughout the world are located in central cities.

Creativity

Economics

Urbanism as a study

Urbanists distinguish urban areas from rural areas by their higher population density. They maintain that the difference in population entails a difference in the social and political order as well. Initially, some scholars denied the social and political differences between rural and urban areas, and insisted that there was no point in a specifically urban studies; but this debate has been largely resolved in favor of urban studies, and it is now widely accepted that cities need to be studied separately from the country.

Having established that cities are genuinely distinct from rural areas, scholars have studied cities according to three different perspectives: the internalist perspective, which looks at spatial and social order within a city; the externalist perspective, which views cities as stable points or nodes in the wider globalizing space of networks and flows; and the interstitial perspective, which attempts to reconcile the two perspectives through understanding how the social, temporal and spatial ordering of a city is influenced by global, external forces, and how it influences them in turn. For example, in The Ordinary City (1997), Amin and Graham argue that the urbanscape can best be understood as a site of co-presence of multiple spaces, multiple times and multiple webs of relations, tying local sites, subjects and fragments into globalizing networks of economic, social and cultural change.

"Urbanism" in its wider sense will also include the study of the interaction between the city and the rural hinterland. No city can exist without a hinterland to supply it, but, because of communications technology, this hinterland may be less easy to identify than it was in pre-industrial, agrarian societies, and furthermore the conception of how the hinterland relates to the city may change throughout history. In the Roman Empire and ancient Greece), for example, the municipium and polis were considered to consist of both "urban" centre and hinterland, with which they formed one unified social, political and economic entity.

The word urbanism is also used as a qualitative complement to the description of various urban and rural forms i.e.: informal urbanism, new urbanism, self-sufficient urbanism, sustainable urbanism, centralized or decentralized urbanism, neo-traditional urbanism, transitional urbanism, other urbanisms, etc.

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