R. D. McKenzie (essay date 1929)
SOURCE: A review of The Gold Coast and the Slum and The Ghetto, in The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. XXXV, No. 3, November, 1929, pp. 486-87.
[In the following essay, McKenzie reviews The Ghetto along with another study of urbanism and ethnicity, Harvey W. Zorbaugh's The Gold Coast and the Slum.]
These two products from the University of Chicago [The Gold Coast and the Slum by Harvey W. Zorbaugh and The Ghetto by Wirth] are essentially studies of urban segregation. Zorbaugh approaches the subject from the standpoint of place. He analyzes the changing forms of human segregation within a specific region—the Near North Side of Chicago, an area a mile and a half long and a mile wide, in which live about ninety thousand people. Wirth, on the other hand, focuses his attention on the communal habits of a people, the Jews, and studies the ghetto in its natural development and various manifestations throughout Europe and America.
Zorbaugh's book is a graphic and intimate account of life among the most divergent groups which the processes of city growth have placed side by side in urban structure. Facing the lake is the "Gold Coast," girdled on the west by the "world of furnished rooms," which fades into the "rooming house area" and finally declines into a great "slum" section lying farther west. By direct observation, personal interviews, the use of documents, maps, and some statistical data, the author has succeeded in painting a very vivid picture of life in its contrasts and extremes in this section of Chicago. Dr. Zorbaugh, however, writes from the standpoint of a reporter rather than of a scientist. In his desire for descriptive effect he frequently violates the principles of scientific caution. Too often he yields to the temptation to generalize his illustrations and to explain uncommon behavior by ready-made formula.
For instance, after the quotation "One no longer is born to social position; one achieves social position by playing the social game," it adds nothing but rhythm to generalize, "And this is as true of the society of...
(The entire section is 886 words.)