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Urban Environments in the Post-industrial Age

A massive change has happened from the beginning to the end of the 20th century. In many Western towns and cities, former powerhouses have become urban post-industrial environments. Places like Sheffield in the UK, once a booming factory city, are a prime example of what happens to urban centers after the end of industry.

What characteristics does the post-industrial society have and what is its impact? Keep reading to find out.

Post-industrial society defined

A post-industrial society is one that sees the manufacturing sector of the economy decline and the service sector start to produce a larger share of a society’s wealth. Instead of producing goods, the society now starts to provide or produce services. Characteristics of this new society include an increase in the value of knowledge, brainpower rather than brawn. Globalization is an important factor that leads to the decline of the value of manual labor. For example, a city once known for manufacturing car parts may lose jobs as factories move to a country where labor is cheaper.

The decline and end of industry

During the industrial age, rich people lived in the center of cities, with their servants in the same building or close by. With the coming of industry, the rich moved outward away from the noise and pollution caused by factories. In city centers, the business districts would usually include all of the shops and other services that the urban resident would need. Things like banks, leisure activities, and restaurants would also be located here.

Outside of this, an area or circle around the city would be locations that were meant for manufacturing and warehouses. As the city expanded, circles around it meant specifically for housing and commuters would be added. The further out from the city the neighborhood, the more successful and wealthier the residents. The move to a post-industrial culture mostly began in the 1950s to 1960s. Increased deindustrialization, new technologies, and the internet all contributed to the shift. Even within cities themselves, a separation based on the services provided began to happen.

The character of the post-industrial age

So the question arises, what does a post-industrial age look like? Firstly, the society’s social structure changes. Those persons who have professional and technological knowledge become the new rich or middle class. Many buildings lose their purpose. Large warehouses and factories may become derelict and abandoned. These properties in some cases can be contaminated with industrial waste, and then become known as brownfields. Or they may be transformed into office spaces, accommodating the newly important white-collar workforce.

A common process in post-industrial contemporary urban environments is the ghettoization of certain areas. Poor people are concentrated in one or more spaces and there is a lack of institutions or social roles for the residents of these ghettos. On the other side of the coin, there’s gentrification, which entails younger, richer professionals who live in small households or as individuals. They often displace the residents of the poorer areas.

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