The Metropolis and Mental Strife - measuring the effect of urban living and conformity to emotion norms in urbanised societies upon emotionality, using the European Social Survey
Social Policy Research Centre University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia
There has long been a sociological distinction drawn between urban and rural areas concerning the impact each has upon mental life and emotional experience. Classic sociological theorists such as Toennies surmised a division between intimate rural (Gemeinschaft) and impersonal urban (Gesellschaft) life. Simmel espoused that the Metropolis had the effect of "greying" life, and rendering the individual blasé and impersonal to the lives and concerns of others. Implicit in both theories is the idea that urban life in one form or another, despite its penchant for improving earnings capacity and material prosperity, erodes emotionality and the experience of regular emotional ups and downs in favour of a more rational aspect. However, these theories have not been adequately tested using large-scale representative statistical data. The emotional constancy of urban life might easily be undermined by the influence of individual factors such as age, financial stress, education, experience of crime, and work status, or similar factors operating on an aggregated national scale, such as population ageing, economic downturn, educational achievement, and rising crime rates, and changing work hours. Furthermore, they are theories that have developed in a particular social context (19th-20th C. Germany), and may reflect emotional norms appropriate just to one culture at one point in time.
This paper will address the question of the influence of urban living and the emotion norms of urbanised nations upon emotionality, by examining large-scale representative statistical data across several countries from the latest (2006) Wave of the European Social Survey (ESS). The paper will examine the effect of town size upon "emotionality" - or the frequency of the experience of emotional highs and lows - controlling for relevant individual and aggregated demographic factors. It will also examine the influence of aggregated national rates (norms) of emotionality upon individual emotionality through the use of multi-level modelling techniques, to capture the influence of socio-emotional forces (ie. emotional socialisation, or emotion-normative conformity) upon reported emotional experience.