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Bettelheim, B. (1991). The urban experience. Free Associations, 2(2):175-190.

(1991). Free Associations, 2(2):175-190

Political Analysis

The urban experience

Bruno Bettelheim

The manner in which we respond to living in a city, our urban experience, is conditioned by the ideas we develop about it in and around our home, long before we have much direct experience with the city. These early impressions, vague, disconnected and highly idiosyncratic, nevertheless are decisive for the impact the urban experience makes on the child, and with it how the person will experience the city and life in it during later years.

There are many influences on the child's experience of the world and his place in it: the people who form the child's human environment, the relations they establish between them and him, what transpires between parent and child in the home and also when together they go out into the city. These experiences are decisive for whether the child will open himself gladly to the urban experience, or shrink away from it. Much depends on how his parents mediate his experiences, and this, in turn, is determined by what they themselves make of the city: whether they feel it enriches their lives, or threatens their existence. Whether and how they see and use, or avoid and reject, the urban experience creates the framework within which the child views the city and what he encounters in it.

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