When defining the life in cities, the attention of modern sociologists is focused not so much on the concepts of the social structure and functional zones as on the concepts of the “living environment” and “lifestyle” to emphasize their specifics in comparison with the “non-city” conditions. In this context, the difference between a provincial and a big city is not in the size of the territory and population, not in administrative status, or even in the degree of the cultural concentration. The basis for distinguishing provincial and big cities is the degree of the innovation or the representation of new elements in the people’s way of life and the living environment. The thesis that the mentality of provincial cities is characterized by a gap between the traditional and the new “way of life” is put forward. Due to this circumstance, both consciousness and behavior of provincials are ambivalent and autonomic.
The term “provinciality” is used in the broad context of discussions about the space of the vital activity, in the context of its structuring along the axis of the center-periphery margins. The provincial mentality can be tried to understand as an ambivalent attitude (population, group, and personality) to some center of innovation changes and simultaneously to its own basis of existence. The sociocultural ambivalence consists in the ambiguity and instability of the relationship to both new and traditional patterns. As an example, it can be noted that residents of small towns are attracted and disliked to the big cities at the same time. The provinciality is a syndrome of the cultural, status or territorial marginality.
The concept “way of life” can be verified by the concepts of “living environment” and “lifestyle”. The environment of the life activity is further verified through the specific spaces. The urban environment creates and sets a special space, different from the traditional and normative. The feature of the regulatory environment, in the final analysis, is manifested in the content and the semantic orientation of the life activity. The life of a city dweller differs from a non-city life by its goals, rules of behavior, criteria for evaluating the “right” life and the result achieved. Terminologically, this is a motivational intention of an innovative character, in contrast to the traditional one. For the empirical study of the urban environment as a normative space, it is necessary to specify the quantifiable parameters of distinguishing the specifics of the sociocultural (normative) space as a normative space of the city.
The provinciality as a phenomenon of both consciousness and behavior arises in the marginal positions: 1) meanings, 2) groups, 3) events. R. Park, who introduced the concept of marginality in the sociology, considered these positions in the sense that the marginal space is a space between two definite, designated, and unambiguous zones. We will designate them as semantic, structural-functional, and event-significant. In the broadest sense, the marginal people are people who have lost the points of worldview, status, and day-to-day behavior. At the level of the ordinary consciousness, this situation is experienced as a breakdown from the rut, the loss of uniqueness and certainty in the life context. The stated above aspects of the marginal situation can be presented separately and in various combinations. The positional and subsequent marginal situations appear in the process of transformation of one type to another.
The urban society consists of a much larger number of heterogeneous groups and subcultures than the society of traditional settlements. This circumstance predetermines more contacts between the townspeople and representatives of other social groups and cultures. City life is full of impressions and events. The urban life has a higher proportion of formal roles, interpersonal contacts often arise or are mediated by formal-status contacts. The degree of individual autonomy is higher for townspeople. Functional positions of citizens are more specialized and their implementation is more regulated. The provinciality as a marginal situation to transit from the traditional to the urban society is characterized by the presence of contradictions in the structure of sociocultural space. The provincialism is a sociocultural rather than a structural-territorial phenomenon. The particularities of both consciousness and behavior can be manifested in the inhabitants of any territory. In the literature there are references to the paradox of the capital provincials or the residents of capital cities, leading the provincial way of life and having corresponding personality structures.
Stanley Milgram, an American psychologist of the middle of 20th century, concluded that the behavioral differences of the inhabitants of big and small cities are due to the reaction of similar people to very dissimilar living conditions, and not to any specific personal characteristics of the inhabitants of megacities or provincial towns. The big city is a situation, to which a person is forced to adapt.