The articles under this heading discuss three aspects of the community as a geographical and social unit. Other aspects of the community are discussed in many other articles in the encyclopedia. Major theoretical positions are reviewed inCommunity-society continuaand Ecology, article onhuman ecology. Communities of different sizes are described inCity; Neighborhood; Rural Society; Village. The major institutions that enable communities to function are described inCity, article onmetropolitan government; Local finance; Local government; Local politics; Voluntary associations. The fate of community in modern society is discussed inMass society. Planning, Social, article onregional and urban planning, andUtopianism, article onthe design of experimental communities, describe sharply contrasting approaches to the problem of planning better communities. Loss or renunciation of community is described inHomelessness. Methods of research into community life are reviewed inAnthropology, article onthe anthropological study of modern society; Ethnography; Field Work; Observation. For material on social scientists who have particularly advanced the study ofcommunity, see the biographies ofBooth; Burgess; Geddes; Park; Redfield; Tocqueville; TÖnnies; Webb, Sidney and Beatrice; Wirth.
I. The Study of Community powerNelson W. Polsby
II. Community DisorganizationJessie Bernard
III. Community DevelopmentIrwin T. Sanders
Contemporary research on community power is distinguished by: (1) a concern with characterizing as a whole the political order of an entire community (generally an American local community); (2) radical disagreement on methods of going about this task; (3) both agreement and disagreement on specific findings; and (4) conflict over the proper interpretation of findings. At points of disagreement there has been a tendency for the literature to break roughly into two schools of thought—one based on a theory of social stratification, the other less systematically derived from theories of pluralist democracy. While contention between advocates of these schools has occupied much space in the literature, the problems, possibilities, and accomplishments of community power research neither begin nor end there.
There is a sense in which the beginnings of community power research are identical with the origins of Western thought, since the early speculations and investigations of Plato and Aristotle on the nature of man and his government referred to the polities and constitutions of Greek city-states (Friedrich 1959; Long 1962). The marked resurgence of interest in community power in recent years, however, has several distinctive features and immediate antecedents. Among sociologists, interest in American social problems created by industrialization, mass immigration, and urbanization reached a kind of crescendo in the late 1920s and during and after the great depression, notably under the leadership of Robert Park and W. I. Thomas at the University of Chicago. Investigations of Negro and Jewish ghettos by Zorbaugh (1929) and Wirth (1928), of the Polish immigrant by Thomas and Znaniecki (1918–1920), and of skid row bums, criminals, and prostitutes by others —while contributing significantly to the growth of sociological thinking—also reflected the policy-oriented, ameliorative interests of sociologists of this period. Later, the depression led sociologists to re-examine their equalitarian assumptions about American society and reactivated a long-dormant concern among them for theories of social stratification. These theories had never gone out of fashion in Europe but had previously been thought to be of only limited applicability to the American experience. One illustration of a shift toward the use of stratification theory is contained in the contrast between the early classic study of Middletown (1929), by Robert S. Lynd and Helen M. Lynd, and its equally renowned successor, Middletown in Transition (1937), which emphasized community power much more than did the earlier book.
When American political science emerged as a formal discipline around the turn of the twentieth century, its members regarded the local community as a massive political problem requiring prescriptive rather than strictly descriptive activity. The adverse judgments on American city politics advanced by Bryce (1888), Ostrogorskii (1902), and others led to agitation for the professionalization of city management and to other suggestions for reform, but not to systematic attempts to comprehend local politics descriptively (see Sayre & Polsby 1965). In the 1920s and 1930s an energetic group of political scientists at Chicago, led by Charles E. Merriam, undertook to redress the balance; but most of their efforts were incorporated into ongoing research in political parties and voting behavior rather than into the field of local politics (see, for example, Merriam & Gosnell 1924; Key 1936).
World War ii, with its large-scale displacement of academic talent into national and international arenas, no doubt served to delay further the discovery of local communities as suitable and attractive laboratories for the examination of traditional problems of empirical political theory. At any rate, it was not until the 1950s that this literature began to emerge in full flower, although its precursors and roots can be found in earlier writings.
Characterizing a whole community
Little attention has been devoted in contemporary community power research to the problem of defining a community—a question that has recently engaged, among others, students of international politics and organization (e.g., Deutsch 1953; Haas 1958; Russett 1963). For the most part, a conventional perspective has been adopted and a “community” has been defined as a population living within legally established city limits. Only rarely is the term used in this literature to describe a standard metropolitan area, marketing area, or some entity defined by functions other than political. The problem of setting boundaries on the community is, perhaps, ultimately insoluble except by arbitrary means, because it is freely conceded that externallymade decisions may have a significant impact on the allocation of values and on important private and public decisions within the community, however defined. And it is the description of the shaping and sharing of these values and decisions that is the central concern of the community power literature.
Methods of research
A serious problem in characterizing the political order of a whole community concerns sampling procedures. Clearly not all decisions, or even a meaningful fraction of them, are normally studied in order to arrive at a description of power distribution within a particular community. The inevitable and necessary compromises that students have made have led to much disagreement on methods of research. To a certain extent each student of community power has had to fashion his own compromise with the fuzzy universe of decisions in the community in which he has worked— a compromise dictated in part by the time, help, and funds at his disposal, and in part by the theoretical presuppositions he has brought to the research.
One method of study has consisted of what might be termed “total immersion” in the community by a researcher or research team for a lengthy period of time—sometimes as long as a year or more (see, for example, Lynd & Lynd 1929; 1937; Warner & Lunt 1941; Warner et al. 1949; Hollingshead 1949; Sayre & Kaufman 1960; Scoble 1961; Dahl 1961). The researcher thus has an opportunity to learn the perspectives of local residents, to identify issues and decisions they regard as significant, to absorb some of the history and background of the community, and to see its various groups and leaders in the round of daily life. More formal interviewing, participant observation, clipping of newspapers, and examinations of official records, census materials, and so on can also be employed during the period of residence. A variant of this is the method of gathering and generalizing from numerous case studies describing decision making in detail (see, e.g., Ban-field 1961; Wildavsky 1964; Decisions 1961).
Clearly this method—insofar as it can be regarded as a method of research rather than as an eclectic combination of methods—is not open to much criticism. Most of the criticism of community power studies using this method has attacked the analysis of data and the appropriateness of conclusions drawn from the data, rather than the data-gathering methods of the studies.
A drawback of the total immersion method of research is its expense in time and money. It also smacks to some of casual empiricism of a kind that renders either replication or comparative study difficult. And so it is not surprising that an attempt, however crude, to develop a more mechanical method of research in this field was warmly welcomed and quickly imitated. Such an attempt was made by Floyd Hunter (1953), who in a study of Atlanta, Georgia, introduced what later came to be called the “reputational” approach to discovering patterns of community power.
Although this method is not compactly described in the original study and modifications have been introduced by others (e.g., Miller 1958; D’Antonio et al. 1961; Klapp & Padgett 1960), we can present it in general outline. Briefly, the central goal of the method is to arrive at a list of people who can be called “top influentials” in the community. Often, lists of nominees are solicited from people who are presumed to be knowledgeable in various sectors of community life. These names are then winnowed (to 40 in Atlanta) by a panel of judges, so that only those on whom a number of people agree appear on the final list. Members of this list are customarily interviewed and asked such questions as: “If a project were before the community that required decision by a group of leaders—leaders that nearly everyone would accept—which ten on the list of 40 would you choose?” and “Who is the biggest man in town?” (Hunter 1953, pp. 61 ff., 268–271). Hunter’s book consists largely of an account of his methods of identifying the top leaders, a discussion of their involvement in a few community decisions, and a demonstration that they were by and large well known to one another.
At first Hunter’s book was favorably received, and a number of studies were planned and executed in other communities using this or a similar method (e.g., Form & Sauer I960; Klapp & Padgett I960; Hunter et al. 1956; D’Antonio & Erickson 1962; Pellegrin & Coates 1956; Schulze 1961; Thometz 1963). The reputational method has also been vigorously defended by admirers of its economy and compactness (Rossi I960; Herson 1957; Ehrlich 1961; D’Antonio & Erickson 1962; and others). But it has also been attacked for a number of reasons.
Perhaps the most fundamental objection has been that the identification of presumed “influentials” is a very crude method of sampling the underlying shape of decision-making processes. Instead of focusing on how valued outcomes are distributed by those who actually distribute them in specific instances, it focuses on those who some people say distribute them under hypothetical circumstances. The identifiers, about whom we are told little in these studies, may be misguided, prejudiced, or ill-informed (Wolfinger 1960; LaPalombara 1964; Bauer et al. 1963). In fact, some people who have appeared on top leadership lists have been found not to belong there by criteria more closely tied to actual behavior; others not on the lists have been found to belong on them (Fanelli 1956; Scoble 1961; Wildavsky 1964; and others). Different decisions have been found to involve different influential people. In some issue areas there are persistent patterns of decision making; in others the patterns change rapidly. Critics charge that all these distinctions, crucial to an understanding of community power, are disregarded by the short cuts of the reputational method (see McKee 1953; Kaufman & Jones 1954; Dahl 1961; Scoble 1961; Polsby 1959; Wolfinger I960; Polsby 1963).
Users of this method have often a priori picked among the alternatives posed by each of these distinctions. They have held, at least implicitly, that all those on the reputational list are the top leaders in the community (whether they actually are or not) by suggesting that there is a general top leadership group, influential in more than one issue area (whether it is or not) and persisting over time (whether it does or not). Even where researchers, conscious of latter-day criticisms, refrained from picking these particular alternatives a priori, the reputational method, because of its removal from real decision-making events, has rendered them no assistance in picking any other alternative. Thus, for example, attempts to demonstrate persistence of leadership groups by the reputational method fail because regardless of the similarities or differences in lists at times t1, and t2, the reputational method unaided fails to show the relations between the lists and actual behavior at either time (D’Antonio & Erickson 1962).
Attempts to improve the reputational method have concentrated mostly on reducing vagueness and ambiguity in questioning; thus, instead of a hypothetical “project,” one or more actual projects or issue areas can be the subject of an interview (e.g., Thometz 1963). Instead of asking merely for a list of who might or should be involved in a decision, descriptions of specific events, actions, and reactions can be elicited. But there comes a point along this road at which the reputational method becomes indistinguishable from ordinary interviewing.
The central methodological issue is thus one of appropriateness. Are respondents being asked questions to which they can give answers capable of unambiguous interpretation? Are respondents able to give the best available testimony on the questions they are asked? Are they able to give competent testimony? Are their responses, if correctly interpreted, capable of answering underlying questions about community decision-making processes? If so, then the reputational method is clearly an appropriate tool of community power research. If not, as the weight of evidence and argument seems to suggest, then the method can be discarded.
The heated debate over the reputational method has obscured the fact that this method is not solely or even chiefly responsible for the promulgation of findings about the distribution of power in local communities that, on the basis of internal evidence, are quite likely incorrect.
A number of studies-some reputational, some not—have set forth all or several of the following conclusions, which for several decades were widely accepted as scientifically established and accurate descriptions of American community politics: (1) the upper class rules; (2) political and civic leaders are subordinate to this class; (3) there is a single power elite dealing with a wide variety of community issues; (4) this upper-class power elite rules in its own interests; and (5) social conflict takes place chiefly between the upper and lower classes. A common thread running through these propositions is the dependency of political power on the class and status structure of the community; thus, for convenience, we may refer to these propositions as a “stratification theory” of community power.
Each of these findings has been questioned. In many instances the evidence supporting them has been weak, ambiguous, vague, or even contradictory. In some cases these propositions have not been tested directly or properly, and in others findings contrary to the propositions have been explained away unsuccessfully (see Polsby 1963). And so the extent to which any of the propositions actually holds and the circumstances in which one or more of them is applicable are now problematical.
Alternative findings, supported by a number of sources, can also be distilled from this literature. They include the apparent fact that participation in the making of most community decisions is concentrated in the hands of a few, but that different small groups normally make decisions on different community problems. Government officials are the most likely of all participants to overlap issue areas. Over time, the membership of decision-making groups appears to turn over at variable rates of speed.
These small groups have frequently been found to contain representatives of more than one interest; indeed, the finding is often made that participants in decision making disagree sharply among themselves. The powers of these groups also seem to be restricted in other ways—by expectations that they will not innovate, by threats that counterelites will “make an issue” and defeat them by enlarging the number of participants, and by the necessity to seek outside support to undertake nonroutine commitments. Finally, many members of these groups seem to be recruited by self-selection rather than co-optation, and many are answerable to the local electorate.
Valued outcomes are, in any event, only partially under the control of local participants in decision making. Decisions significant to local politics may be made outside the community—as, for example, the decision by a national corporation to move a plant in or out of a given locality—or outcomes may occur as a by-product of other activities, without explicit decisions being made by anyone. There is no sure connection between the intentions of community leaders and the actual distribution of values. Because of these and other considerations, knowing simply who gains and who loses in community politics is not sufficient to give a reliable picture of local decision-making processes.
Success in community politics evidently does not come automatically to possessors of great amounts of any one of the many possible resources available to actors in community life. Many resources in combination—time, knowledge, money, official position, energy, popularity, social status, and so on— must be applied with skill and diligence for actors to succeed in influencing decisions in desired directions. These resources must be disposable for political purposes, and it is helpful if they are convertible into other resources that may be in short supply. Skill and diligence in the application of resources to political ends are themselves often scarce. Successful actors in the community usually must also learn to choose goals that minimize costs to others in the system, that effect incremental rather than sweeping changes, and that distribute payoffs widely.
Findings such as these are often referred to as “pluralist” in character. They emphasize the diversity of decision-making processes and focus less on the social backgrounds and identities of participants and more on their actual roles and activities in local decision making. Whereas a stratification theory of community life by definition involves everyone in a hierarchical power relationship which can be ascertained by reference to his class and status position, the pluralist theory speaks more readily of “groups” whose size, cohesiveness, state of mobilization, range of interests, and durability are all subject to empirical examination.
Recent defenders of the stratification approach to the study of community power have been willing to concede that the original case for this approach rested on shaky empirical ground; yet, at the same time they have suggested that a full-blown pluralist theory accounting satisfactorily for all the facts has by no means emerged in the literature. They have also raised a number of specific points at which their interpretations of agreed-on facts diverge from pluralist interpretations. Of these, only three can be discussed here.
Consider first the finding that leaders are drawn from a very small proportion of the total community and are much more likely to be middle class than lower class. To stratification analysts this suggests that there is an unspoken but very real “price of admission” to the political stratum, which can be paid in coin that is, for many participants, inherited and thus attributable to the stratification system of the community.
A pluralist response might be that nevertheless inherited membership in the middle class is probably not a necessary condition of participation. Participants may find it possible to enter the political stratum by other means. They may enter the middle class from below and acquire its values and social and economic resources by means other than inheritance. Or, while retaining low economic and social standing, they may become intensely involved in the disposition of a particular issue. Or they may come to community leadership through activity in a labor union, ethnic association, neighborhood group, or local party organization. The extent to which any of these routes to political participation is taken in a given community is, of course, always a matter to be determined by investigation.
Would it be proper to infer, then, that although membership in the middle class is not a necessary condition, it may be a sufficient condition for participation in decision making? Hardly. At most, only a small percentage of the middle class participates, and the rest do not.
In what circumstances are the class identities of decision makers crucial in determining the shaping and sharing of political outcomes? Certainly when local decision makers are faced with alternative courses that will distribute values differentially to the different classes, and also in all other instances where class membership is a meaningful determinant of political interests. Such circumstances must be assumed to exist in Middletown, where members of X family—identified as a major component of the upper class—were found to belong to both the Democratic and Republican parties. This report could be interpreted to mean that both parties were dominated by the cohesive, class-based interests of the X family (see Lynd & Lynd 1937, pp. 87, 91–93). However, an alternative interpretation might be that the X family was politically split (see Polsby 1960).
Pluralists often remark on conflict between decision makers and on the diversity of interests they represent. To them, an agreement between Walter Reuther and Henry Ford can be interpreted as something other than collusion between two relatively wealthy residents of the Detroit suburbs. In this case, as in many others, knowing the number of decision makers present and their class memberships would be less important to a pluralist than knowing what the subject of their discussion was and what interests were involved.
Inequality of influence
Different constructions are also put on the palpable fact that equality of influence over decisions by all members of the community is nowhere approximated. Inequality in this sense is not a new discovery; the question is whether such inequality can somehow be reconciled with the democratic pretensions of American society. On the whole, stratification theorists have doubted that it can; pluralists have on the other hand called attention to the varieties of inequality, to the possibility that inequalities along various dimensions could be dispersed rather than cumulative, and to the ways in which dispersed inequalities lead to checks, balances, and standoffs in the political system, and consequently to bargaining and the spread of benefits.
The status quo
Finally, there is disagreement among students of community power in their orientations toward the status quo. On the one hand, an ongoing political system can be regarded as a stacked deck of cards, in which some people are much better situated than others, with possible alternatives or correctives never brought into public discussion and never raised as issues. Thus aspects of social structure that are never controversial and hence never brought fully into focus by the activity-oriented pluralist approach may exercise a profound influence on community decision making (see, in particular, Bachrach & Baratz 1962; Agger et al. 1964, e.g., p. 325). Insofar as pluralist researchers confine their attention to controversial, extraordinary, and highly conflictful events, this criticism has great merit. But when pluralists attempt to explain issue areas in which routine and structured decision making also takes place, they are less vulnerable to this charge.
When critics of the pluralist approach specify in some detail precisely which aspects—controversial or not—of the status quo must be investigated, and in the light of which unconsidered alternatives, then it is possible in particular cases to examine the justifications for describing local decision making in terms of alternatives suggested by outside observers rather than in terms of alternatives perceived and acted upon by local residents.
The status quo can be viewed as passively but powerfully restraining community residents from better possibilities and levying costs inequitably. But it can also be considered a synonym for the stability that is the sine qua non of organized society. Out of a universe of possibilities, and at undeniable but unavoidable costs, communities evolve habits and patterns of activity in response to a variety of internal and external pressures. The alternative to a deck stacked in some way, at persistent cost to somebody, is, in this conception, a kind of random world in which costs are levied unexpectedly and unpredictably. In situations of rapid flux and uncertainty, one may also suggest that the dependence of the many on the few for decision making is accentuated rather than diminished, and the forms of due process that are the bulwark of the rights of ordinary citizens in a democracy give way before the exigent demands of the powerful.
Obviously, not the mere fact of status quo but the undesirable aspects of status quo in particular communities give rise to the impulse to search for alternatives, even when local residents are not vocally among the search party. It is nevertheless a common mistake to view stability as uniquely costly in and of itself, when with equal cogency one can argue against change for the sake of change.
In any event, researchers interested in these problems should try to discover the consequences of change or of status quo empirically, rather than deducing them from a priori notions.
The major conflicts in this field over method and the interpretations of findings seem to have drawn scholarly attention and energy away from the discussion of local community politics. One result, perhaps, is that the literature of community power has as yet provided no firm basis for differentiating among communities by means of empirically verified propositions that state the varying conditions under which different findings hold. For it is manifestly the case that communities do differ in their politics and in other ways. Apparent as this is to the naked eye, the literature on community power has not yet effectively exposed and illuminated community differences as they affect local decision-making processes. The main contributions of this literature are to be found less in discussions of community politics than in discussions of the study of local politics as a problem in research methodology, philosophy of social science, and speculative social theory.
Nelson W. Polsby
Agger, Robert E.; Goldrich, Daniel; and Swanson, Bert 1964 The Rulers and the Ruled: Political Power and Impotence in American Communities. New York: Wiley.
Bachrach, Peter; and Baratz, Morton 1962 Two Faces of Power. American Political Science Review 56:947–952.
Banfield, Edward C. (1961) 1965 Political Influence. New York: Free Press.
Bauer, Raymond A.; Pool, Ithiel de Sola; and Dexter, L. A. 1963 American Business and Public Policy: The Politics of Foreign Trade. New York: Atherton.
Bell, Wendell; Hill, Richard J.; and Wright, Charles R. 1961 Public Leadership: A Critical Review With Special Reference to Adult Education. San Francisco: Chandler.
Bryce, James (1888) 1909 The American Commonwealth. 2 vols., 3d ed. New York and London: Macmillan. → An abridged edition was published in 1959 by Putnam.
Coleman, James S. 1957 Community Conflict. A publication of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.
Dahl, Robert A. (1961) 1963 Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
D’Antonio, William V.; and Erickson, Eugene C. 1962 Reputational Technique as a Measure of Community Power: An Evaluation Based on Comparative and Longitudinal Studies. American Sociological Review 27:362–376, 848–854.
D’Antonio, William V. et al. 1961 Institutional and Occupational Representations in Eleven Community Influence Systems. American Sociological Review 26: 440–446.
Decisions in Syracuse, by Roscoe C. Martin et al. Metropolitan Action Studies No. 1. 1961 Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.
Deutsch, Karl W. 1953 Political Community at the International Level: Problems of Definition and Measurement. Foreign Policy Analysis Series, No. 2. Princeton Univ. Press.
Drake, ST. Clair; and Cayton, Horace R. (1945) 1962 Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City. 2 vols., rev. & enl. ed. New York: Harcourt.
Ehrlich, Howard J. 1961 The Reputational Approach to the Study of Community Power. American Sociological Review 26:926–927.
Fanelli, A. Alexander 1956 Typology of Community Leadership Based on Influence and Interaction Within the Leader Subsystem. Social Forces 34:332–338.
Form, William H.; and Miller, Delbert C. 1960 Industry, Labor and Community. New York: Harper.
Form, William H.; and Sauer, Warren L. 1960 Organized Labor’s Image of Community Power Structure. Social Forces 38:332–341.
Friedrich, Carl J. 1959 The Concept of Community in the History of Political and Legal Philosophy. Pages 3–25 in Carl J. Friedrich (editor), Community. Nomos 2. New York: Liberal Arts Press.
Haas, Ernst 1958 The Uniting of Europe: Political, Social, and Economic Forces, 1950–1957. Stanford Univ. Press.
Herson, Lawrence J. R. 1957 The Lost World of Municipal Government. American Political Science Review 51:330–345, 783–784.
Herson, Lawrence J. R. 1961 In the Footsteps of Community Power. American Political Science Review 55: 817–830.
Hollingshead, August de B. (1949) 1959 Elmtown’s Youth: The Impact of Social Classes on Adolescents. New York: Wiley.
Hunter, Floyd 1953 Community Power Structure: A Study of Decision Makers. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1963 by Doubleday.
Hunter, Floyd; Schaffer, Ruth C.; and Sheps, Cecil B. 1956 Community Organization: Action and Inaction. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.
Jennings, M. Kent 1964 Community Influential: The Elites of Atlanta. New York: Free Press.
Kaufman, Herbert; and Jones, Victor 1954 Mystery of Power. Public Administration Review 14:205–212.
Key, Valdimer O. 1936 The Techniques of Political Graft in the United States. Univ. of Chicago Libraries.
Klapp, Orin E.; and Padgett, L. Vincent 1960 Power Structure and Decision-making in a Mexican Border City. American Journal of Sociology 65:400–406.
LaPalombara, Joseph G. 1964 Interest Groups in Italian Politics. Princeton Univ. Press.
Long, Norton E. 1962 The Polity. Chicago: Rand McNally. → See especially pages 222–241 on “Aristotle and the Study of Local Government.”
Lynd, Robert S.; and Lynd, Helen M. (1929) 1930 Middletown: A Study in Contemporary American Culture. New York: Harcourt. → A paperback edition was published in 1959.
Lynd, Robert S.; and Lynd, Helen M. 1937 Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts. New York: Harcourt. → A paperback edition was published in 1963.
McKee, James B. 1953 Status and Power in the Industrial Community: A Comment on Drucker’s Thesis. American Journal of Sociology 58:364–370.
Merriam, Charles E.; and Gosnell, Harold F. 1924 Non-voting: Causes and Methods of Control. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, Institute for Community Developmentand Services 1962 Main Street Politics; Policy-making at the Local Level: A Survey of the Periodical Literature Since 1950. Compiled by Charles Press. East Lansing, Mich.: The University.
Miller, Delbert C. 1958 Industry and Community Power Structure: A Comparative Study of an American and an English City. American Sociological Review 23:9–15.
Ostrogorskii, Moisei Ia. 1902 Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties. 2 vols. London and New York: Macmillan. → An abridged edition was published in 1964 by Quadrangle Books.
Pellegrin, Roland J.; and Coates, Charles H. 1956 Absentee-owned Corporations and Community Power Structure. American Journal of Sociology 61:413–419.
Polsby, Nelson W. 1959 The Sociology of Community Power: A Reassessment. Social Forces 37:232–236.
Polsby, Nelson W. 1960 Power in Middletown: Fact and Value in Community Research. Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science 26:592–603.
Polsby, Nelson W. 1963 Community Power and Political Theory. Yale Studies in Political Science, Vol. 7. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
Presthus, Robert V. 1964 Men at the Top: A Study in Community Power. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
Rossi, Peter H. 1960 Power and Community Structure. Midwest Journal of Political Science 4:390–401.
Russett, Bruce M. 1963 Community and Contention: Britain and America in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press.
Sayre, Wallace S.; and Kaufman, Herbert 1960 Governing New York City: Politics in the Metropolis. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Sayre, Wallace S.; and Polsby, Nelson W. 1965 American Political Science and the Study of Urbanization. Pages 115–156 in Philip M. Hauser and Leo F. Schnore (editors), The Study of Urbanization. New York: Wiley.
Schulze, Robert O. 1961 The Bifurcation of Power in a Satellite City. Pages 19–80 in Morris Janowitz (editor), Community Political Systems. New York: Free Press.
Scoble, Harry M. 1961 Leadership Hierarchies and Political Issues in a New England Town. Pages 117–145 in Morris Janowitz (editor), Community Political Systems. New York: Free Press.
Thomas, William I.; and Znaniecki, Florian (1918–1920) 1958 The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. 2 vols. 2d ed. New York: Dover.
Thometz, Carol [Estes] 1963 The Decision-makers: The Power Structure of Dallas. Dallas: Southern Methodist Univ. Press.
Vidich, Arthur J.; and Bensman, Joseph 1958 Small Town in Mass Society: Class, Power and Religion in a Rural Community. Princeton Univ. Press.
Warner, W. Lloyd et al. 1949 Democracy in Jonesville: A Study in Quality and Inequality. New York: Harper.
Warner, W. Lloyd; and Lunt, Paul S. 1941 The Social Life of a Modern Community. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.
Wildavsky, Aaron B. 1964 Leadership in a Small Town. Totowa, N.J.: Bedminster Press.
Wirth, Louis 1928 The Ghetto. Univ. of Chicago Press. → A paperback edition was published in 1956.
Wolfinger, Raymond E. 1960 Reputation and Reality in the Study of Community Power. American Sociological Review 25:636–644.
Zorbaugh, Harvey W. 1929 Gold Coast and Slum: A Sociological Study of Chicago’s Near North Side. Univ. of Chicago Press.
A community, in the sense in which the term will be used here, is a territorially bounded social system or set of interlocking or integrated functional subsystems (economic, political, religious, ethical, educational, legal, socializing, reproductive, etc.) serving a resident population, plus the material culture or physical plant through which the subsystems operate. The community concept does not include such characteristics as harmony, love, “we-feeling,” or intimacy, which are sometimes nostalgically imputed to idealized preindustrial communities (Foster 1960–1961), but it does include a minimum of consensus. A normative structure is either inherited from the past or self-consciously instituted in each subsystem, and conformity to its demands is usually sufficient to guarantee that the above-mentioned functions will be performed.
Community disorganization may be defined as a state in which any one or more of the several sub-systems, for whatever reason, fail to function at some specified expected level of effectiveness, or it may be defined as the processes that lead to such a state, or it may refer both to the processes and to the state. Failure of a subsystem may take the form of performance that is either better or worse than the expected one; the processes leading to such failure may be “natural” or purposive. Since community disorganization as a state may occur in a wide variety of subsystems and in a wide variety of circumstances and, as a process, may result from a wide variety of causes, it is not a unidimensional sociological phenomenon susceptible to simple theoretical conceptualization or definition.
The ideal-type of a community that is not disorganized would be one in which: (1) the physical plant is in good running order, capable of serving the needs of the people; (2) the people are in good physical and mental health, that is, able to perform at least at minimal levels of efficiency; (3) there is at least a tolerable fit between community needs (”functional requisites”) and functional subsystems (institutions and groups) to serve them; (4) there is consensus with respect to norms, so that everyone knows what to expect of everyone else, and hence there is no confusion; and (5) these expectations are fulfilled. Change would not be precluded, but it would be change for which the community is prepared and change that is synchronous and compatible among all the subsystems. Change, in fact, may be in the direction of organizing rather than in the direction of disorganizing the community, as when a new traffic control system is introduced to overcome the disorganizing effect of traffic jams. Still, there is a nice theoretical question about just where to draw the line between organizing and disorganizing change.
Community disorganization as a state is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon; it is a matter of degree. It is currently believed that complete absence of any disorganization in a community is highly improbable. A certain amount of stress and strain (Moore 1963; Moore & Feldman I960; 1962) or instability is seen as probably intrinsic in any social system. It may be taken for granted, therefore, that at least a certain degree of disorganization, however slight, is present in all communities. The extent may be wide, including the entire community system, or limited, affecting some parts more than others. Communities characterized by “organic” solidarity will be more susceptible to disorganization than those characterized by “mechanical” solidarity [seeCommunity-society continua].
Community disorganization as a process may range in extent from a temporary tie-up in rush-hour traffic to a total collapse of all subsystems. It may be sudden and rapid, as in a cataclysmic “act of God,” or slow and of long duration. It may be immediately and even spectacularly visible, or it may be almost imperceptible. There may even be controversy as to its very existence. (It has been asked, for example, whether the people of Rome ever knew that their empire was “falling.”) More-over, it may be reversible or irreversible, “natural” or purposive.
Community disorganization as a state. At what point in the process of community disorganization should we say that a community is in a state of disorganization? How much malfunctioning of any subsystem constitutes a state of community disorganization? Crisis disorganization, as in the case of a disaster, presents no problems of identification. But if a certain amount of nonconformity is endemic or chronic, in fact, intrinsic in the operation of communities, it is not at all clear at what point we should speak of a state of disorganization.
There is by no means always consensus among observers with respect to the existence, let alone the extent, of disorganization in any specific community. A classic example is the controversy among researchers with respect to family structure in the Caribbean. Some students view the family there as in a state of disorganization (Blake 1962; Goode 1960); others, however, view it as an institutionalized adaptation to a difficult set of circumstances (Rodman 1961). This difference of viewpoint illustrates a contrast between the sociological and the cultural conceptualization of disorganization. The anthropologist tends to underplay it; his emphasis is on the fact that if the community is surviving, the basic functions are at least being minimally performed. In the Caribbean, therefore, he does not see “friending” and “living” as nonconformity to community norms for marriage but rather as a cultural innovation for adapting to circumstances that make conformity to the community norms impossible [Rodman 1961; see also CARIBBEAN SOCIETY]. Similarly, one social anthropologist has detected a “culture of poverty,” rather than a state of disorganization, in Mexican slum communities (Lewis 1959).
In answer, then, to the question raised above, all we can say is that there are no consensual standards that define the limits of community disorganization. For example, at one time and place, an economic subsystem is judged to be performing its function if it provides subsistence for everyone; at another, it is judged not to be performing its function if anyone is at a merely subsistence level. And such is the case for all of the subsystems.
Competition and conflict
The subsystems in a community are not operated by self-programmed computers. They are operated by human beings who are socialized into subsystems and who come to identify with them. Thus, although they are all contributing to the “commonweal,” they see themselves as competing and in conflict with one another. For example, the police system competes with the highway system for tax funds; the public school system competes with the private school system; and the public sector competes with the private sector for personnel and support. The conflict between political and economic institutions for power, classic in the nineteenth century, continues in the twentieth; even President Eisenhower, before he retired, warned against the encroachment of the military-industrial complex on political prerogatives.
But conflict between or among groups and sub-systems, in and of itself, need not disorganize a community. Some kinds of conflict are highly institutionalized; that is, they are bound by consensual or legislated norms. Indeed, the philosophy of checks and balances in the United States constitution is itself an institutionalized form of conflict, as is the concept of a “loyal opposition” in the British constitution; so, too, is the system of parliamentary debate. The whole legal system also is designed to institutionalize conflict. The process of “countervailing power” in the economic sphere (Galbraith 1952) is another example. There is, in fact, one school of thought which holds that conflict in this institutionalized sense is an organizing rather than a disorganizing factor, a sine qua non of stability in our society; it is seen as a method for preventing too great a concentration of power in any one position, thus making for new equilibria to accommodate new statuses among the interest groups in the community. Since such conflict is institutionalized and provided for, either explicitly or implicitly, in the system itself, it does not disorganize the community; it is, rather, part of the organization of the system.
This does not mean that conflict cannot be a disorganizing process. Sometimes mass hysterias become hostile and lead to widespread violence, resulting in destruction of property and loss of life. If conflict takes the form of hatemongering, rabble-rousing, or ressentiment, it may disorganize the community by preventing the normal expectations of behavior. In the Middle East, street rioting has become a recognized technique of conflict that may be at least temporarily disorganizing. Rioting in some countries can be turned on and off almost at will by the dissident leadership (Rummel 1963).
Maximizing performance of function
The division of labor implies common interests. It is thus clear that if any one subsystem under-performs its function, community disorganization may result. If the economic subsystem cannot produce and distribute goods and services, all the other subsystems are impeded in their functioning, and the total community system suffers some degree of disorganization; if the governing subsystem cannot preserve order, again, the other subsystems cannot perform their functions. These conclusions are obvious.
But precisely because it is part of a total system and not an isolated autonomous entity, the over-performance as well as the underperformance of a subsystem may also be disorganizing. Assigned a function to perform, a subsystem may do it so well that other subsystems suffer. Any one subsystem, performing at a high level and thus presumably contributing to the welfare of the total system, may by that very fact be interfering with the operation of some other subsystem performing a complementary function.
The economic subsystem, for example, has the function of creating and distributing goods and services. Institutional norms for achieving this goal are present, and conformity to them presumably leads to successful performance. Accordingly, such obstacles to successful performance as inefficiency, technical obsoleteness, and (if employers choose to define it as an obstacle) unionization, are regarded as contrary to the norms and tend to be suppressed whenever possible. The “natural” result of a high degree of conformity to the norms of the economic subsystem in its productive aspect, may, however, interfere with the adequate performance of its distributing function, resulting in widespread unemployment, or a high level of competitive stress and strain, demoralization, family trauma, and so on. In other words, the very norms of efficiency that maximize productivity may interfere with the distribution of the goods and services; the better the productive subsystem works, the worse other subsystems may work. Or, to take another example, the better the system of reproduction works for increasing the population, the worse the economic production system may work, as land becomes increasingly fragmented among heirs. If a school system attempts to make maximum use of its plant by sending children from crowded slum schools to uncrowded schools in better neighborhoods, families may withdraw their children from the better schools and parental interest in public schools may decline, to the detriment of the whole system. If the welfare and charitable agencies wish to maximize their services by assuring a decent level of living for their clients, unions may accuse them of disorganizing the labor market by subsidizing industry’s low wages and weakening organized efforts to improve wages.
Overconformity to community norms within any subsystem constitutes a disorganizing process that is analogous to overconformity to subsystem norms. The performance of community functions by any subsystem is usually mediated by way of institutionalized norms, and conformity to these norms presumably guarantees adequate performance of the functions by the sub-system. However, some community norms are, in effect, on a stand-by basis; they are not enforced most of the time but are there in case they are needed. It has been said, for example, that if every single norm were rigidly enforced, almost any system would collapse. For example, unwilling military conscripts report that resorting to punctilious conformity to every military norm serves admirably as a form of sabotage. It has been said that complete conformity to the political norms in the U.S.S.R. would bring the economic system to a halt and that only the presence of blat or fixing—itself illegal—keeps it performing at all (Crankshaw 1959). Complete and rigorous enforcement of all the laws, mores, conventions, and administrative rulings could throw a community into chaos. A large proportion of the population would end in jail; court dockets would run years behind schedule; and interpersonal ties would be shattered as the conventional white lies of the amenities that conflict with the mores were discarded.
The disorganizing effects of too-rigorous conformity to norms are counteracted by the emergence of informal, unarticulated, unofficial, crescive norms or understandings that optimize rather than maximize conformity to the formal, articulated, official norms. Only as much conformity as is needed is demanded; as much nonconformity is permitted as is needed to keep the community operating. There is, in effect, a new form of organization of nonconformity that performs a latent function. It constitutes “institutionalized evasion of the norms” (Merton  1957, pp. 318, 343–344; Bernard 1949).
A typology of disorganization processes
Community disorganization as a process may be classified according to any one of several criteria. For our purposes here, a simple twofold typology is used, namely, “natural” community disorganization and purposive or strategic community disorganization, each with several subtypes.
The term “natural” is placed in quotation marks because anything that human beings do is natural and the contrasting rubric, “purposive,” refers to behavior as natural as any other. The term is used only for the sake of convenience.
“Natural” community disorganizing processes may be extrinsic or intrinsic in origin. There is little of theoretical interest in the state of community disorganization that results from the impact of outside forces. What theoretical interest there is lies in the effects, in tracing the process by which the impact finds its way through the system and in determining the relative susceptibility or resistance of the several subsystems to the impact of differing kinds of extrinsic forces (Coleman 1957). Is there a hierarchical order among the sub-systems, some being more, some less, important for the total community system? The processes by which the impact of such extrinsic forces ramifies throughout the community will not be discussed here, except as the various subsystems constitute extrinsic influences on one another. [SeeDisasters.]
Intrinsic community disorganization as a process does present some interesting theoretical problems. Is there, for example, anything inherent in the functioning of a community, even when protected from extrinsic influences, that leads to a state of disorganization? Are there, as Marx said of capitalism as a system, internal contradictions that make a state of disorganization inevitable? Or, conversely, if there were no extrinsic influences at work, would a community achieve a kind of “perpetual motion”?
Theoretical models. At least three theoretical models may be proposed to describe the “natural” processes of intrinsic community disorganization, namely, an escalation model, a deceleration model, and a stability or “natural limits” model.
The escalation model begins with the instituting of a subsystem in the community to perform a function perceived as needed. It may be, for example, a police system, a school system, or a traffic-control system. Although there are “bugs” in the system at first, those who instituted it hope that once it gets into operation they can be eliminated and the operation improved as it learns to dovetail its contributions into the over-all community system. If these hopes are justified, the end result will be a stable situation. But it is possible that the improved efficiency of the new subsystem may disorganize the over-all system, as noted above, by overperforming its function in terms of the expectations of other subsystems. The police find too many violators of the law; the schools find too many illiterate high-school students; and so on. This phenomenon is sometimes viewed in terms of the unanticipated consequences of purposive social action (Merton 1936); it is always disillusioning to reformers.
A second type of model, a deceleration one, is sometimes summarized in such aphorisms as “a new broom sweeps clean” or such mottoes as “turn the rascals out.” It was more emphasized in the past than recently, under the rubric of “ossification” or “formalism” (Cooley 1909). In this model, the new subsystem operates very well at the beginning. But instead of improving with time, it deteriorates. In the process of “de-bugging” the system, new rules are established, and conformity to the rules becomes an end in itself. After the original goal for which the subsystem was instituted has been achieved or outlived, survival becomes an end in itself. The subsystem accumulates “dead wood” and red tape and finally spends all its time performing its own survival tasks rather than contributing to the total community system. Or a subsystem originally instituted to control another (e.g., a public utility regulating board) comes in time to identify with the subsystem it is supposed to regulate, so that its contribution to the total community system is subverted rather than implemented.
Finally, the stability or “natural limits” model posits an instituted system that escalates and decelerates in performance within certain limits. Early research on the business cycle, for example, viewed periodic stalling of the productive mechanism as part of the system, that is, as a necessary, normal, and even desirable correction. According to this view, there are built-in controls that stop the system if it is operating too fast and start it again when adjustment has been achieved. The automatic check might come from some other subsystem rather than from within the subsystem itself. As soon as the performance of any subsystem shows signs of adversely affecting the performance of other subsystems, an automatic set of checks goes into operation.
Purposive or strategic processes
Purposive community disorganization as a process may be viewed either as benign or as revolutionary and subversive. Benign community disorganization usually seeks reform rather than revolution, although sometimes, as in Gandhi’s use of it, it is revolutionary in its effects. However, benign community disorganization is ordinarily nonviolent and sometimes ostensibly carried on with altruistic intentions (Sibley 1963). But if it does have to injure others, the theory is that the persons who start the disorganization must be willing to suffer also.
Destructive community disorganization that is strategic rather than irrational in character is often a technique for seizing political power. It is a recognized subversive technique in modern revolutionary movements, codified as the so-called “Phase One” of the revolutionary process in “wars of national liberation”: “The greater part of any Phase One operation is covert and marked by a subtle, gradual deterioration of the existing sociopolitical system” (Pustay 1965, p. 59). Destruction of consensus or loyalty to a given status quo or set of incumbents is a major goal. All possible community conflicts are exploited to foment instability or to prevent stability in the system. The theory of community disorganization as subversion has been highly developed by communist leaders from Lenin (1905) to Mao Tsê-tung (1937).
The technique of community disorganization by an outside enemy is as old as war itself. It includes not only destruction of physical plant and people by violence but also the nonviolent destruction of morale. As the value of the physical plant increases, nonviolent techniques tend to be preferred in order to save the physical structure for the time when the community is taken over. In modern wars drug addiction, black marketing, counterfeit money, and alcohol have been used as subversive techniques to prevent the adequate functioning of the subsystems in the community and thus to weaken the ability to wage war.
Benign community disorganization—an attempt by those within the community to coerce or deter an opponent by nonviolent means—is fairly new, at least on any extensive scale. It did not develop until industrialization had transformed the mechanical solidarity of peasant society to an organic solidarity based on the division of labor. When, for example, families made their own candles, owned their own team of horses, and made their own bread, it was not possible to disorganize a community by threatening to turn off power, to go on strike, or to tie up traffic. Modern communities, highly specialized and functionally integrated, are peculiarly vulnerable to the use of strategic disorganization.
Early analyses of the strategic use of civil disobedience and nonviolence were in terms of ethical principles, as, for example, in the writings of Henry Thoreau and Theodore Parker. Marx and Engels saw, though they did not admit, that the division of labor, greatly elaborated with industrialization, made the class war a mixed-motive rather than a “zero-sum” game. Though the power struggle is a “zero-sum” game, the economic struggle is a mixed-motive game, since both parties have a common interest in not destroying the means of production, that is, the physical plant of the community. [SeeGAME THEORY, article onTHEORETICAL ASPECTS.] Georges Sorel (1908) developed the concept of the proletarian general strike (as contrasted with the concept of the political general strike) to keep labor-capital cleavages alive and to serve as a strategic threat to those in power. Thus he sought to promulgate the idea of the transition to socialism as a catastrophe that the power elite would do anything to avoid. It was a myth that simultaneously organized the proletariat against the power elite and threatened the community with disorganization.
In the middle of the twentieth century, Negroes in American communities disorganized communities by civil disobedience, passive resistance, and demonstrations. Their purpose was not primarily to disorganize the community as an end in itself but rather to disorganize it just enough to call attention to the lack of consensus. Consensus implies “consent of the governed.” It need not imply active or positive agreement or acceptance, but so long as people conform to any set of norms it will be assumed that these norms have their passive consent, if not their active approval. In order, therefore, to demonstrate the withdrawal of consent and the lack of consensus, there must be nonconformity. And this nonconformity must be conspicuous enough for the message to reach a wide audience. The target may be the political subsystem (with nonconformity taking the form of civil disobedience or passive resistance), the economic system (sabotage, slowdown, boycott, strike), the school system (boycott, picketing), or the system regulating race relations (sit-ins, marches, etc.). Whatever the target subsystem may be, the purpose of the disorganizing effort is to demonstrate that the consent of the governed is being withheld.
Those who use community disorganization as a process of communication have to walk a fine line between making the disorganization serious enough to get across their message but not serious enough to alienate a total community. Negro leaders in the 1960s developed a high degree of skill in locating strategic points where nonconformity would be conspicuously disorganizing but not too destructively so.
The “death” of communities
There is good archeological and historical evidence that communities “die,” that is, pass from the historical scene altogether. But there is no evidence that “natural” disorganizing processes intrinsic to the operation of the community as a social system were the cause of their “death.” Climatic change, exhaustion of natural resources, plagues, wars, technological change—these and a host of other explanations may be offered to explain the communities’ demise.
On a macrosociological level, some of the best minds have for centuries grappled with explaining the fall of Rome, the breakup of the feudal communities, the disintegration of anciens régimes, the passing of colonial systems, and the demise of a host of other systems. Much of the work is descriptive; and although some attempts to explain and interpret have been made, there is little unanimity in the results. Carefully documented, micro-sociological (as distinguished from archeological) studies of the disappearance or decline of specific communities are rare, and those we have deal primarily with such extrinsic factors as the exhaustion of natural resources (Collins 1941; Schreiber & Schreiber 1955), technological change (Caudill 1963) or the impact of Western cultures on underdeveloped countries (Balandier 1955; Frazier 1955).
Is disorganization per se a threat to community survival? If it is almost universal, to some degree, among industrialized societies, then we must conclude that it is probably not fatal. However, there may be some level beyond which disorganization does become a threat to survival. Are there automatic corrections for disorganization when it reaches these limits? Are there determinable tolerance limits? If so, what are they? If not, how does disorganization endanger or threaten the survival of the community? Some processes of disorganization may be more lethal than others; some sub-systems may be more critical than others in the lethal process, so that their malfunctioning is especially destructive; and some subsystems may be more susceptible to breakdown in the first place. As yet, we know little about these processes.
Any discussion of the “death” of communities should also take account of immigrant communities, which tend over time to disappear as distinct entities. In such communities boundary maintenance becomes difficult, and the subsystems suffer attrition or transformation, even if they do not actually disappear.
Since most sociological research is, of necessity, on surviving communities, in which some degree of disorganization is almost always present, we have no way of answering the question of the relationship between disorganization processes and the “death” of communities. We know that communities change, almost beyond recognition, but, in one form or other, they seem to survive. Disorganization, either as a state or as a process, does not appear to be lethal.
[Directly related are the entriesConflict; Deviant behavior; Disasters; Social Change. Other relevant material may be found inInternal warfare, article onGUERRILLA WARFARE; Mental Health; Norms, article onTHE STUDY OF NORMS; and in the biography of Sorel.]
Balandier, Georges 1955 Social Changes and Social Problems in Negro Africa. Pages 55–69 in Calvin W. Stillman, Africa in the Modern World. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Bernard, Jessie (1949) 1962 American Community Behavior. Rev. ed. New York: Holt. → See especially Part 7.
Blake, Judith 1962 Family Structure in Jamaica: The Social Context of Reproduction. New York: Free Press.
Caudill, Harry M. 1963 Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area. Boston: Little. → A paperback edition was published in 1964.
Coleman, James S. 1957 Community Conflict. A publication of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.
Collins, Henry Hill Jr. 1941 America’s Own Refugees: Our 4,000,000 Homeless Migrants. Princeton Univ. Press.
Cooley, Charles H. (1909) 1956 Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind. In Charles H. Cooley, Two Major Works: Social Organization and Human Nature and the Social Order. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → Each title reprinted with individual title page and pagination. Separate paperback editions were published in 1962 by Schocken.
Crankshaw, Edward (1959) 1963 Khrushchev’s Russia. Harmondsworth (England): Penguin.
Foster, George M. 1960–1961. Interpersonal Relations in Peasant Society. Human Organization 19:174–178.
Frazier, E. Franklin 1955 The Impact of Colonialism on African Social Forms and Personality. Pages 70–96 in Calvin W. Stillman, Africa in the Modern World. Univ. of Chicago Press.
Galbraith, John K. (1952) 1956 American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power. 2d ed., rev. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Goode, William J. 1960 Illegitimacy in the Caribbean Social Structure. American Sociological Review 25: 21–30.
Lenin, Vladimir I. (1905) 1962 Two Tactics of Social-democracy in the Democratic Revolution. Volume 9, pages 15–114 in Vladimir I. Lenin, Collected Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.
Lewis, Oscar 1959 Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty. New York: Basic Books. → A paperback edition was published in 1962 by Science Editions.
Mao TsÊ-tung (1937)1965 On Guerrilla Warfare. New York: Praeger. → First published as Yu chi chan.
Merton, Robert K. 1936 The Unanticipated Consequences of Purposive Social Action. American Sociological Review 1:894–904.
Merton, Robert K. (1949) 1957 Social Theory and Social Structure. Rev. & enl. ed. Glencoe, III.: Free Press.
Moore, Wilbert E. 1963 Social Change. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Moore, Wilbert E.; and Feldman, Arnold S. (editors) 1960 Labor Commitment and Social Change in Developing Areas. New York: Social Science Research Council.
Moore, Wilbert E.; and Feldman, Arnold S. 1962 Society as a Tension-management System. Pages 93–105 in George W. Baker and Leonard S. Cottrell Jr. (editors), Behavioral Science and Civil Defense. National Research Council, Disaster Research Group, Disaster Study No. 16. Washington: National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council.
Pustay, John S. 1965 Counterinsurgency Warfare. New York: Free Press.
Rodman, Hyman 1961 Marital Relationships in a Trinidad Village. Marriage and Family Living 23:166–170.
Rummel, Rudolph J. 1963 Dimensions of Conflict Behavior Within and Between Nations. General Systems 8:1–50.
Schreiber, Hermann; and Schreiber, Georg (1955) 1957 Vanished Cities. New York: Knopf. → First published as Versunkene Stadte: Ein Buch von Glanz und Untergang.
Sibley, Mulford Q. 1963 The Quiet Battle: Writings on the Theory and Practice of Non-violent Resistance. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.
Sorel, Georges (1908) 1950 Reflections on Violence. Translated by T. E. Hulme and J. Roth, with an introduction by Edward A. Shils. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as Reflexions sur la violence. A paperback edition was published in 1961 by Collier.
Community development embodies two major ideas. The first is that of conscious acceleration of economic, technological, and social change (development). The second, that of locality, refers to planned social change in a village, town, or city; it relates to projects that have obvious local significance and that can be initiated and carried out by local people. According to the widely accepted United Nations definitions, communities as units of action combine outside assistance with organized local self-determination and effort. They achieve goals that are both material (a new schoolhouse) and nonmaterial (literacy, lowered infant mortality).
The accent on development suggests that the emerging nations move through a series of stages on their way toward modernization. Leaders realize that to achieve economic goals more quickly, large numbers of people, especially in the rural areas, have to be mobilized. In the communist countries the collectivization of agriculture was the method chosen; in several noncommunist countries, such as India and the Philippines, community development or its equivalent is being used. Neither approach has proven a panacea, and each has had pronounced and often unanticipated social effects.
During the colonial period of many developing countries the central government concentrated upon communications and material resources, using the local settlements or groups of them for administration of justice and for tax purposes. Nevertheless, the colonial powers did initiate some activities resembling contemporary community development. In Africa there were the mass education programs in Kenya, Uganda, Gold Coast (now Ghana), sociétés mutuelles de développement rural and sociétés indigènes de prévoyance in French-administered areas, and foyers sociaux and cooperatives in Belgian-administered territories. In Asia the rural reconstruction in India in the 1930s and the rural development in Ceylon and mass education in Burma in the 1940s were programs that predated the current large-scale community development efforts throughout much of Asia today. The growing interest in community development in Latin America is relatively recent. In the Middle East, programs of rural reconstruction were carried out in the 1930s by the Near East Foundation, but the post-World War ii pioneering efforts were with the rural social centers set up in the United Arab Republic (then Egypt) by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The term community development now enjoys wide usage in the West, even though community organization still best describes the mobilization of local resources for social welfare purposes. In 1948 the United Nations organization had one community development adviser in one country; in 1962 it had 47 such experts in 31 countries.
Intellectual and social origins
The mixed ancestry of community development gives a clue to the problems of defining the term. Social workers, adult educators, local government officials, economic planners, city planners, and agricultural extension workers consider their respective professional fields to have been forerunners of community development, a fact which supposedly gives them each the right to speak authoritatively about its content and methods.
In their descriptions of the current scene various writers not unexpectedly stress different themes. Arthur Dunham (1960) tends to view community development as organized efforts to improve the conditions of community life and the capacity for community integration and self-direction. Four basic elements ordinarily found are (1) a planned program; (2) encouragement of self-help; (3) technical assistance, which may include personnel, equipment, and supplies; and (4) integrating various specialties for the help of the community.
Governmental and national programs
T. R. Batten (1957) considers the field of community development “to include any action taken by any agency and primarily designed to benefit the community.” He observes that one of the principal problems in using democratic methods in community development is that the central governments put pressure on village-level workers to achieve national goals within given time periods. As a result, the village workers attempt to speed up the programs with less democratic methods. When the program is highly formalized, as in many five-year plans, the focus sometimes tends to be upon the program rather than upon what is happening to the people involved in the program. The emphasis is upon accomplishing sets of activities in health, welfare, agriculture, industry, recreation, and the like that can be quantified and reported.
As these statements imply, many community development programs are national in scope and are geared to over-all governmental plans, be they three-year, five-year, or ten-year, for improving living and economic conditions. In this connection community development may be said to be a method through which national goals are to be achieved.
The government of India (India 1958) has been quite specific in treating community development as a method designed to initiate a process of transformation in the social and economic life of the Indian village. As a method it was supposed to do three things: achieve unity of thinking and action between all development agencies of government and between the official agency, the people’s agency, and the people; transform the social and economic outlook of the people, chiefly through village organization; and conduct intensive area development based on a multipurpose approach. Recognition by the Indian government that agricultural development presented special problems too great to be borne by the Ministry of Community Development has led to abolition of this ministry. But there has been no decrease in the number of community development projects, and community development will no doubt continue to be regarded as the single most important method available to the government for coordinating social with economic planning.
Fredrick G. Friedmann, who has studied UNLA —the Association for the Fight Against Illiteracy— in southern Italy as a form of community development, observes that “many Western leaders interested in the subject look at community development as an attempt at extending, in the vein of the applied social sciences, proven techniques of ‘handling’ situations to the limited and relatively manageable proportions of a village community and at substituting ‘projects’ on a community level for large-scale government ‘planning’” (1960, preface, p. xiv).
In the United Arab Republic “community development” refers to the organization of rural welfare. Unpublished research carried out during the early 1960s by Doreen Warriner in Egypt showed that “self-help” by rural communities and “participation” in solving community problems have been little more than government slogans, since the emphasis has not been upon setting up organizations for the rural community.
Programs based on local initiative
It must not be assumed that all community development programs are governmental in nature. In the United States, for example, the stress has been upon local initiative, usually sponsored by private groups or organizations (women’s clubs, men’s civic clubs, junior chambers of commerce, welfare councils), with only an occasional assist from some governmental agency. Thus, community development is viewed as a method of carrying out specific projects, each worthy in its own right, rather than as part of some detailed national plan or program. The nonmaterial benefits to the people are thought to be as valuable as the material goals achieved, since it is assumed that the more local residents are involved in planning and decision making, the more they will rely upon their own community resources and less upon the government. This reflects the strong individualistic and ameliorative strains in American culture as well as the value placed on local self-reliance and democratic participation. An OEEC (Organization for European Economic Cooperation) study team from Europe found one of the most surprising features of community development in the United States to be the importance of private efforts in community improvement and the small role played by local government officials in these matters (1960).
Various definitions incorporate this emphasis. J. D. Mezirow, for instance, has stated on several occasions that community development is an organized effort to make possible, through training and education, a wide range of individual participation in the democratic solution of community problems. Richard W. Poston (1958, p. 24) defines community development as “an organized body of knowledge which deals comprehensively with the community in its entirety, and with all of the various functions of community life as integrated parts of the whole.” He suggests that “the ultimate goal of community development is to help evolve through a process of organized study, planning, and action a physical and social environment that is best suited to the maximum growth, development and happiness of human beings as individuals and as productive members of their society.”
Lowry Nelson, Charles E. Ramsey, and Coolie Verner (1960) see community development as an “education-for-action process.” It helps people achieve group goals democratically; the leader becomes an agent constructing learning experience rather than the proponent of a program for community improvement; primary importance is attached to the individual. Furthermore, it is problem-oriented at the community level; the means employed in the solution are more important than the solution itself; and it is one of several types of purposive change.
Noncoercion and the problem of incentives. The definitions just cited show that community development is noncoercive. Totalitarian regimes do not view it as politically realistic or as ideologically desirable, since community development stresses the voluntary rather than regimented participation of the individual. But for nontotalitarian regimes there are real dilemmas: How long can authorities desiring rapid social change wait for positive results from a slow educational process? Or in working out national economic and social plans, how much weight can they give to the priorities of villagers throughout the land? To what extent can those sponsoring community development rely on local leaders to initiate projects in terms of the “felt needs” of their fellow citizens, or must this initiative come from outside professional workers who stimulate and help local people bring into being some form of local action? Although a community program is noncoercive it operates within certain social controls: pressure brought by neighbors upon a villager who fails to carry out his part of the program; positive incentives (e.g., in the form of wheat) provided to those working on community projects; or national recognition given to the community and its leaders for a well-conducted program.
Types of functionaries
Of course, the resolution of these dilemmas and the types of social control employed will depend upon the leaders of the program and their underlying assumptions. At least four types of functionaries are found in community development programs. First, local leaders are essential if there is to be genuine involvement of the people of the community. In some countries where community development is tied in with local government these leaders may be officials; elsewhere, they may be lay, voluntary leaders acting out of a spirit of public service. In developing countries great care is often taken to teach these leaders the importance of using democratic rather than authoritarian procedures in efforts to involve their fellow community members. Special courses, such as those in the American Farm School in Greece, are held for these leaders, because ultimate success depends upon them.
A second type of functionary is the community organizer, often called the village-level worker. He is the new element added by community development to earlier, traditional programs of rural change. He is trained in human-relations skills rather than in any subject-matter field, such as agriculture, health, or recreation. As a generalist, he is supposed to know how to relate these fields to the problem areas that the local people identify, but he does not claim high technical competence in them. By working with local leaders, he initiates, motivates, guides, and educates, supposedly taking into account the goals of the local people as well as the goals of the larger program that he is promoting. Once action has been decided upon by the community, the village-level worker becomes the expediter, the communication link, the one who marshals outside resources appropriate to the local needs at the time.
But he is relatively ineffective without a third type—the subject-matter specialist: agriculturist, sanitarian, literacy expert, and the like. Even before the village-level worker appeared on the scene after World War ii, these specialists were trying to carry out changes in their special fields in rural areas. But they were doing it in a piecemeal fashion. One month a health worker would appear suggesting some line of action; later a livestock specialist would show up demanding vaccination for hog cholera. Under community development the local people are expected to prepare an over-all plan involving several of these fields, beginning with the project for which they have the greatest enthusiasm and sufficient means at their disposal. Thus, the subject-matter specialists, as in the case of some recent programs in the Philippines, are asked to go to a village as a team, not as competing professionals. A community development worker is also part of the team. Elsewhere, as in Ethiopia, the specialists may be assigned to community development authorities for full-time work under these authorities rather than as part of the old-line ministries to which they eventually expect to return. In most countries getting the specialists to work together effectively presents more of a problem than persuading the villagers to agree to a program of change.
This problem is related to the fourth functionary: the person responsible for keeping the administrative machinery of a national program in running order. In Venezuela, for instance, horizontal and vertical coordination is being achieved at the state level through “regional community development bodies.” The larger the program, the greater the proportion of energy and money that goes into the mechanics of operation. Vast training programs, long hours (even years) of negotiation with other government agencies, detailed plans and budgets for three or five years are required. In addition, some officials must maintain a flow of technical materials (pesticides, schoolbooks, drugs, etc.) so that they are on hand for ready use when the local communities need them. One conclusion seems clear: unless the head of the government or some influential official with a charismatic, popular appeal makes community development a major concern, the bureaucratic pressures against its success on a national scale are so great that it is apt to bog down. But where people like Ramon Magsaysay in the Philippines or Jawaharlal Nehru in India have referred to it often in public and given it their full support, the program has enjoyed a measure of success.
Goals and achievements
In Asian countries, which for more than ten years have had the widest experience with community development, certain discernible trends are under way. First, the programs are stressing economic (including agricultural) goals more heavily than heretofore. Second, they are making greater use of local governments as the need for decentralization becomes more apparent. Third, the training of village-level workers is stressing the practical aspects (for instance, the actual grafting of fruit trees) as well as the theoretical aspects—a new educational departure for these countries. Fourth, new administrative arrangements are being devised to assure the coordination of subject-matter specialists in accomplishment of program aims. Undoubtedly, community development programs do give village people a feeling of political involvement which they would otherwise not have; they have substantial material accomplishments (roads, school buildings, new plant varieties, etc.) to their credit. But the biggest gain, perhaps, lies not at the village level but in the better understanding of village problems by higher government officials. The programs in Africa and Latin America are still too new to provide useful generalizations, except to indicate that they exhibit wide variety in organizational procedures and types of problems attacked. Land reform tends to be associated with community development more than it was in Asia. In the developed countries community development is increasingly being relied upon as a method for local improvements. Social workers, agricultural extension workers, public health educators are being trained in its techniques, and a few institutes have been set up to prepare specialists in community development as a special professional field.
The future of community development
Community development is still too young to justify any long-range predictions about its identity as a separate profession or its combination with some other field, such as public administration, agricultural extension, social work—to name but three.
Like any emerging profession, it has begun to develop its applied theory, set forth chiefly in the form of principles of action that should be followed for effective practice. Since community development is so new, each mature practitioner must perforce come out of some previously existing discipline or profession. This shows up in the lists of principles he sets down or passes on to his associates. Some stress the psychological overtones of motivation and group dynamics; others, the sociological caveats of recognizing social values and social structure; others, the administrative aspects of sound programming; and still others, the anthropological investment in cultural change, the educators’ concern with learning, or the specialists’ concern with appropriate technology.
There is not at the present time a body of tested theory on development. Nor do we know in any systematic way why some programs succeed, by the developers’ standards, while other programs fail. To date, and this is a crucial test, existing training programs do not draw upon any identifiable community development theory as such but rely almost entirely upon social-science generalizations developed quite apart from community development activities.
Irwin T. Sanders
The most comprehensive guide to community development literature is Sociological Abstracts … 1964; a good shorter bibliography is Dunham 1959. Useful reviews of trends since World War II will be found in Kaufman & Cole 1959; Lyfield & Schmidt 1959; Dunham I960; and Sehnert 1961. The leading journal in the field is the International Review of Community Development; also worth consulting is the Community Development Review. Much valuable information on community development in various parts of the world is continually being published by such organizations as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Reports of the proceedings of international conferences sponsored from time to time by the U.S. Agency for International Development (and by its predecessor, the U.S. International Cooperation Administration) often include interesting materials not available in any other form; some of these have been summarized in Sociological Abstracts … 1964.
Allen, Harold B. 1953 Rural Reconstruction in Action: Experience in the Near and Middle East. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.
Batten, Thomas R. 1957 Communities and Their Development. Oxford Univ. Press.
Batten, Thomas R. 1962 Training for Community Development. Oxford Univ. Press.
Bruyn, Severyn T. 1963 Communities in Action: Pattern and Process. New Haven: College and University Press. → See especially the Appendix entitled “The Community Movement in the United States,” pages 161–184.
Community Development Review. → Published since 1956.
Dunham, Arthur 1959 Community Development in the United States of America: A Selective, Annotated Bibliography. International Review of Community Development 4:223–233.
Dunham, Arthur 1960 Community Development. Pages 178–186 in Social Work Yearbook. Edited by Russell H. Kurtz. New York: National Association of Social Workers.
du Sautoy, Peter 1958 Community Development in Ghana. Oxford Univ. Press.
Foster, Ellery 1953 Planning for Community Development Through Its People. Human Organization 12:5–9.
Friedmann, Fredrick G. 1960 The Hoe and the Book: An Italian Experiment in Community Development. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.
Goodenough, Ward H. 1963 Cooperation in Change: An Anthropological Approach to Community Development. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Great Britain, Colonial Office 1960 Community Development. A handbook prepared by a study conference on community development held at Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, September, 1957. London: H.M. Stationery Office.
India, Ministryof Community Development 1958 Revision in the Programme of Community Development. Madras (India): Controller of Stationery and Printing.
International Review of Community Development. → Published since 1958 under the auspices of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centers.
Kaufman, Harold F.; and COLE, LUCY W. 1959 Sociological and Social Psychological Research for Community Development. International Review of Community Development 4:193–211.
Kelly, Isabel 1962/1963 Suggestions for the Training of Village-level Workers. Human Organization 21: 241–245.
King, Clarence 1958 Working With People in Small Communities: Case Records of Community Development in Different Countries. New York: Harper.
Lyfield, William G.; and Schmidt, Warren H. 1959 Trends in Community Development: Some Results of a Survey. International Review of Community Development 4:33–40. → Focus is on the United States.
McCluskey, Howard Y. 1960 Community Development. Pages 416–427 in Handbook of Adult Education in the United States. Edited by Malcolm S. Knowles. Chicago: Adult Education Association of the U.S.A.
Mial, H. Curtis 1958 Community Development: A Democratic Social Process. Adult Leadership 6:277–282.
Miniclier, Louis M. 1962 Community Development in the World Today: Ten Years Progress. Community Development Review 7:69–74. → Sees rise of community development as a response to postwar social forces.
Mosher, Arthur T. 1958 Varieties of Extension Education in Community Development. Comparative Extension Publication No. 2. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ., New York State College of Agriculture, Rural Education Department.
Nelson, Lowry; Ramsey, Charles E.; and Verner, Coolie 1960 Community Structure and Change. New York: Macmillan.
Organization for European Economic Cooperation, European Productivity Agency 1960 Community Development: Some Achievements in the United States and Europe. EPA Project 387. Paris: The Agency.
Poston, Richard W. 1958 Report of the Chairman, Division of Community Development. National University Extension Association, Proceedings 41:23–29.
Pusic, E. 1960 Basic Principles of Community Development in Yugoslavia. International Review of Community Development 5:171–176.
Ruopp, Phillips (editor) 1953 Approaches to Community Development. The Hague: Van Hoeve.
Sanders, Irwin T. 1964 Community Development Programs in Sociological Perspective. Pages 307–332 in James H. Copp (editor), Our Changing Rural Society: Perspectives and Trends. Ames: Iowa State Univ. Press.
Sehnert, Frank H. 1961 A Functional Framework for the Action Process in Community Development. Unpublished manuscript, Carbondale: Southern Illinois Univ., Department of Community Development.
Sociological Abstracts, INC., New York 1964 Community Development Abstracts. Washington: U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of Technical Cooperation and Research, Rural and Community Development. → Contains 1,108 abstracts summarizing most of the printed literature in the field for the last ten years.
United Nations, Bureau of Social Affairs 1955 Social Progress Through Community Development. New York: United Nations.
United Nations, Economic and Social Council 1953 Programme of Concerted Practical Action in the Social Field of the United Nations and Specialized Agencies. Document E/CN.5/291/Rev.l. New York: United Nations.
United Nations, Economic and Social Council 1957 Twentieth Report of the Administrative Committee on Co-ordination to the Economic and Social Council. Document E/2931, Official Records, 24th Session, Annexes, agenda item 4. New York: United Nations.
United Nations, Economic and Social Council, Social Commission 1963 Evaluation of Technical Assistance Activities in Rural Community Development Field. Report by the Secretary-General. New York: United Nations.
Warren, Roland L. 1963 The Community in America. Chicago: Rand McNally. → See especially pages 324–327 for useful distinctions between community development, community organization, and community planning.
"Community." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/community
"Community." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/community
An ecological community is a collection of organisms occurring together in a location and interacting to varying degrees. A community is often defined by the most common or prominent species found in it (a beech-maple forest) or by its environment (a wetland community).
Community ecologists study what determines membership in communities and how and why communities change in space and time. One of the most important characteristics of an ecological community is species diversity. Species diversity is a measure that combines the number of species in a community with the relative abundances of those species. Understanding why some species are more abundant than others is particularly important because communities that are strongly dominated by one or a few species often have low species diversity overall. Differences in species diversity among communities occur because of differences in environment, differences in the kinds and strengths of species interactions, or both.
There are many kinds of species interactions in communities, all of which affect species diversity. Predation, parasitism, and herbivory are interactions in which one species benefits at the expense of another. Competition involves a mutually negative interaction among species. Mutualism involves an interaction in which both species derive benefit.
Some of these interactions may lower diversity, while others increase diversity. In addition, the strengths of these interactions change as the environment changes. For example, competition may be more intense when resources are severely limited. In streams, for instance, different species of fish compete for insect prey. When prey are scarce, competition among fish species is strong, and when prey are abundant, competition is weak.
Ecological communities are complex because many different factors affect species interactions in communities. Moreover, the different types of interactions among species in communities interact. For example, high predation rates can reduce competition among prey species. Because of this complexity, ecologists are keenly interested in understanding the complex web of interactions among the various plants, herbivores, carnivores, and decomposers in a community.
In fact, one of the challenging questions in community ecology is whether the web of interactions in a community is controlled primarily by resources or by top predators. Human activities are changing the abundance of resources in the environment, which in turn changes the types and strengths of interactions among species in communities. Ultimately, these changes could alter species interactions and patterns of species diversity.
Disturbance and Succession
Ecological communities are dynamic. An ecological community may change as a result of species interactions, but other phenomena, such as dispersal or the movement of an individual from one place to another, also cause communities to change. Dispersal is important because it means that a community in one area can influence community composition some place far away.
CLEMENTS, FREDERICK (1874–1945)
American plant ecologist who defined early-twentieth-century ecology by introducing the concept of climax communities. In the 1910s, before many paved roads existed, Clements and his wife drove across the American West describing and photographing every major ecosystem in North America.
In the Caribbean, for example, the composition and abundance of lizards on islands change suddenly and dramatically following hurricanes. Flooding during hurricanes kills animals on some islands while some animals float from one island to another during and after the storm. Hurricanes are an example of ecological disturbance, an event that destroys living organisms and frees space for new individuals to colonize. Disturbances—including fires, floods, and volcanoes—are natural occurrences, and they are one of the primary forces that create change in ecological communities.
The study of how disturbances affect communities is an important aspect of community ecology. Many disturbances, like forest fires, may appear harmful or destructive, but they are natural phenomena that initiate change. Succession is the change in species composition at a site over time. Primary succession occurs in previously unoccupied habitats, such as the lava produced by a volcano. Secondary succession, which is much more common, occurs following a disturbance in an area that was previously occupied by a community. Successional change occurs as species disperse to a newly disturbed site and interact over time. Eventually, the rate of community change during succession decreases.
Stability is a measure of a community's ability to return to a condition that existed before disturbance. The question "Does diversity increase stability?" is hotly debated by ecologists. Some think that diversity increases stability because when many different species occupy an area, they use the resources more fully. In doing so, the diverse community is resilient because when the abundance of one species declines, for example during a drought, the abundance of a more drought-tolerant species increases.
Other ecologists think there is little relationship between diversity and stability. Rather, they believe that any response is really a function of the dominant species in the community. This issue is not likely to be resolved for some time.
Ecological communities are complex assemblages of organisms that undergo a rich array of interactions. These interactions affect the kinds and abundances of species found in a community. Understanding how species coexist and why communities change over time are exciting and challenging questions in ecology. Knowledge about community ecology becomes increasingly valuable as human activity alters the global environment. Thus, as the human population increases, ecologists will provide key information needed to help manage and conserve species diversity and ecological communities.
see also Competition; Ecosystem; Predation and Defense; Symbiosis
Scott Collins and Margaret Palmer
Molles, Manual C., Jr. Ecology: Concepts and Applications. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Shahid Naeem, et al. "Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning: Maintaining Natural Life Support Processes." Issues in Ecology, no. 4. Washington, DC: Ecological Society of America.
"Community." Biology. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/community
"Community." Biology. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/community
These disputes flow from what Nisbet describes as the rediscovered symbolism of community in nineteenth-century thought, which identified this form of social association with the Good Society, and with all forms of relationship which are characterized by a high degree of personal intimacy, emotional depth, moral commitment, social cohesion, and continuity in time. It was feared that these were precisely the features which were disappearing in the transition from a rural-based to an urban-industrial society. This alleged loss of community was central to the work of Ferdinand Tönnies, who has been described as the founder of the theory of community. In the book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (‘Community and Society’)
Tönnies presented ideal-typical pictures of these forms of social association, contrasting the solidaristic nature of social relations in the former, with the large-scale and impersonal relations thought to characterize industrializing societies.
One difficulty for the sociology of community ensuing from these intellectual origins is that it has frequently been used to identify and at the same time endorse a particular form of social association. A second is that there is no clear and widely accepted definition of just what characteristic features of social interaction constitute the solidaristic relations typical of so-called communities. These value-laden but imprecise circumstances go a long way to explaining a third difficulty—the empirical identification of communities. The term has been used in the sociological literature to refer directly to types of population settlements (such as villages or physically bounded urban neighbourhoods); to supposedly ideal-typical ways of life in such places; and to social networks whose members share some common characteristic apart from or in addition to a common location (such as ethnicity or occupation). Frequently the term is used in ways which contain all these elements—as, for example, in ‘traditional inner-city working-class communities’. At one time the problems of defining the concept of community provided the basis for a thriving sociological industry. In a classic contribution to this debate, George A. Hillery analysed no fewer than ninety-four definitions of the concept, although his conclusions were hardly enlightening since he was able only to extract from these a classification which distinguished sixteen different and characteristic elements. These included geographical area, self-sufficiency, kinship, consciousness of kind, common life-styles, and various intensive types of social interaction. Somewhat despairingly, perhaps, Hillery concluded from his review that ‘There is one element, however, which can be found in all of the concepts … all of the definitions deal with people. Beyond this common basis, there is no agreement’ (‘Definitions of Community: Areas of Agreement’, Rural Sociology, 1955
). See also ANTI-URBANISM; COMMUNITY POWER; COMMUNITY STUDIES.
"community." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community
"community." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community
com·mu·ni·ty / kəˈmyoōnitē/ • n. (pl. -ties) 1. a group of people living together in one place, esp. one practicing common ownership. ∎ all the people living in a particular area or place: local communities. ∎ a particular area or place considered together with its inhabitants: a rural community. ∎ (the community) the people of a district or country considered collectively, esp. in the context of social values and responsibilities; society. ∎ [as adj.] denoting a worker or resource designed to serve the people of a particular area: community health services. 2. a group of people having a religion, race, profession, or other particular characteristic in common: the scientific community. ∎ a body of nations or states unified by common interests: [in names] the European Community. 3. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals: the sense of community that organized religion can provide. ∎ [in sing.] a similarity or identity: writers who shared a community of interests. ∎ joint ownership or liability: a commitment to the community of goods. 4. Ecol. a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat: communities of insectivorous birds. ∎ a set of species found in the same habitat or ecosystem at the same time.
"community." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community-0
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"community." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/community
"community." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/community
a body of people living in the same locality or having a common language or interest. See also cluster, combination.
Examples: community of feeling, 1823; of flies; of good, 1645; of interests, 1875; of power, 1561; of studies, 1841; of ulcers, 1541; of wives, 1564.
"Community." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community
"Community." Dictionary of Collective Nouns and Group Terms. . Retrieved April 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community
A. a body of people associated by common status, pursuits, etc. XIV;
B. common character XV. Late ME. comunete — OF. comuneté (mod. communité) — L. commūnitās, -tāt-, f. commūnis COMMON; see -ITY; later assim. to modF. and L.
"community." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/community-1
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