views updated May 08 2018


middle ages
    Character and Structures
    Functions and Duties
    Individual Centers
        the muslim caliphate in the east
        the muslim countries in the west (egypt and maghreb)
        later developments in north africa
        the ottoman empire
        western europe
        spain and resettlement countries
        eastern europe
modern variations
    Western Europe
    Central Europe
    Eastern Europe
    Developments in North Africa from the 19th Century
    United States
    Latin America
community organization since world war ii
    Community Structure in a Voluntaristic Environment
    Community and Polity

COMMUNITY , the designation of Jewish social units, used for the Hebrew terms edah, kehillah, and kahal. Ideally the community denoted the "Holy Community" (Kehillah Kedoshah), the nucleus of Jewish local cohesion and leadership in towns and smaller settlements. Particularly after the loss of independence, as the Jews became predominantly town dwellers, the community became more developed and central to Jewish society and history. From the Middle Ages on the community was a "Jewish city," parallel to and within the Christian and Muslim ones.

This entry is arranged according to the following outline:


While the central and centralistic institutions of *kingship, *patriarchs, *prophets, *Temple, *tribe, and academies predominated – each in its time and its own way – there is only occasional mention of local leadership among the Jews. However, in *Shechem it was apparently the Ba'alei Shekhem who ruled the town, determining its enemies and friends (Judg. 9, passim). King *Ahab had to turn to "the elders and nobles, which are of his town, who sit with Naboth" (i Kings 21:8) and they passed judgment on Naboth (ibid. 11–13). It would seem that this local leadership, which combined preeminence in the town with noble family descent, was a central element in the life of the exiles in *Babylon. For more on community structure in the Bible see *Congregation (Assembly). The Book of *Judith tells of local self-government in the town of Bethulia in the days of Persian influence. The town was led by three men (ibid. 26) who had judicial power and the right to lead the defense of the city.

Later, under the Ptolemaic and Seleucid rule and influence, Hellenistic institutions began to shape local social life. In the Second Temple period the *Sanhedrin had the function of municipal council of the holy city, Jerusalem, as well as its more central functions in national life. From its foundation *Tiberias was a city with a decisive Jewish majority, structured and organized on the model of the Greek polis, with a city council and popular assemblies which sometimes met in the synagogue. At the head of the executive branch stood the archon and supervision of economic life was in the hands of the agoranomos. In the Hellenistic-Roman Diaspora the element of *autonomy granted by the non-Jewish sovereigns became a basic constitutive element in the life of the Jewish community, remaining central to it throughout centuries of Jewish history. In *Alexandria, Egypt, there existed a large Jewish community, which did not however embrace all the Jews living within the city; the synagogue became a center of communal leadership and at the same time a focal point for the emergence of a separate synagogue-community, existing alongside similar synagogue-communities within the same city.

By Ptolemaic times the Jews in Alexandria were already organized as a politeuma (πολίτευμα), one of a number of such administrative (non-Jewish) units in the city. At the head of the Alexandria community at first were the elders. In the beginning of Roman rule, the leadership of the Alexandria community was in the hands of an ethnarch; later, in the days of Augustus, the main leadership passed to the council of elders (gerousia), which had scores of members. The Berenice (*Benghazi) community in Cyrenaica had nine archons at the head of its politeuma. The Rome community seems to have been divided up, and organized in and around the synagogues. In Rome, as in other communities of the empire, there were titles like pater synagogae, archisynagogus, even mater or pateressa synagogae, and to a great degree such titles had become formal, hereditary, and empty. An imperial order to the *Cologne community of 321 is addressed "to the priests [hierei], to the heads of the synagogues [archisynagogi], to the fathers of synagogues [patres synagogarum]," thus showing that even in a distant community a wide variety of titles, some of a priestly nature, existed side by side.

Synagogue inscriptions and tombstones attest the importance attached to synagogue-community leadership. Up to the fifth century the patriarchs supervised and instructed this network of communities in the Roman Empire through sages (apostoloi). The epistles of *Paul are in a sense evidence of the strength and cohesion of synagogue-community life and discipline. The nascent organization of the underground Christian Church was modeled to a considerable degree on this Jewish community life and organization. Fast-day ceremonies show clear signs of local organization and sense of identity. Sectarian organizational life, like that of the *Essenes or the *Qumran group, reveals the tendency to create a closed community structure and life on principles very similar to those of the holy synagogue-community.

Some methods of communal organization – based on autonomy, the synagogue as the local center, and the synagogue as a separate communal unit within the locality – and some of the titles (in particular the Hebrew ones like Tuvei ha-Ir) were carried over into medieval and modern times.

[Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson]

middle ages

Organized local communities functioning in Babylonia were highly centralized under the control of the geonim and exilarchs from approximately the eighth to the eleventh centuries. However, there are many indications that local autonomy was stronger and more active than these centralist institutions. The breakup in centralized authority and the growth of new patterns formed under conditions created by the emerging cities and states, in Christian Europe in particular, brought the local community more and more into the foreground. External and internal factors provided the dynamic force leading to self-perpetuation; among the former were collective responsibility for taxes (royal or seignorial) and ecclesiastical privileges, and the corporate organization of society in general. The inner cohesive forces were equally potent, if not more so. First there were the ancient traditions of Jewish group life as expressed in a variety of institutions; most powerful of these was the halakhah, the firm rule of religious law. Of paramount importance was the sovereign right of each kehillah to adopt its own fundamental communal law as formulated in *takkanot. The kehillah retained its links with the Jews in the Diaspora as a whole through its adherence to tradition and law and shared messianic hope. Probably economic concerns of Jewish artisans and merchants constituted powerful common interests, yet the predominant binding forces were religious and cultural.

Character and Structures

Up to the expulsion from Spain (1492) the pattern of only one community board, or kahal, prevailed. It was only in the period of resettlement after the expulsion from Spain and in the modern period that the pattern of a community centered on its own particular synagogue reemerged strongly in many areas and splintered the original community. From the beginning of the 12th century, Western European civic tendencies began to penetrate the life and thought of the adjacent Jewish communities, which attempted to close their doors to newcomers (see *ḥerem ha-yishuv). Membership in a community was acquired by birth or granted by formal admission. In extreme cases failure to submit to communal discipline could lead to expulsion. These tendencies clashed with the feeling of Jewish solidarity and belief that charity should extend beyond the city walls. As in the gentile city, in the Jewish community too there was a patrician tendency to limit election rights and – through various election clauses – to make the ruling circle a closed and self-perpetuating one. Membership of this ruling class depended on riches, learning, and patrician descent, in most cases a combination of all three. This oligarchic system was much more pronounced in the communities of Christian Spain until the expulsion, than in those of northern France or Germany. From time to time pronounced popular dissatisfaction led to reforms in election and tax-assessment methods and community institutions and structures. Different types of voting procedure were employed at meetings and there were rarely secret and fair elections. Some officers, such as judges and charity wardens, were chosen by direct ballot, but the indirect ballot, whereby some half dozen unrelated electors (borerim) were drawn by lot, was most popular. They constituted the electoral college which proceeded to select the major officers.

In a very small community a single officer managed affairs. The larger communities had many more elders, who went by a large variety of titles in the vernacular or in Hebrew, such as chiefs (rashim), aldermen (*parnasim), best men (tovim), trustees (ne'emanim), supervisors (*gabba'im), and many others. Special officers acted as tax assessors (shamma'im), tax collectors (gabba'ei ha-mas), morality boards (*berurei averah), diplomatic spokesmen (*shtadlanim), supervisors of the synagogue, of communal schools, charities, weights and measures, and a host of others. The chief officers were sometimes "elder of the month" (parnas ha-ḥodesh) in rotation. In Germany, Moravia, and western Hungary this parnas ha-ḥodesh was subject to the control of an executive committee; in Poland and Lithuania he later had full authority to act on his own. The community board was called kahal. The shtadlan, who represented an individual community, a region, or an entire country, was found in the larger cities. He was responsible for interceding with the authorities in defense of Jewish rights and in the alleviation of abuses. He had to know the language of the country and feel at ease with king, bishop, and courtier. As the representative of a subject people in an age when ideas of freedom and equality were hardly understood, he did not fight for Jewish rights: he pleaded for them, or gained his point through bribery. He was either a wealthy Jew who acted for his people out of a sense of civic duty, or he was an official who was paid handsomely for his exacting labors.

The designation of *rabbi (rav) of the community appears fairly early in Western Europe. By the 12th century it was frequently used, although not then very clearly defined. Many rabbis subsisted on irregular incomes. For a long time learned laymen administered justice in some countries; judges had to be elected. After a long period of uncertainty, the authority of the rabbi gradually became established. Large communities had rabbis who specialized as judges in civil (*dayyan) or ritual (moreh hora'ah) matters, heads of academies, or preachers (*maggid). Other paid communal officials were the cantor (*ḥazzan), sexton (*shammash), ritual slaughterer (*shoḥet), *scribe (sofer), or recording secretary, who entered minutes in the *pinkas (community register or minute-book). Some of these communal workers possessed executive authority alongside the elected elders. Thus a shammash might be empowered to take punitive action against a recalcitrant inhabitant without first consulting the elder of the month. In some communities he was even charged with watching for infractions of the ordinances.

Functions and Duties

The community offered religious, educational, judicial, financial, and social welfare services to its members. It thus made possible a self-determined life for segregated Jewry. The cemetery and the synagogue were the primary institutions in each community. A single dead Jew required hallowed ground and for that reason graveyards were often the first property to be acquired. Ten adult Jews could meet in any private dwelling for public worship, but they soon needed a permanent prayer house. No membership fees were paid; the synagogue largely depended on income from the sale of mitzvot, the main one being the honor of being called to the reading from the Torah. Every sizable community had several houses of prayer, whether communal, associational, or private, which served as pivots and centers of communal life (see *Synagogue and cf. *Bitul ha-Tamid); these maintained and supervised the abattoir for ritual slaughter, a ritual bath (*mikveh), the supply of kosher foods, and the sale of citrons (etrogim).

Though teaching children and adult study were the responsibility of the individual Jew, supervision over schools and the provision of education for the poor were assumed by the community or an association. Special imposts were levied for educational purposes. The number of students per teacher, the quality of instruction, and competition among teachers were regulated. Schoolhouses were built, mainly for poor children and for higher learning. Synagogues and schools were supplied with libraries of sacred books. The adult study groups and the general pervasive character of educational endeavors maintained the Jews as the People of the Book.

Local communities were accorded extensive jurisdiction and discretion. The principle of *ḥerem bet din, the right of each community to final jurisdiction and its security against appeals to outside authorities, was established in northern France from the 12th century. However, appeals to outstanding rabbinic luminaries outside the community were not entirely ruled out. At first knowledgeable elders ruled in disputes; soon ritual, civil, and criminal law became the province of properly trained rabbinic judges, and court proceedings were speedy and efficient. Excommunication – religious, social, and economic ostracism – was widely applied. Capital punishment was inflicted on *informers in Spain and in Poland. In some countries execution was left to state authorities. Other penalties included expulsion, the pillory, flogging, imprisonment, and fines. The community was the fiscal agent of the ruler and the bearer of collective responsibility for the collection of taxes from the Jews. It had to treat with the ruler on the type and amount of taxes, distribute the burden among its members according to its own principles, and to collect the sum. Thus it imposed direct and indirect taxes, import and export duties, tolls, and taxes in lieu of military service or forced labor. The prevailing method of tax collection was assessment by elected officials. Tax exemptions were sometimes granted by the state to influential individuals and some scholars and community officials also enjoyed tax immunity. The fiscal system worked tolerably well in the Middle Ages when communal controls were effective, but broke down with emancipation of the individual in the modern period.

The Jewish community regulated the socioeconomic life of its members. The principle of *ḥazakah had wide applications in such areas as rent control, the acquired right of an artisan or a merchant to retain his customer (*ma'arūfiyya), or the right of settlement. Lavish dress and sumptuous festivities were strictly regulated, a rule more often observed only in the breach. Polygamy was combated by communal action until it was eradicated in Christian lands and sexual morality was stringently regulated: there were ordinances against mixed dancing, gambling, and improper family life. Communal and individual charity provided for the impecunious; food, money, clothing, and shelter were dispensed. Itinerant beggars were kept on the move from one community to another. The sick were comforted by visitation, care, and medicines. Some towns maintained a *hekdesh, a hospital for the ailing poor which only too often, as usual at the time, was unsanitary. Orphans and widows were provided for. "Redemption of *captives," the ransoming of victims of imprisonment, captives of war or of pirates, was ranked first among charities. Special chests for relief in Ereẓ Israel (*ḥalukkah) were maintained.

[Isaac Levitats]

Individual Centers

the muslim caliphate in the east

By unanimous Jewish testimony the first caliphs were sympathetic toward the representatives of the supreme institutions of the Babylonian Jewish community. Following the stabilization of Arab rule in the mid-eighth century, which did not interfere with the internal affairs of non-Muslims, a state of peaceful coexistence developed between the Muslim authorities and the leaders of the autonomous institutions of the non-Muslims, so that the Jews were able to reconstitute a system of self-government. The head of the "secular" autonomous administration was the *exilarch, an office originating in Parthian times and continuing under the Sassanids. The exilarch was of Davidic stock, and the office was hereditary. After a period of instability, *Bustanai b. Ḥaninai was recognized as exilarch during the rule of Omar i (634–44) and transmitted the office to his sons. The hereditary and elected representatives of Babylonian Jewry were charged with the administration of all taxes levied on Jews, with the representation of Jewry before the Muslim rulers, with autonomous judicial functions, the enactment of communal regulations, and the supervision of the yeshivot, etc. The traveler *Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Baghdad in about 1162, gives an eyewitness account of the honor and splendor surrounding the exilarch Daniel b. Ḥisdai (1150–74) at the caliph's court. He was received in official audience by the caliph every Thursday, when all Muslims and Jews had to stand before him; he sat beside the caliph while all the Muslim dignitaries remained on their feet. Another Jewish traveler, *Pethahiah of Regensburg, reports that the heads of the Jewish community in Mosul punished offenders even if the other party to the case was a Muslim (there was a Jewish prison in the city). Pethahiah also notes that the Jews did not pay taxes directly to the caliph, but paid one gold dinar per annum to the exilarch. When the Mongol khan Hulagu conquered Baghdad (1258), he harmed neither the Jewish community nor the exilarch, Samuel b. David. Jewish leaders of the House of David continued to reside in Baghdad until the days of Tamerlane (1401). During the decline of the Abbasid caliphate, when control was passing to the Seljuks (c. 1030), minor governments sprang up in Mosul, Damascus, and Aleppo; settling in these cities, scions of the families of the Babylonian exilarch obtained important positions which were confirmed by the governments. So dear to the people was the memory of the Davidic kingdom that the descendants of David were received everywhere with great honor: they were given the title *nasi, and their dynastic origin placed them automatically at the head of the community as its recognized representatives. This fragmentation of the exilarchate into different territorial units began in the 11th century. The nesi'im collected tithes, poll tax, and other imposts, appointed communal officials and judges, and sat in judgment themselves. In contrast to their silence about other religious communities generally, and the Jews in particular, Arab sources frequently mention the exilarch. Alongside the "secular" autonomous administration was the "spiritual" administration, the *geonim, heads of the two famous academies of Sura and Pumbedita, who also were empowered to appoint dayyanim in their respective districts and to supervise the administration of justice. Each of the two Babylonian academies had a bet din gadol ("high court") attached to it, headed by a president (av) who acted as deputy to the gaon and sometimes succeeded him after his death. Litigants from other countries could, by mutual consent, bring their cases before the geonim for an opinion. Moreover, by means of the responsa, the geonim exerted great influence over the organization, procedure, and uniformity of jurisdiction of the law courts. Characteristic of the management of the Jewish community in the medieval Muslim East (Babylon and its dependencies) was the bipolarity in the division of functions and powers between essentially central secular and essentially central religious and academic authorities; this generally persisted until the beginning of the 11th century. Afterward it was not an infrequent occurrence that the secular head (exilarch) was called upon to lead the academy and the great bet din attached to it as well; but on occasion the gaon also assumed the functions of the exilarch.

the muslim countries in the west (egypt and maghreb)

More is known about the forms of organization of Egyptian and North African communities, which were different from those in the East. For political reasons the Fatimid caliphs in Egypt did not want the Jewish communities in their domains, which extended as far as present-day Morocco, to be subject to Jewish authorities outside their realm. Like the Umayyad rulers of Spain and part of Morocco, they therefore encouraged the severance of local Jewry from dependence on the Babylonian center. The several extant versions of letters of appointment of negidim in Egypt show that the *nagid's functions were partly similar to those of the exilarch in Babylonia in later times: he represented all the Jews and was their religious guide and judge; he drew up deeds of marriage and divorce and saw to it that prayers were said while facing Jerusalem, in contrast to Samaritan custom; and he was responsible for the implementation of the special measures applying to the *dhimmis (non-Muslims given protected status). Among the best-known negidim were the descendants of Maimonides – five generations in all – who were the government appointed secular leaders of Jewry in Egypt and its dependencies, and, at the same time, spiritual leaders consulted on all matters of religion and law. The Egyptian negidim were also in charge of the fairly large Karaite and Samaritan communities. Palestinian and Syrian Jewry was headed by a local nagid, subordinate to the nagid in Cairo, whose deputy he was and without whose permission he could not be appointed. Apart from the nagid, two other functionaries represented the community: the minister (ḥazzan) and the prayer leader (sheli'aḥẓibbur). The office of nagid existed in Egypt until the Turkish conquest in 1517. A special situation prevailed in Egypt under Ottoman rule, when the nagid was appointed and sent to Cairo by the government authorities in Constantinople. In the middle of the 16th century, after 30 years of Ottoman rule, the rabbi of the Egyptian community excommunicated the nagid for having slighted him; the nagid complained to the Muslim governor, which shows that he was not empowered to anathematize him, but the dispute ended with the expulsion of the nagid from Egypt. Sambari, the 17th-century Egyptian chronicler, concludes: "From that day onward, he [the Muslim ruler] made it a law in Israel that no Jew who came from Konstantina [Constantinople] should be called nagid, but that he should be called chelebi; and this has been the law for Israel to this day" (Sambari, in Neubauer, Chronicles, vol. 1, pp. 116–7). Later sources indicate that the titles chelebi, bazirgyan, and muʿallim, still in use in early 19th-century Constantinople, were given to a prominent Jew who performed the function of official intercessor by virtue of his position in the financial and economic administration of the Egyptian rulers. Jewish dragomans in seaport towns similarly had influence with the authorities and used it for the benefit of their coreligionists.

later developments in north africa

From the 16th century onward, regulations, chronicles of Fez and responsa written by the rabbinical authorities of Morocco mention the nagid, Jewry's official representative and spokesman at the court of the ruler. The nagid was probably chosen by the ruler, by agreement with the Jews, from among the persons who had dealings with the court. The office was frequently hereditary. Beside the nagid in Fez (or sometimes in Marrakesh, the original capital of the Saʿdi's), there was a nagid in Meknès during the reign of Maulay Ismāʿīl, who rebuilt the city and made it his capital. Other negidim resided at Sefrou and Salè. Sefrou was chosen as the seat of the nagid because it was close to Fez, where activities were frequently suspended because of the many disturbances which occurred there. The nagid in Salè (Rabat) was probably Jewry's representative to the independent sheikhs and pirates in control there. Presumably there were negidim in other cities as well. In addition to the nagid, there were usually seven notables (tuvei ha-ir) concerned with the manifold needs of the community. Regulations required the consent of the rabbinical courts and the entire community. Although the influence of the refugees expelled from Spain is usually evident, there were certain changes resulting from political conditions and from the need to establish a system which was also acceptable to the veteran Jewish residents.

The autocratic status of the dey of Algeria affected the position of the *muqaddim, the Jewish representative at his court. In Spain, before the expulsion, this title was borne by a member of the community's leadership, and it seems that in Algeria, too, there were at first several muqaddimūn who looked after the affairs of the community; they are mentioned in a sharīʿa document of the early 18th century in connection with the purchase of land for a cemetery. In 1735 a change was introduced in the leadership of the community, and from then onward increasing reference is made to the muqaddim as the community's sole representative before the dey. Henceforth, the position became a monopoly of two or three families: *Bouchara, *Busnach and *Bacri (who were related), and the famous *Duran family. Their activities at the dey's court were internationally noted, especially from the early 19th century onward. After the conquest of Algeria by the French in 1830, one of the military administration's principal measures with respect to the Jews was the curtailment of the powers of their communal courts. This was done systematically by several decrees, issued between 1830 and 1842, which gradually restricted their jurisdiction in matrimonial matters to the holding of merely symbolic ceremonies and the offering of advice and written opinions; most matters were transferred to the jurisdiction of the French civil courts. The French policy makers were assisted in their efforts by the influence, encouragement, and cooperation of the leaders of Jewish religious institutions in France and French-Jewish citizens who settled in Algeria. Throughout the French era, until they regained full independence in 1962, Algerian Muslims jealously guarded their position as an autonomous community, not subject to French law in matters of personal status. The fate of the muqaddim, described by Christian writers as "king of the Jews," was similar to that of the rabbinical courts. On Nov. 16, 1830, Jacob Bacri was appointed muqqadim and empowered to supervise all Jews in town, execute judgments, and collect taxes. In the following year he was given three advisers, and after him Aaron Mu'atti was appointed head of the Jews. However, after five years the title of the muqaddim was changed to deputy mayor for Jewish affairs; he became a French official, drawing a salary from the government.

The head of Tunisian Jewry, known as the qaʾid, was in a very strong position, since as tax collector and toll gatherer – and, in the capital Tunis, treasurer as well – he played an important part in the bey's administration. H.J.D. Azulai, in his Maʿagal Tov (1921–34), gives some idea of the wealth, prestige, and autocratic ways of the qāʾid Joshua Tanūjī. Some of the other qāʾids he mentions belong to the class which ruled supreme in both religious and wordly affairs of the community. The dependence of the office of the qāʾid on the bey sometimes resulted in its becoming hereditary. Mutually independent sources attest that the powers of the qāʾid as head of the community were very broad and that all matters of religious leadership, in addition to the management of communal property, were decided by him. These powers were not appreciably curtailed until the second half of the 19th century. From personal observation D. Cazès (Essai sur l'histoire des Israélites de Tunisie, 1888) states that the qāʾid represented the government authorities vis-à-vis the Jews, and that he proposed to the authorities, or himself appointed, the dayyanim, the seven notables, the men in charge of certain departments, the notaries, and the scribes. His signature appears first on official documents, even before that of the chief rabbi. Nothing was done in the community without his consent because he had a veto on all decisions of the dayyanim, the seven notables, and the leaders of the community. Every document, whether public or private, had to bear his signature or the notification that it had been drawn up with consent. The qāʾid was also in charge of the administration of justice among the Jews, on whom he might impose fines, whipping, and imprisonment. The city authorities were obliged to lend him their assistance, and the chief of police had to carry out his judgments. A decree of 1876 concerning the organization of the Tunis Relief and Charity Fund (the official designation of the body in Tunisia which carried out the functions of the community in the spheres of religious services and social welfare) prescribed that it should be headed by the qāʾid and that the chief rabbis should be subordinate to him. After long negotiations between subjects of the bey and persons under consular protection – on the distribution of the income of the abattoir among the needy – it was agreed that the committee dealing with the distribution should be headed by the qāʾid. A decree of the bey confirmed the agreement, of which one copy was delivered to the qāʾid and another to the French consul. Decrees issued by the bey up to 1898 concerning various communal matters still reflect the status and powers of the qāʾid as they evolved during the course of many generations. Only after the death of R. Elie Borgel in 1898 did a fundamental change occur in the powers of the head of the community. A decree of 1899 concerning the organization of the Tunis Relief and Charity Fund mentions (in article 4) a president elected annually by the members of the board.

It may be assumed that, as in all the other eastern countries, the community of Tripoli (North Africa) was headed by a sheikh (an elder or chief), whose functions resembled those of the qāʾid in Tunisia. Nevertheless, it is not known if the sheikh performed the same functions – financial agent and treasurer – at the court of the pasha in Tripoli as the qāʾid in Tunisia or the muqaddim in Algeria. The only source of information is that supplied by a late chronicler on the basis of ancient material. According to him, the names of the leaders of the Jews, "both the new ones and the old ones," were not mentioned with the names of the dayyanim in the prayer for the dead on the eve of the Day of Atonement because they were not scholars. "Only a rich man, who was not a scholar, was elected to be the intermediary between the Jews and the government, and on his order the bet din would inflict the punishment of whipping on evildoers. He would, moreover, send to prison those who refused to accept his judgment or failed to pay their share of the poll tax." In another instance he notes: "The sheikh collects the money of the poll tax from the Jews for transmission to the government treasury. He receives no remuneration for this labor except that he is exempt from poll tax. Nevertheless, people go to enormous expense in order to obtain that office because they are ambitious, for the sheikh imposes and releases from imprisonment; he also has a fixed place among the governors in the council chamber where he is consulted like the other notables, and in most cases his advice is taken." The creation of the post of ḥakham bashi in the second half of the 19th century no doubt impaired the powers of the sheikh and lowered the latter's prestige with the authorities. From then onward the ḥakham bashi was recognized as the intermediary between local Jewry and the provincial governor and his assistants.

The duties of the recognized leaders of the community in the Maghreb, especially those of the qāʾid and muqaddim, were not easy. There is reliable evidence that these leaders included men of high moral caliber, anxious to be of service to their brethren. As regards those accused of abusing their position, it should be remembered that all communal leaders in these countries – especially in Algeria – were agents of the local rulers, in whose name and for whose benefit they engaged in a variety of dealings, sometimes dubious. All were the first target of the anger of the ruler or of incited mobs who held them responsible for every injustice in connection with taxes and toll duties, farming of government monopolies (iltizam), and various transactions with foreign states at the expense of the populations; particularly shocking was the fate of the muqaddimūn of the Busnach-Bacri family in the early 19th century (see *Bacri; *Busnach). Moreover, their position in relation to their coreligionists was not an easy one. They were responsible for the collection of the poll tax, whether it was imposed on each individual separately or whether an aggregate amount was fixed for the community, leaving it to the latter's representatives to apportion it among its members. They also had to ensure the payment of every fine or special charge the ruler saw fit to collect from the Jews. To protect themselves against serious personal loss, they made the community promise in writing to bear those disbursements. It was, of course, an unpleasant duty to have to impose internal taxes to finance the requirements of the community, although the necessary means of enforcement were available. The commonest tax of this kind was the gabella, an excise duty on meat, wine, etc. In Tripolitania this name was given to an internal tax (at the rate of 2–3 per mil) on imported goods. This latter impost, known also as khābā, served to maintain children of destitute parents at religious schools.

The wide jurisdiction of the secular authority was an outstanding feature of the Maghreb. The secular functionary appointed the dayyanim, or if they were elected by the people confirmed their election (incidentally, the people's right to elect dayyanim was limited, since according to hallowed tradition religious offices were hereditary and were limited to a few families). The nagid in Morocco and the holders of similar positions in the other Maghreb countries were responsible for conducting the community's relationships with the outside world.

the ottoman empire

Very little is known about the religious and secular administration of the *Mustaʿrab Jewish population in the East. Ottoman rule was extended over the Near East and Europe in the 15th and the 16th centuries. According to Sambari, Sultan Muhammad the Conqueror (1451–81) assigned three seats on his imperial divan (council) to official religious functionaries: the mufti, the patriarch, and the rabbi. The aged rabbi Moses *Capsali was appointed head of the Jews for certain purposes. Sambari continues: "And Sultan Muhammad imposed taxes on the whole country in the manner of kings: kharāj, ʿawarīd, and rab aqchesi. And all the Jewish communities were assessed for tax by the said rabbi, and it was collected by him and delivered to the treasury. And the sultan loved all the Jews" (Neubauer, Chronicles, vol. 1, 138). The rab aqchesi tax ("the rabbi's asper"), i.e., the tax of one "white" (lavan, silver coin) for the right to have a rabbi, contains an indirect recognition of the autonomous nature of Jewish organization. Its imposition is confirmed by Turkish archival sources.

Conforte, a contemporary of Sambari, also states that Moses Capsali was appointed rabbi and chief of the dayyanim of Constantinople: "He was rabbi of the *Romaniots, who were resident in the city in the time of the Greeks, and exercised jurisdiction over all Jews of the city by the sultan's command. And the ḥakhamim of the city in his generation were all submissive to him because of fear of the authorities and they had no power to speak to him about any matter or any decision he gave that did not commend itself to them" (Kore ha-Dorot, ed. Cassel, 28b). The common assertion in historical works and encyclopedias, that Capsali was appointed ḥakham bashi, resulted from a combination of these two reports. The title ḥakham bashi is not mentioned in any form in the Hebrew or Turkish sources of that period, and it is nowhere stated that Capsali was given jurisdiction over all Jews in the Ottoman Empire and appointed chief of all dayyanim and ḥakhamim. Thus, Sambari and Conforte cannot be quoted as evidence for the early establishment of the office of a ḥakham bashi for the whole empire. The silence cannot be accidental, for the same situation is reflected in the sources dealing with Elijah *Mizraḥi, who succeeded Moses Capsali after his death. Sambari exaggerates when he speaks of the three seats reserved on the imperial divan for the representatives of the three religions. In point of fact, even the shaikh al-Islam ("grand mufti of the empire"), who was equal in rank to the grand vizier, was not a member of the divan. Nevertheless, it seems that the Orthodox patriarch was given the honorary rank of "pasha with the rank of vizier," and it may be assumed that Capsali was granted similar status; at any rate, Sambari, drawing on the analogy of the Christian representative, believed this. Sambari's statement that Capsali was the recognized head of the then small Jewish community and was responsible to the authorities for its affairs and especially for the payment of taxes appears to be a true reflection of events.

After the capture of Constantinople (1453), Muhammad the Conqueror granted recognition to the *millet (the religious communal organizations of non-Muslims in his state) and conferred broad powers on its religious leaders. This does not contradict the assumption that a Jewish communal organization was already in existence for some time in the areas occupied by the Turks in the 14th and early 15th century. Capsali's wide and exclusive powers as chief of the dayyanim met with opposition from the Ashkenazi and Italian rabbis in Constaninople, who requested the intervention of a noted rabbi in Italy in the matter of a judgment which they believed erroneous. (This took place considerably earlier than the expulsion from Spain.) According to the sources and his own testimony, Capsali's successor, Elijah Mizraḥi (d. 1526), had jurisdiction "over the whole city of Kostantina" for more than 40 years.

The settlement in Greater Constantinople of ḥakhamim expelled from Spain – who were unwilling to accept Mizraḥi'sauthority – led to tension between Romaniots and Sephardim, who also did not recognize the manner of authorizing rabbis which was practiced in Constantinople. Since the Spanish ḥakhamim refused to recognize the leading Romaniot rabbi's claim to be the chief dayyan of Constantinople, the position lapsed after Mizraḥi's death.

The Jewish settlements in the cities and towns of the Muslim Middle East were far from being united communities. In accordance with old traditions, every new wave of settlers continued its separate life in its own kahal. In North Africa the newcomers from Majorca and Catalonia (1391), Spain and Portugal (1492–97), and Leghorn (17th–18th centuries) had their own synagogues and charitable institutions (see *Gorni, Tuansa, *Maghrebi). In the East the situation was even more complicated. Besides the Mustaʿrabs, Maghrebis, Romaniots, Italians, and Ashkenazim, there were numerous separate congregations in the large cities of the Ottoman Empire, e.g., in Safed (1555–56) 12 congregations and in Istanbul (16th century) almost 40. In Salonika the situation was yet more complex: some congregations formed by groups who came from the same city or country were divided into sections and factions – majority and minority – which quarreled, seceded, built new congregations, and so on. Every congregation, small or large, had its own rabbi, synagogue, charity funds, and burial society; each had an independent status, was a "town" in and of itself and no rabbi or lay leader was permitted to interfere with the prerogatives of another. Although unity was achieved when a common danger faced the whole community, or funds had to be raised to redeem captives, maintain the Jews in Ereẓ Israel, etc., the rivalries between the congregations weakened the community. The situation lasted for centuries, continuing after the introduction of reforms in the organization of the millet in the 19th century, and surviving into the mid-20th century. After a prolonged delay caused by friction within the community, the draft of the "organizational regulations of the rabbinate" (ḥakham-khāne nīzām nāmesi) was submitted (1864) to the Ottoman authorities in Constantinople. The confirmation took place in May 1865. The regulations fall into five sections: (1) the status of the ḥakham bashi as the head of Jewry in the empire; his qualifications and election (clauses 1–4); (2) his powers and his replacement in the event of resignation or removal from office (clauses 5–15); (3) The general committee (majlis ʿumūmi), its election, and powers. It consisted of 80 members, presided over by the permanent deputy of the ḥakham bashi. Sixty secular members were elected by the inhabitants of Constantinople according to city districts, and they, in turn, elected 20 rabbinical members. These 80 members elected the seven rabbis who formed the spiritual committee (majlis rūḥānī) and the nine members of the secular committee (majlis jismānī). The elections required the approval of the Sublime Porte. At the time of the election of the ḥakham bashi for the empire, the general committee was temporarily reinforced by 40 members summoned from eight districts, where each officiated as provincial ḥakham bashi (from Adrianople, Brusa, Izmir (Smyrna), Salonika, Baghdad, Cairo, Alexandria, and Jerusalem; clauses 16–19). It should be noted that clause 16 failed to prescribe the committee's term of office; only in 1910 was it fixed at ten years. (4) The powers of the spiritual committee: the seven rabbis were to concern themselves with religious and other matters referred to them by the ḥakham bashi; the committee was not to prevent the publication of books or the spread of science and art unless it was prejudicial to the government, the community, or religion; it must supervise the activities of the city-district rabbis (mara de-atra) who acted under its instructions; it was headed by a president, who was also the head of the rabbinical court; he had two deputies (clauses 20–38). (5) The powers of the secular committee as regards the management of communal affairs and the carrying into effect of government orders: it apportioned the communal impost and ensured the integrity of the property of orphans and endowments (clauses 39–48). The regulations remained in force for the duration of the Ottoman Empire; under the republic they lapsed, without being officially replaced.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

western europe

At the same time the communities of the north – France, Germany, England, and northern Italy, which had been under Christian rule and out of touch with Muslim-ruled Babylonia – became the focus of experiment in community living. Lacking the solid basis of long experience, they had to build from the foundation up. Great debates ensued among the handful of renowned scholars who valiantly strove to find precedents in talmudic law for solving communal problems. As they found little to go by in the Talmud, considerable activity ensued. Most influential were the *synods of scholars and leading laymen convoked mainly in Cologne on days when the fairs were held. The influential scholars were *Gershom b. Judah, *Meshullam b. Kalonymus, Joseph b. Samuel *Bonfils (Tov-Elem), and *Rashi and his followers. It was understood that the final decision on their takkanot would rest with the local community. Justice, too, was localized by the ḥerem bet din. Finally, the principle was accepted that the elders were empowered to enforce communal decisions. The legality of a majority forcing its will upon a minority elicited much debate. Jacob b. Meir *Tam disagreed with it (c. 1150). The right to vote was granted only to meliores (mehugganim, "respected persons").

More specifically, the scholars in France and Germany tended to vest considerable powers in the local community and to define the rights of the individual. In religious matters the authority of the community remained undisputed. To prevent breaches of Jewish law its authority extended beyond its borders to the neighboring communities. An individual had the right of appealing to a higher court in private cases, or of suing his own community. In general, however, the community remained independent of outside interference. Each community was conceived as the Jewish people in miniature, having sovereign rights, no longer dependent on Palestinian ordination or exilarchic-geonic appointment. *Meir b. Baruch of Rothenburg, the 13th-century talmudic scholar in Germany, further elaborated the principles of community government in an intricate array of judgments. A majority could enact regulations on religious or public matters, in pursuit of their primary aim of strengthening the authority of the community over the individual.

The autonomous Jewish community in Europe developed during the period of the growth of towns. However, when burghers succeeded in obtaining for themselves supremacy as members of a cummunitas, of a coniuratio of autonomous rule, they swore an annual oath of allegiance within the community. The Jews, however, did not follow this practice since each of them was assumed to be bound by the covenant at Sinai to follow God's law and community regulations.

While the Central European communities were rather small in the 13th to 15th centuries and needed only the guidance of one scholar or of a few leaders, in the following three centuries they expanded considerably, thereby requiring a more complex structure of public institutions. Social stratification within the community based on wealth and learning also became more differentiated.

spain and resettlement countries

Until the persecutions of 1391 the struggle between the higher and lower social echelons was pronounced; frequent changes of leadership resulted, but in spite of this one family might rule in one locality for a century or more. Strife developed over methods of allocating taxes, the elite preferring the officers of the kahal to act as assessors, and the masses opting for each taxpayer's declaring his income. Sporadically contending factions had to resort to the king or governmental authorities to resolve their conflict. In general, the Spanish kahal was engaged in the broad function of regulating the social, economic, intellectual, and religious life of local communities.

Until the expulsion from Spain there was only one kahal in a community, but a new phenomenon developed in the countries of resettlement. In Holland, France, and England the Spanish refugees formed a separate congregation of Sephardi Jews if there was already an Ashkenazi community in existence, and centered their communal affairs on it.

[Isaac Levitats]

eastern europe

The communities of Poland-Lithuania followed a way of life and experienced problems which were a kind of amalgam of Ashkenazi and Sephardi patterns (see *Councils of the Lands). Medieval forms of Jewish community organization persisted far into modern times in those countries where emancipation was delayed. In Russia the autonomous institutions of the kahal remained vigorous despite a tyrannical absolutist government which sought to harness it in the service of its oppressive designs. In addition to the usual burdens of collecting taxes, the kahal was charged with providing recruits for military service. Internally the age-old traditions of self-government retained their vitality into the 20th century. Even after the kahal was officially abolished by the government, the associations carried on the time-honored services. While it lasted, the kahal followed the procedures inherited from earlier ages, with the system of indirect elections from among the taxpayers continuing the oligarchical rule of the medieval community. The control of religious behavior and of the economic and social life of the individual by the kahal was powerful: the judiciary was firmly in Jewish hands and resort to non-Jewish courts was rare indeed. Many of these traditions survived up to the Revolution of 1917.

modern variations


By the middle of the 18th century signs of decline and disintegration of the autonomous Jewish community became evident. The central agencies gradually dissolved. In Germany the Jewish communities were increasingly controlled by the state (see *Landesjudenschaften). The kahal in Russia was officially abolished in 1844. Internally there was economic ruin, oligarchic mismanagement, class struggle, rationalist enlightenment, and judicial independence of the individual. The communities had amassed stupendous debts by deficit financing which kept transferring fiscal burdens to coming generations. Wealthy Jews gained exemption from taxes by special state privileges; the central and regional boards shifted assessments onto provincial communities without affording them due representation; tax burdens became unbearable. The small urban unit with its intimate knowledge of everyone's finances was gradually replaced by the anonymity of the larger city. The imposition of heavy responsibilities on lay leaders by governments and the inherent social structure fostered oligarchic oppression. Emergent social consciousness sharpened the class struggle of the poor and the guilds. Individualistic tendencies militated against the social control of the kahal. The Haskalah movement in Central and Eastern Europe became religiously iconoclastic and anti-traditional, launching its most venomous onslaught on "the forces of darkness" in control of the kahal and on its despotic rule. The increasing complexity of business relations after the Industrial Revolution did away with the simpler transactions of the pre-capitalist era when Jewish civil law was adequate for judges to make decisions based on talmudic law. The old ban against gentile courts was increasingly disregarded; the Jewish civil judiciary shrank. Finally, the force of religious values, which underpinned medieval social control, gave way to secularist and humanist attitudes.

These factors must be viewed in the light of the emergence of the united modern state in central and southern Europe on the one hand, and the economic and political decline of Poland (which ceased to exist as an independent state in 1795) and the Ottoman Empire on the other. The French Revolution dissolved the estates and the corporations; in their stead the state dealt directly with the individual citizen in matters of taxes and other civic responsibilities. Count *Clermont-Tonnerre, a liberal deputy and friend of the Jews, stated in 1789 in the French National Assembly: "To the Jews as a nation we owe nothing; to the Jews as human beings we give everything." All this implied the dissolution of all communal, corporate, self-governing institutions, to be replaced by an emancipated, equal citizenry. Individualism was further stimulated by early capitalism. Competition in new methods of production and distribution, private initiative, and the end of the guild system and of economic regimentation dissolved the social control of self-governing groups. The individual Jew was catapulted into gentile society, where his own institutions were of little avail. Enlightened absolutism in German-speaking areas further dissolved the corporative structures. In some countries, rabbis and religious functionaries became state officials. The ghetto community, as one of the autonomous corporate bodies, fell under the heavy blows of state control. The process of disintegration of the kehillah was long and tortuous; its demise was nevertheless inevitable under modern conditions.

Western Europe

In modern times, until World War ii, Western Europe followed the consistorial (see *Consistory) pattern established by Napoleon in France and her conquered territories. In Paris there were Orthodox, Liberal, and Sephardi congregations. The East European Jews had their own Federation of Societies. In the Netherlands, the consistory of 1808 was replaced in 1814 by the former Ashkenazi and Sephardi organizations. In 1817 a Central Commission on Jewish Affairs was established, consisting of seven members, to work with local rabbis and elders, but it was abolished in 1848 by the new constitution which offered churches state subventions. In 1870 a new central commission was formed for ten districts, each with its independent rabbi and government subsidies. In 1917 their rights were narrowed. In Belgium the consistorial system existed from the days of Napoleon and was renewed in 1835 when membership in the community was made compulsory. In 1873 the state offered subsidies to Jewish communities. Membership was made voluntary in 1892. In 1933 a Council of Jewish Organizations was established to coordinate nationally both religious and secular institutions.

Under French occupation during the Napoleonic wars Italy introduced the consistorial system. When the old order was reestablished, it varied in the several states. In united Italy central regulation ensued. The law of 1857 applying to Piedmont and later extended to most of the country provided for community membership in the place of domicile, unless otherwise declared. The community's religious and educational activities were tax-supported. In 1911 the Jewish communities were united in the Consorzio fra le Comunità Israelitiche Italiane. Under Fascist rule, by a law of 1931, membership was made compulsory, and the central union was guided by a consultative committee of three rabbis.

The 24 Jewish communities of Switzerland organized in 1904 the Union of Swiss Jewish Communities to regulate their external and internal affairs. In Great Britain there were several national synagogue bodies. One body, largely based on synagogue representation, served as the official voice of British Jews in external matters – the *Board of Deputies of British Jews founded in 1760. The Ashkenazi congregations clustered around the *United Synagogue headed by the chief rabbi. Other congregations were affiliated with the Federation of Synagogues, the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, and Liberal, Reform, and Spanish-Portuguese congregations. There was also a Jewish Board of Guardians and welfare. In the British Commonwealth, Canada has a central representative agency, the *Canadian Jewish Congress. South Africa, too, has a Board of Deputies and a Board of Jewish Education. Australia has an Executive Council of Australian Jewry as well as State Boards of Deputies.

Central Europe

The Jewish communities of Central Europe, especially in Germany, were highly organized and enjoyed much power. Each settlement had only one community organization to which each Jewish inhabitant belonged and paid internal taxes. The government recognized this organization by law, and in some cases helped subsidize its activities. Unions or federations of local units were formed for entire territories. The legal status of the Jewish community in Prussia was defined by a law of 1750 which made affiliation and taxation compulsory and under state control. In 1876 resignation from the community was permitted without renunciation of the Jewish faith. The Weimar constitution of 1919 relaxed government control, thus offering full autonomy to the community. Election procedures were made democratic, giving the franchise to women and providing for proportional representation. In 1921 a territorial union of communities (Preussischer Landesverband juedischer Gemeinden) was granted public legal status. Its function was to further religious life, to help financially weak communities, and to act as liaison with the government. Bavaria, Saxony, and Wuerttemberg also formed such unions. In Baden, where they were governed by a supreme council, the Jews had the power to tax members for religious needs.

In Austria, which did not have a uniform law until 1890, the situation varied. In Galicia the rabbis contested the right of laymen to control community life. Bohemia boasted a central representation of Jews, the Landesjudenschaft, while in Moravia 52 autonomous communities had their separate municipal administration and police. In the German-speaking provinces of Austria proper, mainly Vienna, Jews were empowered in 1792 to collect Buechelgeld for religious purposes. The law of 1890, which regulated the life of all the communities in the empire and remained in force in the republic after World War i, provided for compulsory membership and taxation, and one kahal in each locality to control all Jewish public activities.

In Hungary the medieval form of organization of the community was left undisturbed by *Josephii's decree of 1783 regulating Jewish life. Until 1871 there was a struggle between Liberal and Orthodox leaders for control of the community, finally resolved by government approval of a threefold division of independent community unions consisting of Liberal, Orthodox, and "status quo," that is, those who were not involved in the struggle. Czechoslovak Jewry formed a supreme Council of the Federations of Jewish Communities in Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia, which were later governed by the Austrian law of 1890. In the eastern provinces Slovakia had both *Neolog and Orthodox communities, but Carpathian Ruthenia was entirely Orthodox. In 1920 a state-recognized Organization of Orthodox Jewish Communities was established.

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe the old forms of community government were the most tenacious. As in most of Europe they persisted despite adverse government legislation. After World War i the concept of *minority rights was briefly favored and a number of countries helped maintain Jewish schools. Secularization of Jewish life produced a variety of political parties, each seeking to gain a decisive voice in communal affairs. Despite oppressive government legislation in Russia, Jewish community life retained its vigor into the 20th century. When the kahal was abolished (1844), the government handed over Jewish affairs to the police and the municipalities; yet the Jewish communities were still saddled with the two most burdensome responsibilities – state tax collecting and army recruiting (see *Cantonists). In 1835, government-appointed rabbis, who did not have to be ordained, were introduced to take charge of registration and other official requirements. In 1917 democratic Jewish communities were established by the provisional government. When the Bolsheviks seized power they put an end to Jewish community organization and formed a "Jewish commissariat," only to dissolve it in 1923. The *Yevsektsiya, the Jewish section of the Communist Party, was formed in 1918 and lasted until 1930. It helped suppress all traditional Jewish institutions and sought to develop a Yiddish press and Yiddish-speaking schools. In the meantime a committee (the Yidgezkom), supported by the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, coordinated the vast relief activities of a number of previously existing social welfare organizations. In the short-lived, quasi-independent Ukraine wide autonomy was projected in 1917 with a minister of Jewish affairs and a national council. Bolshevik occupation put an end to these efforts.

Congress Poland (see *Poland) abolished the kahal in 1822, replacing it by a synagogue board (Dozer boznicy) consisting of a rabbi, his assistant, and three elders, whose task was limited to religion and to social welfare. After World War i the German patterns of community government were established in large parts of the new Polish state. Taxes were levied, and religious and other needs were provided for. In the sphere of social welfare the Joint Distribution Committee played an important role. Jewry became divided into factions – Orthodox, Zionist, *Po'alei Zion, *Bund, and others – each vying for a share of community control.

In the Baltic countries, the Lithuanian republic established in 1918 a Ministry of Jewish Affairs and a National Council to take charge of religion, education, social welfare, and other autonomous Jewish affairs. In 1924 these national agencies were dissolved. Autonomy granted in Latvia in 1919 extended only to Hebrew and Yiddish schools, often subsidized from municipal taxes, with a Jewish department in the Ministry of Education. In Estonia the National Cultural Autonomy Act of 1925 was the most liberal. Jewish schools received subsidies from state and municipal treasuries.

The Balkan countries exhibited a variety of attitudes to Jewish group existence. Some extended wide autonomy, especially under the provisions for minority rights; others curtailed it. Under the ḥakham bashi, until the abolition of the caliphate and the separation of church and state, Turkish Jewry had considerable autonomy and standing in the imperial court. In 1923 Turkey refused to honor the minority rights promised in the Treaty of Lausanne and Jewish autonomy was restricted to purely religious matters. In Greece Jews were permitted to levy compulsory taxation and were granted government subsidies. The presence in some areas of local courts backed by the authorities and of central democratically elected bodies was another outstanding feature.

Romania had largely voluntary associations until 1928, when Jews were required to belong to the local community, except for the Sephardim in Moldavia and Walachia and the Orthodox in Transylvania. The government contributed toward Jewish institutions. The chief rabbi represented the Jews in the senate. In Yugoslavia conditions differed according to regions. Croatian and Slavonian communities dealt with religious and charitable affairs. In Zagreb an executive committee of 36 controlled the synagogues and other institutions. In Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia there were chief rabbis and religious-educational activities. In 1929 a law united the communities of Yugoslavia and offered subventions. Control was in the hands of a council. The chief rabbi of Belgrade was accorded the same rank as a bishop and had a seat in the senate. Wider autonomy was enjoyed by Bulgarian Jewry. Even before 1920, when national minority rights were granted to them, the Jews could impose taxes; their chief rabbi was paid his salary by the state. Thereafter each community was governed by a council; the larger communities had religious courts whose decisions were executed by the authorities. Centrally they were governed by a legislative congress and an executive, democratically elected Consistoire Central.

[Isaac Levitats]

Developments in North Africa from the 19th Century

In Tunisia, owing to the influence of Algeria to the west, changes were introduced in the powers and structure of Jewish religious courts even before the country became a French protectorate. The bey, Muhammad al-Ṣādiq, who organized civil courts for all his subjects, restricted the authority of the rabbinical courts to matters of personal status. In 1898 he ordered the composition and jurisdiction of the Jewish religious court in Tunis to be reorganized. The new composition of the court was as follows: the chief rabbi of Tunisia, honorary president; one rabbi, presiding judge; two dayyanim; two deputy dayyanim; and one clerk. The sessions of the court were held in public under the chairmanship of the presiding judge, with two dayyanim or deputy dayyanim as assessors. The jurisdiction of the court was extended over the whole country, and it was possible to bring any matter, from anywhere, directly before it or to appeal to it against a judgment given by a dayyan in a provincial town. On the other hand, the court was denied the right to deal with matters concerning the personal status of Algerian Jews, since these were French nationals, or concerning persons under the protection of a foreign state. The salaries of the rabbi, of all the dayyanim belonging to the court, and of the clerk were paid from the bey's treasury. The chief rabbi of Tunisia was at first given wide powers over communal organization and religious life. According to the decrees of the bey concerning the organization of the committees of the Caisses de Secours et de Bienfaisance Israélite – the official designation of the Jewish communities in Tunisia – in several provincial towns, the chief rabbi proposed the members of some of them and submitted their financial reports to the prime minister. Elsewhere this right was reserved to the contrôleur civil, i.e., the district governor. The chief rabbi granted kabbalot (certificates of competency) to ritual slaughterers and licenses of communal notaries. These powers extended over the entire country, except for the towns where they were vested expressly in the local rabbi. The chief rabbi presided over the rabbinical council attached to the chief rabbinate and the examining board for notaries. The rabbinical council set up under a beylical decree of 1922 consisted of six members appointed by the prime minister, on the recommendation of the chief rabbi, for a period of one year (the appointment was renewable). The council was to advise on all religious matters concerning Tunisian Jewry. Its meetings were attended by a government representative, who acted as an observer.

A law promulgated by the president of the Tunisian republic, Ḥabib Bourguiba, in July 1958 dissolved the community council of Tunis. On the same day the Department of Justice summoned eight Jewish notables in order to appoint them as a "Provisional Committee for the Management of the Jewish Religion." The main task of the committee was to prepare elections for the leadership of the religious society, which was to take the place of the Tunis community council. The law provided that "religious societies" of a district should be managed by an administrative council elected by all Jews of either sex of that district who were Tunisian nationals and were above 21 years of age. Every administrative council was to consist of five to 15 members, depending on the size of the society. Each district was to have not more than one religious society, and there might be one society for several districts. The provisional committee, replacing the Caisse de Secours et de Bienfaisance Israélite in the Sfax district, was appointed by the district governor in November, and the one for Gabès in December 1958.

A different development took place in the Jewish community of Algeria, which from 1830 was a part of France. A decisive role was played by the Jews of French nationality who began to stream into the country after the occupation. As mentioned, they did not content themselves with the restriction of the powers of the rabbinical courts and the abolition of the office of muqaddim, but wished to organize the community on the model of the consistory, the political and religious body of French Jewry established by Napoleon i and based on the principle of the priority of obligations toward the state. In 1845 the regulations for the organization of the Algerian consistory were published; their functions were defined as (1) to ensure the orderly conduct of communal affairs; (2) to supervise the school attendance of the children; (3) to encourage Jews to engage in useful crafts; and (4) to supervise endowments and charitable funds. After the regulations came into force, consistories were established in Algiers and Oran in 1847 and in Constantine in 1848. A decree issued in 1867 imposed the authority of the Consistoire Central, the supreme religious body of French Jewry, on the three Algerian consistories. From that time on, and especially after the promulgation of the Crémieux Decree conferring French citizenship on the Jews of the three northern departments of Algeria (Algiers, Oran, and Constantine) in 1870, the status and organization of the Jews inhabiting these areas resembled more and more those of the Jews in France. The *Crémieux Decree did not apply to the military region in the south; consequently, the Jewish communities in Mzab and several other oases retained their traditional structure and organization. This split had an influence on the religious life of Algerian Jewry, which developed along two different paths.

Morocco retained its sovereignty until 1912. The events of World War i slowed down France's military efforts to gain control of the interior and of the south of the country (where the occupation and the subjection of the free tribes were completed only in the mid-1930s). Nevertheless, the French administration drafted two decrees (ḍahīr) which were published in May 1918 – in the name of the Moroccan ruler and with the signature of the French high commissioner. One of them dealt with the organization of the Jewish communal courts and the other with the organization of the Jewish communities. At first seven rabbinical courts (tribunaux) of first instance, each consisting of three dayyanim, were set up in Casablanca, Fez, Mogador, Meknès, Marrakesh, Oujda, and Tangiers. In 1953 a court of this nature began to function also in Rabat. Simultaneously, a High Court of Appeal was established in Rabat with a bench of three: the chief rabbi as president and two judges. The dispersal of the Jewish population over a wide area necessitated the appointment of rabbins-délégués for provincial towns where no courts existed. Their powers were less than those of the full-scale courts. During the 1960s, when the Jewish population of Morocco dwindled to one-fifth of its previous size (about 50,000), many communities disappeared completely and numerous posts of rabbins-délégués ceased to exist, as did – in 1965 – the High Court of Appeal.

The second decree issued in May 1918 dealt with the organization and powers of Jewish community committees in Moroccan towns. These committees were to consist of the president of the rabbinical court, the rabbin-délégué, and notables who were chosen by the grand vizier from a list submitted by the communities and whose number varied according to the size of the Jewish population; in 1945 this choice of notables was replaced, in theory, by the election by secret ballot of candidates from among whom the authorities were to select the members of the committees. The term of office of the members was four years. The functions of the committees were to maintain religious services, to assist the needy, and to administer endowments. A decree promulgated in 1945 established a council of Jewish communities, which had to coordinate the activities of the communities. It consisted of the heads of the various communities and met once a year in Rabat under the chairmanship of a representative of the Directorate of Sherifian Affairs. These meetings dealt with matters of budget, housing, education, and hygiene. The question of permanent representation of the communities was also mooted. In the early 1950s a permanent bureau was set up under a secretary-general. The bureau was to guide the community committees in preparing budgets, operating services, and providing education in talmud torah institutions and evening classes. Most of the revenue of the communities came from charges on ritual slaughtering and the sale of maẓẓot, as well as from the management of public endowments, which were not many, since most endowments were family ones. The council sent six delegates to the Moroccan (natives) Committee of the Council of Government. It published a four-page monthly under the title La Voix des Communautés. Upon the reinstatement of Sultan Muhammad v in 1958 and the rise to power of the nationalist Istiqlāl party, the composition of the community committees was changed by appointing persons acceptable to the ruling group. With this change in policy they lost what little independence and initiative they had possessed and became tools of the government.

[Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg]

United States

U.S. Jewry, with its frequent waves of immigration from a large variety of countries, has launched many and ambitious forms of community organization. Until late in the 19th century these remained for the most part purely local in character. Wherever they settled in sufficient numbers the original Sephardi immigrants to the United States formed burial societies, benevolent and charitable associations, hospitals, synagogues and Hebrew schools, rabbinical courts, etc., all patterned originally on similar institutions in the Old World. The German immigration of the mid-19th century created a parallel series of institutions, as did the large Eastern European immigration of the years 1880–1920. In addition the immigrants from Eastern Europe originated the *Landsmannshaften, organizations which consisted of members hailing from the same town or region and which offered sick and burial insurance, free loans, poor relief, a place to pray, and perhaps, above all, conviviality and a sense of belonging in the New World. Thus, at the end of the 19th century the American Jewish community was largely composed of a proliferation of local synagogues and organizations, frequently formed along lines of national origin and often duplicating each other's efforts with little or no coordination between them. On a local level the first attempts at centralization began to appear late in the 19th century and continued with increasing scope into the 20th. The first city-wide Jewish welfare federation in America was established in Boston in 1895; the first municipal bureau of Jewish education, in 1910. An attempt under J.L. *Magnes to establish a kehillah in New York lasted for about a decade before breaking up. Local ymhas and ywhas developed into Jewish community centers offering a wide range of educational, social, and recreational activities in many American cities. In 1970 such local Jewish federations, community councils, and welfare funds, whose function it was to coordinate Jewish communal life and regulate the disbursement of funds to it, existed in one form or another in 300 cities in 43 states in which were concentrated at least 95% of the Jewish population of the United States. The center of local community life for the average Jewishly active individual, however, continued to be the synagogue. Far from serving exclusively or perhaps even primarily as a place of worship, the synagogue, especially in suburban areas, provided such varied services as Jewish education for children and adults, men's clubs, sisterhoods, youth and sport groups, social service, and catering private social affairs. Organization on a nation-wide level in American Jewish life originated with the German immigration of the mid-19th century. In the course of the 20th century such a consolidation has created an overall hierarchical structure of organization embracing practically every area of American Jewish life. Among the most prominent of such national organizations are the Jewish Community Centers Association (the national coordinating body of community centers, 1917), United Jewish Communities of North America (created out of the Council of Jewish Federation and Welfare Funds (1932), the United Jewish Appeal (1939), both of which went out of existence), and the American Association for Jewish Education (1939). By the second half of the 20th century few local Jewish organizations were not affiliated directly with one or another such national group, a fact that undoubtedly owed much to the general American aptitude for centralized and efficient organization. At the political level the organization of American Jewry remained relatively unstructured, a reflection of the traditional reluctance, if not inability, of the American Jewish community to identify itself as a distinct political bloc. On the whole, those Jewish organizations that have assumed political functions did so originally to defend specifically Jewish rights and interests against discrimination and prejudice both in the United States and abroad. The first organization of this type was the *Board of Delegates of American Israelites (1859–78). It was followed by the American Jewish Committee (1906), which was controlled by a wealthy elite of German Jews. In reaction to it the more representative and militant American Jewish Congress was first established in 1918 and refounded in 1930. Other such national organizations to be formed were the Zionist Organization of America (1897) and many other Zionist bodies, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (1913), and the *Jewish Labor Committee (1934). Conflicting outlooks and ideologies have for the most part restricted these groups' common action, but the national and local agencies concerned with Jewish public affairs and public policy established the National Community Relations Advisory Council (later the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, now the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (1944)). Another body, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, established in 1954, serves as a roof organization for 51 national Jewish bodies. The mandate of the Presidents' Conference is to act as a spokesman to the Administration, on behalf of the American Jewish Community, on matters related to Israel. The Conference has issued joint declarations and has lobbied nationally for Jewish interests both at home and abroad, especially in connection with Israel. Since the 1950s many national Jewish bodies have adopted positions on a broad range of issues, of concern to the larger polity, on the public-affairs agenda.

Latin America

The transplantation of Jews with East and Central European backgrounds to Latin America, primarily in the 20th century gave rise to a replica of the European kehillah that did not enjoy the same official status but was tacitly recognized by Jews and non-Jews alike as the organized Jewish community. These communities had a distinct public character but were not directly recognized in public law. In the last analysis, they had relied entirely on the voluntary attachment of their members. In sum, they functioned in an environment that provided neither the cultural nor the legal framework for a European-model kehillah. Characteristically, the Ashkenazi communities among them, as opposed to the Sephardi communities, emphasized the secular rather than the religious side of Jewish life. Founded in the main by men who considered themselves secularists (regardless of the level of their personal religious observance), they were developed in the mold of secular Diaspora nationalism, a powerful ideology at the time of their creation. However, since the 1960s there has been a new trend, and even the Ashkenazim tend more to emphasize the religious basis of their organization.

The Latin American communities have been relatively successful in their attempt to maintain European patterns primarily because the great social and cultural gap between the Jews and their neighbors in those countries with a large population of Indian origin aided in giving the Jews a self-image as a special and distinct, indeed superior, group, which in turn helped keep them apart in a corporate way as well as individually. This fact has important implications for the character of their community organization. In the first place, while the communities themselves were all founded in the modern era, they are located in essentially homogeneous societies whose social structures originated before the beginning of that period. Moreover, they were founded by people coming for the most part from still-modernizing societies of a different kind in Europe. As a result, assimilation into the host society was far more difficult than in other countries of migration, while, at the same time, the Jewish founders were able to build their institutions upon a far stronger sense of communal self-government than that which prevailed among more emancipated Jews. The community-wide "roof " organizations they have created have thus been able to attract and keep virtually every Jewish organization and affiliated Jew within their structures on a formally voluntary basis, while gaining informal governmental recognition as the "address" of the Jewish community.

The same phenomena also contributed to the dominant pattern of organizing the Jewish immigrants according to their countries of origin. Just as the Jewish immigrants did not assimilate into their host societies, so, too, they did not assimilate among one another, following a pattern not uncommon in pre-Emancipation Jewish history by which Jews who settled in new lands frequently attempted to preserve the special cultural nuances of the lands of their birth. In the course of time, these communities loosely confederated with one another to deal with common problems that emerged in their relations with their environment, i.e., essentially those of immigration, antisemitism, and Israel. At the same time, each country-of-origin community retained substantial, if not complete, autonomy in internal matters and control over its own institutions.

In three of the large Latin American countries (including Argentina and Brazil, the largest), the indigenous federal structures of the countries themselves influenced the Jews to create countrywide confederations based on territorial divisions (officially uniting state or provincial communities which are, in fact, local communities concentrated in the state or provincial capitals). In the other 21, the local federation of the city containing the overwhelming majority of the Jewish population became the countrywide unit, usually with the designation "council of communities." The community councils of the six Central American countries (total Jewish population 5,650) have organized the Federation of Central American Jewish Communities to pool resources and provide common services.

With the revival of open Jewish settlement on the Iberian Peninsula, Jewish communities similar to the "council of communities" took shape in both Spain and Portugal, for many of the same reasons. Similarly, the small Jewish community of Monaco found that same pattern most suitable.

None of the tacitly recognized communal structures has been in existence for more than two generations, and the communities themselves originated no more than three or possibly four generations ago. Most of the smaller ones were in the 1970s entering their second generation, since they were created by the refugees of the 1930s and 1940s. Indeed, all gained substantially as a result of Nazism and the Jews' need to leave Europe before, during, and after World War ii. Consequently, many, if not most, were still in the process of developing an appropriate and accepted community constitution.

The great postwar adjustment that has faced the Latin American communities centers on the emergence of a native-born majority in their ranks. This new generation has far less attachment to the "old country" way of life with its ideologies and country-of-origin communities making the whole community structure less relevant to them. Moreover, they are already beginning to assimilate into their own countries of birth, or at least into the local radical movements, in familiar Jewish ways. For them, the deportivo, or community recreational center, often seems the most relevant form of Jewish association. On the other hand, the host countries, whose aim is the cultural assimilation of all minorities into a common mold, are not particularly receptive to the perpetuation of communities built on a Diaspora nationalist ideology. At the same time, they are committed, at least theoretically, to guaranteeing full freedom of religion for all legitimate groups, thereby pushing Jews toward at least a formal religious identification in order to maintain their communal identity while conforming to local mores. Both developments are encouraging a trend toward a kind of associational Jewishness in place of the organic pattern of the founding generation. It is not surprising, then, that the organizational structure that at first reflected and then came to reinforce the interests of the founding generation is becoming increasingly obsolete, creating a constitutional crisis of first magnitude in the ranks of organized Latin American Jewry. To the degree that a territorially based communal structure has emerged, with its accompanying substructure of association activities whose participants are drawn in for reasons of interest rather than simply descent, this constitutional crisis is being overcome.

The tacitly recognized community structures of Latin American Jewry have become important forms of Jewish communal organization in modern times, with around 400,000 Jews living within their framework at the outset of the 21st century. Their decline during the last 30 years was provoked by occasional waves of out migration due to economic and political crises, low fertility, and out marriages. They are all located in very unstable environments, which do not necessarily encourage pluralism, although there are signs of greater tolerance in this respect. Consequently, Latin American Jewries are also more closely tied to the State of Israel as a surrogate homeland (madre patria is the Spanish term they use) than any others. Their attempt to create a unified communal structure on a voluntary basis under such conditions bears close examination.

community organization since world war ii


Jewish communal organization has undergone many changes since the inception of the Israelite polity somewhere in the Sinai Desert, but none has been more decisive than those which have affected it in the past four centuries, and none more significant than those of the period since the end of World War ii. The inauguration of the modern era in the 17th century initiated a process of decorporatization of Jewish communal life that gained momentum in the following two centuries. Jewish corporate autonomy, a feature of Diaspora existence in one form or another since the Babylonian exile, never even took hold in the New World, whose Jewish communities were all established in the modern era. Developments after World War i weakened that kind of autonomy in Europe, where it had been on the wane for two centuries. Only in the Muslim countries did the old forms persist, until the nationalist revolutions of the post–World War ii period eliminated them.

The process of decorporatization – perhaps denationalization is a better term – brought with it efforts to redefine Jewish life in Protestant religious terms in Western Europe and North America and in socialist secular ones in Eastern Europe and, somewhat later, in Latin America. In Europe,

Europe (incl. Russia)3,95087.88,90080.99,50056.81,55112.0
North and South America501.11,20010.95,54033.16,07146.9

the process was promoted both from within the Jewish community and without by Jews seeking wider economic and social opportunities as individuals and by newly nationalistic regimes seeking to establish the state as the primary force in the life of all residents within its boundaries. In the Americas, it came automatically as individual Jews found themselves with the same status and opportunities as other migrants to the New World.

Out of decorporatization came new forms of Jewish communal organization on the countrywide and local levels: (1) the consistory of post-revolutionary France (which spread to the other countries within the French sphere of influence in Europe), an attempt to create a Jewish "church" structure parallel to that of the French Protestant Church; (2) the 19th-century Central European kehillah, essentially a ritual and social agency chartered and regulated by the secular government as a means of registering all Jews and binding them to some "religious" grouping; (3) the united congregational pattern of England and her overseas colonies and dominions, whereby Jews voluntarily organized synagogues which then banded together to create a board to represent Jewish interests to the host country; (4) the radically individualistic organizational pattern of the United States, whereby individual Jews banded together locally (and sometimes nationally) to create whatever kind of Jewish association they wished without any kind of supralocal umbrella organization even for external representation; and, early in the 20th century, (5) separate communal associations based on the Landsmannshaft principle, which became the basis for voluntary affiliation of the Jewish immigrants to Latin America. The common denominator of all these different forms was their limited scope and increasingly voluntary character.

While these organizational changes were taking shape, a two-pronged demographic shift of great importance began. In the first place, the live birth and survival rate among Jews rose rapidly, causing the number of Jews in the world to soar. In the second, the Jews began to migrate at an accelerating rate to the lands on the Western world's great frontier: the Western Hemisphere and southern Africa and Australia in particular, but also, in smaller numbers, to east Asia, initiating a shift in the balance of Jewish settlement in the world. Finally, the modern era saw Jewish resettlement of the Land of Israel. The first to go to the land as founders of entirely new settlements began to arrive in the 17th century and continued regularly thereafter, pioneering new communities of a traditional character within the framework of the Ottoman Empire's millet system. They were followed, in due course, by the Zionist pioneers who created new forms of communal life, beginning in the late 19th century as part of the last stage of the modern transformation of the Jewish people.

World War ii marked the culmination of all the trends and tendencies of the modern era and the end of the era itself for all of mankind. For the Jewish people, the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel were the pair of decisive events that marked the crossing of the watershed into the "postmodern" world. In the process, the entire basis of the Jewish polity was radically changed; the locus of Jewish life shifted and virtually every organized Jewish community was reconstituted in some significant way.

The Jewish world that greeted the new State was no longer an expanding one which was gaining population even in the face of "normal" attrition through intermarriage and assimilation. Quite to the contrary, it was a decimated one (even worse – for decimated implies the loss of one in ten; the Jews lost one in three) whose very physical survival had been in grave jeopardy and whose rate of loss from defections came close to equaling its birthrate. Moreover, the traditional strongholds of Jewish communal life in Europe (which were

CountryJewish Population (thousands)Percent of Total Jewish Population
1. United States5,300,00040.9
2. Israel5,094,00039.3
3. France498,0003.8
4. Canada370,5002.9
5. United Kingdom300,0002.3
6. Russia252,0001.9
7. Argentina187,0001.4
8. Germany108,0000.8
9. Australia100,0000.8
10. Brazil97,0000.7
11. Ukraine95,0000.7
12. South Africa75,0000.6
13. Hungary50,0000.4
14. Mexico40,0000.3
15. Belgium40,0000.2
AlbaniaDisappeared as an organized community after the Communist takeover.
AustriaReconstructed and reconstituted with a substantially different population consisting, in the main, of World War ii refugees concentrated in Vienna.
BelgiumReconstructed and reconstituted as a consequence of a significant influx of Eastern European refugees. Brussels and Antwerp are the two major communities.
BulgariaLimited reconstruction after extensive emigration to the newly established State of Israel.
CzechoslovakiaPartially reconstructed and reconstituted under the Communist regime. Emigration increased after 1968.
DenmarkReconstruction along pre-war lines with the return of the pre-war Jewish population.
FinlandReconstituted and somewhat enlarged by the addition of a refugee population.
FranceReconstructed and reconstituted with a substantially new population from Eastern Europe immediately after World War ii and subsequently further reconstituted in the wake of the North African influx of the early 1960s. Jewish population formerly concentrated in Paris and a few other major cities is now spread throughout the country to an extent unequaled since the Middle Ages.
Germany (Federal Republic)Reconstructed and reconstituted with substantially different population including Eastern European refugees and "repatriates."
GibraltarNo significant constitutional change or population shift.
GreecePartially reconstructed and reconstituted around remnant population after World War ii. Center of Jewish life moved from Salonika to Athens.
HungaryUnderwent partial reconstruction and limited reconstitution under the Communist regime. Flight of refugees in 1956 reduced the Jewish population somewhat but the community remains one of the largest and strongest in Eastern Europe.
ItalyPartially reconstructed after formal restoration of pre-war constitution. Jewish life divided between Rome and northern Italian communities.
LiechtensteinJewish community slowly disappeared through emigration.
LuxemburgReconstructed and reconstituted with little change in scope of communal activity.
MaltaNo significant change; some population decline.
MonacoPrimarily a refugee community organized during and after World War ii.
NetherlandsPartially reconstructed and reconstituted with remnant population as a far weaker community than before the war. Ashkenazi community is numerically dominant.
NorwayReconstructed with addition of some refugees.
PolandExtremely limited reconstruction under Communists with successive emigrations of surviving Jews culminating in the virtual expulsion of those born Jewish who had faithfully served the new regime.
PortugalReconstituted to include remnants of wartime refugees but essentially the same small well-integrated community.
RomaniaLargest Jewish community in Eastern Europe outside the Soviet Union; underwent limited reconstitution under Communist regime after substantial emigration to Israel. Community organized on strictly religious lines.
SpainGained formal status as community by stages between 1931 and 1968 when it was officially recognized as a legal religious body. Wartime refugee settlers founded communal institutions in Madrid, Barcelona and Malaga.
SwedenReconstituted with addition of a substantial number of refugees and following the abolition of state-required community membership.
SwitzerlandReconstituted to include the few wartime refugees allowed to settle permanently.
Soviet UnionVirtually disappeared as an organized community, after World War ii in the wake of the Stalin repression (1948–1952).
YugoslaviaReconstructed and reconstituted as a strictly ethnic community under Communist regime after substantial emigration to Israel.

also areas with a high Jewish reproduction rate) were those that had been wiped out. At the end of the 1940s, the centers of Jewish life had shifted to a decisive extent away from Europe to Israel and North America. Continental Europe as a whole ranked behind Latin America, North Africa, and Great Britain as a force in Jewish life. Its Jews were almost entirely dependent upon financial and technical assistance from the United States and Israel. Except for those in the Muslim countries (that were soon to virtually disappear), all of the major functioning Jewish communities had acquired sufficient proportions to become significant factors on the Jewish scene only within the previous two generations. Many of the shapers of those communities were still alive and in many cases still the active communal leaders. The Jewish world had been thrown back to a pioneering stage, willy-nilly.

The organization of Jewish communal life reflected these shifts and their consequences wherever Jews were found. Thus in the late 1940s and 1950s reconstruction and reconstitution of existing communities and the founding of new ones was the order of the day throughout the Jewish world. The Jewish communities of Continental Europe all underwent periods of reconstruction or reconstitution in response to wartime losses, changes in the formal status of religious communities in their host countries, migration to Israel, and the introduction of new regimes. Table 4: Early Postwar Changes in Continental Jewish Communities summarizes these changes in the early postwar period. The most significant changes since that time occurred in Eastern Europe after the collapse of Communism. Despite large-scale emigration to Israel and the West, Jewish community life was revived in countries where it had formerly been repressed, and nowhere more impressively than in the former Soviet Union, where the Federation of Jewish Communities (founded in 1998) operates as an umbrella organization for its constituent communities, supporting an extensive network of synagogues, community centers, and day schools.

The Jewish communities in the Moslem countries were transformed in response to the convergence of two factors: the creation of Israel and the anticolonial revolutions in Asia and Africa. The greater portion of the Jewish population in those countries was transferred to Israel, and organized Jewish life virtually came to an end in all of them except Morocco. The changes in their situation are summarized in Table 5: Postwar Changes in Jewish Communities in Moslem Countries.

The English-speaking Jewries (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, those of Latin America) were faced with the more complex task of adapting their organizational structures to three new purposes: to assume responsibilities passed to them as a result of the destruction of European Jewry, to play a major role in assisting Israel, and to accommodate internal changes in communities still becoming acculturated. Their responses are summarized in Table 6: Postwar Changes in Major English-Speaking Jewish Communities and Table 7: Postwar Changes in Latin American and Caribbean Jewish Communities.

Many of the smaller Jewish communities in Asia and Africa were actually founded or received organized form in this period, while others, consisting in the main of transient merchants or refugees, were abandoned, as shown in Table 7: Postwar Developments in Asian and African Jewish Communities. Finally, all but a handful of the Jewish communities in the contemporary world have had to adjust to the new realities of voluntary choice, which, on one hand, gave Jews greater freedom than ever before to identify as Jews or not and, on the other, encouraged a wide variety of options for Jewish identification within each community.

Community Structure in a Voluntaristic Environment

Whatever the form of community organization, the primary fact of Jewish communal life today is its voluntary character. While there are some differences from country to country in the degree of actual freedom to be Jewish or not, the virtual

AdenEntire community emigrated before Aden received its independence.
AfghanistanMajority of the Jews emigrated leaving a small oppressed community behind.
AlgeriaVirtually all the Jews fled the country in wake of the French evacuation, moving to France and Israel during the 1960s and essentially ending Jewish communal life.
EgyptSuccessive oppressions and migrations to Israel after 1948 virtually ended the community's existence.
IranCommunity was reduced in size by emigration to Israel but continues to function as in the past with minor adjustment.
IraqMass migration to Israel in the early 1950s reduced the community to a tiny oppressed minority which lived under severe government restrictions until the U.S. invasion of Iraq (2003).
LebanonWith the help of a fairly sympathetic government, the community weathered the Arab-Israel conflicts but in 2005 was at the end of the process of self-liquidation through emigration, mostly to Latin America and Europe.
LibyaMigration to Israel accelerated after each Arab-Israel crisis and after the 1967 war the community finally ceased to exist as an entity. Very few Jews remain there.
MoroccoThe community's slow decline through emigration to France and Israel after 1948 accelerated after Morocco received independence and picked up momentum after 1967 and 1979 wars.
PakistanMost of the small community emigrated, leaving a very small group to carry on minimal communal life in some cities.
SyriaOppression after 1948 led to migration of a majority to Israel and Lebanon; government pressure increased against the remnant after the 1967 war. Practically all Jews emigrated, leaving no organized community life.
TunisiaDespite official attempts to convince the Jews to stay, most migrated to Israel in successive waves after Tunisia's independence.
TurkeyAlmost half of the 100,000 Jewish population left for Israel after 1948. The remainder were effectively reconstituted as a religious community with limited powers and under governmental supervision. Most of the Jews (nearly 20,000) live in Istanbul and a minority in Izmir (about 1,500) – the only two regularly organized communities.
YemenAll but a tiny handful left for Israel immediately after the establishment of the state. The few remaining Jews mostly emigrated during the 1960s.

disappearance of the remaining legal and even social and cultural barriers to individual free choice in all but a handful of countries has made free association the dominant characteristic of Jewish life in the "postmodern" era. Consequently, the

AustraliaThe postwar influx of refugees substantially enhanced Jewish life and necessitated changes in its communal structure, both locally and countrywide, to encompass the widened scope of Jewish activity and the more intensely "Jewish" Jews. These have continued into the 21st century, giving Australian Jewry comparatively favorable intermarriage statistics and continuing strong support for Zionism. Unlike the United States, a majority of Australia's Jews probably belonged to Orthodox synagogues.
CanadaPressures of "Americanization," suburbanization and the general homogenization of Canadian society led to a weakening of traditional Canadian communal structure and the introduction of American-style "religious pluralism." But, characterized by a relatively strong sense of Diaspora identity, the Canadian Jewish community continued to grow, in large part through immigration. The community's center of gravity also continued to shift toward Toronto, now home to almost half of all Canadian Jews in the early 21st century. As in the United States, all of the denominations of Judaism are well represented in Canada, with the Orthodox stream very strong.
IrelandLittle significant constitutional change even though a native-born generation came to the fore. Some immigration from the former Soviet Union and elsewhere improved a declining situation.
New ZealandPrior to about 1980, the continued emigration of the younger generation decreased the Jewish population and weakened the community structure. Subsequently, significant numbers arrived from the former Soviet Union and South Africa but emigration and assimilation continued.
Rhodesia (Zimbabwe)The concentration of Jews from other countries of black Africa increased the size and importance of the Rhodesian community while the separation of Zambia and the Rhodesian secession increased its self-contained character. But with civil war and black independence the Jewish community began to shrink, leaving just a few Jews in the early 21st century.
South AfricaChanges in the regime and the rise of a native-born generation within the community shifted the emphasis of the communal institutions and the dominant mode of Jewish identification, weakening what had become the traditional structure. In the post-Apartheid era the tendency has been toward greater coordination and unity within the community.
United KingdomThe rise to power of the last wave of immigrants and a native-born generation challenged the communal status quo from both left and right, weakening traditional institutions and strengthening new ones that reflected the community's greater diversity. The number of Jews in Britain has probably declined since its peak in the 1950s, with especially sharp declines in cities outside of London. On the other hand, in many respects Jewish consciousness has increased among Anglo-Jewry.
United StatesThe destruction of European Jewry transferred world Jewish leadership decisively to the American Jewish community. This plus the rise of a new generation and the disappearance of immigrant ideologies led to significant organizational changes to meet demands while also enabling American Jewry to become more rooted in the "religious pluralism" of the general society. Subsequently the traditional institutions, other than the synagogue became less significant as Jewishness tended more to find subjective expression.

first task of each Jewish community is to learn to deal with the particular local manifestation of this freedom. This task is a major factor in determining the direction of the reconstitution of Jewish life in this generation. The new voluntarism extends itself into the internal life of the Jewish community as well, generating pluralism even in previously free but relatively homogeneous or monolithic community structures. This pluralism is exacerbated by the breakdown of the traditional reasons for being Jewish and the rise of new incentives for Jewish association. At the same time, the possibilities for organizing a pluralistic Jewish community have also been enhanced by these new incentives and the "postmodern" breakdown of the rigid ideologies that divided Jews in the latter third of the modern era. Certainly the creation of the State of Israel has given the Jewish people a new and compelling focus that enhances the Jewish attachments of virtually all Jews. The state's crucial role as a generator of Jewish ties, regardless of other differences, was decisively demonstrated at the time of the *Six-Day War (1967).

Pluralism organized into more or less permanent structural arrangements leads to federalism, and federalism has been the traditional way in which the Jewish people has maintained its unity in the face of the pressures of diversity. This is one tradition that is not being abandoned today. The previous sections have suggested the wide variety of federal arrangements that presently exist in the organized Jewish communities of the world. In each case, the Jewish community adapts itself to the environment of the host country so that its own structure reflects local conditions while facilitating (as far as possible) the achievement of the main purposes of corporate Jewish life. In virtually every case, the structure that emerges from the adaptation is based on federal principles and uses federal forms. The pluralistic federalism of the voluntaristic community substantially eliminates the neat pattern of communal organization usually displayed as the model by those who concern themselves with rationalizing Jewish community life. Though smaller communities in different cultural settings are not likely to conform completely, more and more the seemingly anarchistic American pattern is revealed as the paradigm of their development, if not the vision of their future. Certainly the model of a hierarchic organizational structure does not offer an accurate picture of the distribution of powers and responsibilities in any Jewish community today. Even in the more formally structured communities of Central Europe and Latin America, the institution that appears to be at the top of the pyramid is really dependent upon and often manipulated by the institutions and organizations that would be placed farther down on the structure. The local community that "should" be on the bottom is, in fact, often the real center of power. For communities like the United States, even the modified model is useless. Nor is there a central governing agent in most communities that serves as the point at which authority, responsibility, and power converge. Even in the communities ostensibly dominated by a consistory, the erstwhile central body has been shunted aside to become just another specialized institution in an oligopoly of such institutions.

The structure of contemporary Jewish communities is best understood as a multidimensional matrix (or mosaic) that takes the form of a communications network; a set of interacting institutions which, while preserving their own structural integrity and roles, are informed by shared patterns of culture, activated by a shared system of organizations, and governed by shared leadership cadres. The character of the matrix and its communications network varies from community to community, with particularly sharp variations separating the six basic types. In some cases, the network is connected through a common center, which serves as the major (but rarely, if ever, the exclusive) channel for communication. In others, the network forms a matrix without any real center, with the lines of communication crisscrossing in all directions. In all cases, the boundaries of the community are revealed only when the pattern of the network is uncovered. The pattern itself is perceptible only when both of its components are revealed, namely its institutions and organizations with their respective roles and the way in which communications are passed between them.

The pattern itself is inevitably a dynamic one; that is to say, there is rarely a fixed division of authority and influence but, rather, one that varies from time to time and usually from issue to issue, with different elements in the matrix taking on different "loads" at different times and relative to different issues. Since the community is a voluntary one, persuasion

1. Communities entrenching, adjusting, and moving toward greater internal unity:
Costa RicaUruguay
El SalvadorVenezuela
2. Communities of emigration and decline:
Dominican RepublicParaguay
3. Communities undergoing "Americanization" through expansion of American business and leisure interests in the Caribbean:
CuracaoTrinidad and Tobago

rather than compulsion, influence rather than power are the only tools available for making and executing policies. This also works to strengthen its character as a communications network since the character, quality, and relevance of what is communicated and the way in which it is communicated frequently determine the extent of the authority and influence of the parties on the communication.

[Daniel J. Elazar]

Community and Polity

The discussion in the foregoing pages has been more or less restricted to the matrix of institutions and organizations that form a community on the countrywide plane. The Jewish polity as a whole, however, functions on several planes. The federal connections between local and countrywide communities and between Jewish communities around the world have also undergone important changes since World War ii, and the feedback has begun to have a significant effect on the countrywide and local communities involved.

Before the modern era, although there were no formal organizations that functioned on a worldwide basis to unite the various Jewish communities, the common allegiance to halakhic Judaism and reliance upon traditional Jewish law gave the Jewish people the constitutional unity it needed. During the modern era, this unity was shattered, and nothing comparable developed to replace it. By the end of the 19th century, all that there was in the way of an organized worldwide Jewish polity was an informal alliance and organizations of Jewish "aristocrats" in the Western world who had taken it upon themselves to try and defend Jewish interests and protect the rights of individual Jews, so as to aid in their emancipation. These inadequate arrangements effectively perished in World War i, when the world which encouraged that mode of community action came to an end.

Meanwhile, tentative steps in the direction of a reorganization more appropriate to the 20th century were beginning to be made. The World Zionist Organization and its member organizations, the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the B'nai B'rith, and later the *World Jewish Congress

1. Communities founded or given new form:
Hong KongRyukyu Islands
2. Communities abandoned or substantially reduced in size:
Congo RepublicUganda

began to offer more routinized and less elitist means of tying Jews together on a worldwide basis. All together, they began to create an infrastructure for a new Jewish confederation in the making.

After World War ii, the structure of the Jewish confederation underwent further adaptation. This strengthening of the organizational aspects of the worldwide Jewish polity was partly a consequence of the changes taking place in its constituent communities. The other crucial factor is the State of Israel. The trend has been clear: the concentration in Israel of the major decision-making organs of the Jewish confederation and the organizations that serve it and the routing of their decision-making procedures through Jerusalem, even as the structures, centered in Israel, have at the beginning of the new century been experiencing considerable strain. This trend has become particularly noticeable since the Six-Day War, after which the Israel government began to take very explicit steps to reorganize and strengthen the institutions and organizations of world Jewry by tying them closer to the state. Israel's greater ability, as an independent state, to deal with political matters and its great stake in strengthening the worldwide Jewish confederation has led it to assume this role. Two major events – the Six-Day War in 1967 and the beginnings of the Soviet Jewry movement in 1963 – signaled that the American Jewish communal agenda would be more particularistic than it had been. Israel became the focal point of Jewish identification, the one Jewish phenomenon whose crucial importance is accepted by virtually all Jews and that has the ability to mobilize widespread public efforts in what is, after all, still a voluntary polity. Perhaps paradoxically, at the very moment that free individual choice in the matter of Jewish attachment has reached heights never previously attained, there has been a rediscovery of the Jewish polity, i.e., of the special political character of the Jewish community. In the first decade of the 21st century, however, new patterns in the American Jewish community – and especially in the consciousness of a younger cadre of Jews – had emerged. There was a diminution of the idea of a collective "community" as the meaning of Jewishness was increasingly defined in subjective individual constructs. American Jews found less meaning in formal Jewish organizations (except the local synagogue), political activity, philanthropic endeavors, and attachment to the state of Israel. The traditional institutions of community became less significant than they were to earlier generations of Jews in America. Because they feel that their identity as Jews is immutable, American Jews increasingly do not need the normative communal behaviors of the past in order to express their identity. This changing approach to "community" will have significant implications for the future of Jewish communal organizational structures, for communal fundraising, and for a range of communal involvements.

[Daniel J. Elazar /

J. Chanes (2nd ed.)]

See also Communal *Amenities; *Autonomy; Judicial *Autonomy; Autonomous Jewish *Finances; Territorial*Federations of Communities; *Foundations (Community Federations); *Consistory; *Councils of the Lands; *amia; *daia; *Kultus Gemeinde; *Millet; *Landesjudenschaften; *Jewish Quarter; *Chief Rabbi; *Ḥakahm Bashi; *Muqaddim; *Takkanot; *Shtadlan; *Pinkas; *Exilarch; *Ḥerem; *Ḥerem ha-Yishuv; *Ḥerem Bet Din; *Minority Rights; *Synagogue. For communal organizations in the various countries, see entries for the respective countries.


up to world war ii: Baron, Community; Baron, Social2; Baer, Spain; idem, in: Zion, 15 (1950), 1–41 (Eng. summary, i–v); M. Burstein (Avidor), Self-Government of the Jews in Palestine since 1900 (1934); I. Levitats, Jewish Community in Russia, 1772–1884 (1943); L. Finkelstein, Jewish Self-Government in the Middle Ages (19642); M.S. Goodblatt, Jewish Life in Turkey in the 16th Century (1943); M. Franco, Essai sur l'histoire des Israélites de l'Empire Ottoman (1897); S. Rosanes, Divrei Yemei Yisrael be-Togarmah, 5 vols. (1930); W.J. Fischel, Ha-Yehudim be-Hodu (1960); J.M. Landau, The Jews in Nineteenth Century Egypt (1969); Hirschberg, Afrikah; idem, in: A.J. Arberry (ed.), Religion in the Middle East, 1 (1969), 119–225 (selected bibliography, vol. 2, 661–3); H.H. Ben-Sasson, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Yehudim bi-Ymei ha-Beinayim (1962); idem (ed.), Toledot Am Yisrael, 3 vols. (1969), index, s.v.Kehillot; I. Agus, Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe, 2 (1965), 421–553; M.J. Karpf, Jewish Community Organization in the United States (1938); B.M. Edidin, Jewish Community Life in America (1947). since world war ii:Bi-Tefuẓot ha-Golah (Eng. ed., In the Dispersion; 1958); S. Federbush, World Jewry Today (1959); Institute of Jewish Affairs, New York, Jewish Communities of the World (1959); J. Katz, Tradition and Crisis (1961); O. Janowsky (ed.), The American Jew: A Reappraisal (1964); jyb; ajyb. add. bibliography: D. Elazar, People and Polity: Organizational Dynamics of World Jewry (1989); idem, Community and Polity (19952); J. Chanes, A Primer on the American Jewish Community (19992); idem (ed.), A Portrait of the American Jewish Community (1998).


views updated May 29 2018


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.

“Total immersion.”

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.

“Reputational” 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.

Stratification theory

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.

“Pluralist” findings

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.

Middle-class leadership

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

[See alsoLocal politics; Power.]


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.

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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.

Disorganizing processes

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 [1949] 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.

“Natural” processes

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.

Jessie Bernard

[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

[See alsoAgriculture, article onDEVELOPING COUNTRIES; Foreign aid; Planning ,economic, article OnDEVELOPMENT PLANNING; Planning, social.]


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.


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COMMUNITY . Although groupings or community formations are a regular feature of the phenomenon of religion, it is important to recognize that they are neither necessary nor equally prominent in all religions. There are situations otherwise completely typical of the category "religion" wherein the communal element is lacking, and others wherein it is loosely structured, evanescent, or deemed unimportant. For example, even though monasteries constitute a rigorous and elaborate kind of community, the name for them in Western languages derives from the Greek monos, meaning "single, alone." Hermit monks and wandering sanyāsins take as a major element in their piety and ascetic practice the renunciation of community. Also, many people in modern, industrialized societies consider themselves religious because of certain attitudes, practices, and beliefs but do not take part in a communal structure in which these religious factors are shared or are decisive.

Therefore, in the following paragraphs, as various types of religious communal organization are reviewed and their dynamics analyzed, one must remember that these groups vary in intensity and importance in their respective cultures and traditions, and that they do not exhaust the possibilities for religious life. Nevertheless, it is not too much to say that nearly all religious situations do have a communal dimension and that in many the community is the decisive factor.

It is a prejudice of modern society to speak of "organized religion" as if organization added an extraneous element to what legitimately exists without it. It is possible, of course, to define or to believe in a religion that is a matter of one's aloneness. It should also be recognized, however, that for many other people the social factorbelonging to and having a place in a religious communitymay be the dominant aspect of their religious life and that, further, it may be a hidden factor even in the life of the one who rejects its significance.

The following description and typology of religious communities is highly abstract and theoretical. It describes poles, although most groups actually lie somewhere on a continuum between such poles; it speaks of pure types, even though most of life is compromised and blended; it isolates factors and structures that are in actuality mixed with other social patterns as well as influenced and changed by belief, rite, and experience. All this notwithstanding, focusing on these social structures, abstracted from their living contexts, may be helpful in sorting out the communal element from among the many contributing factors in a religious phenomenon and so may lead to a better understanding of the whole.

Characteristics of Religious Community

Some form of initiation usually marks entrance into a religious community. Entrance rituals may also be duplicated, reinforced, or elaborated on subsequent occasions. Later transition ceremonies often mark the beginning of new status within a group (e.g., ordination or monastic profession). There are also rituals and procedures for leaving a group, by incorporation into a higher status beyond the perimeters of the former group, or by censure and repudiation. Even death, which would seem to end an individual's membership in a community, can be understood as an initiation into a yet higher degree of existence in the group. In such cases, certain ceremonies during the ritual year may celebrate the return of the dead to participate in the life of the community.

Communal ritual activities for other purposes or on other occasions than initiation or ordination are also characteristic marks of religious communities. These rituals may be focused on seasonal change, agricultural processes, famous events of history, and doctrines, usually with all these elements blended together. Gathering as a group for such rites is perhaps the most persistent aspect of religious community, and is arguably its reason for being.

Differentiation of function and of merit or value is often recognized in communal structure. In some cases special functions within the group, especially leadership in ritual activities, are assumed by individuals specially selected and consecrated; in other cases leaders emerge from the group charismatically. That is, some religious traditions are highly sensitive to structural arrangements and carefully delineate lines of command and authority, carefully categorizing all functions and degrees. In other traditions the patterns of authority are quite casual, very much dependent on individual initiative and lacking ritual recognition.

Religious communities often validate, or give religious meaning to, natural or social distinctions. Gender, for example, is often a significant determinant of an individual's role in a religious community. One's role in the family (as mother, son, etc.) or one's lineage (e.g., in a caste system) may also determine religious status, and one's political office or status as a leader in the society at large tends to take on religious significance.

Religious communities are different from other social groups in their concept of the community as a sacred phenomenon. Instead of conceiving of the community in practical or casual terms, the distinctly religious group sees itself as part of a larger structure, plan, or purpose, one that transcends the immediate or basic needs of humanity. Conscious correlation of the community with patterns of symbols that are not social in their primary reference is a signal of the presence of religious rather than secular community.

Where nature and its processes are the focal point of religious attention, the community is conceived and structured with reference to the natural world. The subgroups within a tribe, for example, are linked in the mind with animals, stars, and the like. This totemism does not indicate an obliteration of the distinction between nature and culture in such peoples but rather shows an attempt to correlate one with the other or to use the elements of the natural world as a means of labeling and systematizing society.

Among religious groups for whom nature is not the primary concern, the concept of the community as a sacred entity takes a variety of forms. A special relationship with one or more gods or goddesses may be expressed by seeing the group as the servants, the messengers, or perhaps the co-workers of the divine beings. There is a fine line between metaphors and ontological assertions in theological language, so one often does not know how precisely to take images, such as the church as the "body" of Christ, that seem to give a group a kind of organic participation in the sacred.

A concept of the group as sacred can be linked with the merit or attainments of adepts with various degrees of skill. Those who are most advanced in ascetic practice, meditation, or yoga may constitute a sacred core around or below which those of lesser attainments are ranked. This arrangement leads to a pattern illustrated by Buddhism, according to which the term for the community, sagha, may refer to the inner circle of monks (bhikkhu s) or to the larger group, the laity, who subscribe to the doctrine but practice it less exclusively.

It is possible, of course, for a religious community to be structured along lines that are not particularly religious from the point of view of believer or observer, as is so, for example, in the military model of the Salvation Army and the constitutional administrative arrangement of some American Protestant denominations. In such cases, concepts of the group as a sacred entity might become almost entirely separate from its actual structural appearance. Tensions can develop in religious groups when the social structure and the theology become too divergent. It is odd, for example, to have a monastic pattern that is almost inevitably based on merit and attainment existing within a tradition that doctrinally asserts equality before God or some alternate kind of sacred hierarchy.

To summarize, we can assume that we are observing a religious community, whether it is so labeled or not, when most or all of the following characteristics are evident in reference to the sacred: rituals of initiation and incorporation (as well as those of rejection); other communal rituals; and status levels and functional distinctions.

"Natural" Religious Groups

One of the clearest distinctions to be made among religious communities is that between groups specifically and self-consciously organized around religious beliefs and activities and those societies or "natural" groups wherein whatever is religious is part of the whole social structure. This distinction may also be made by noting that the specific religious groups are typically or theoretically voluntary, while one is born into the latter type of community, and there is no choice about joining it. A further way of making the distinction is by observing the relationship between the religious dimension and the political or governmental dimension: specific religious groups are not involved per se in governing, whereas the natural religious group is identical with the social group as a whole, including its political functions.

These broad categories have been labeled in many ways; for example, the terms differentiated and undifferentiated have been used, based on the degree to which the religious group is differentiated from the society as a whole. Sometimes it seems better to designate the natural, or undifferentiated, type of religious community as "folk" religion and, by contrast, to see the specific religious community as "universal" in character. Folk religion is part of the culture of a particular group of people and is not easily distinguished from all the other patterns and practices that define the culture. A universal religious group, however, tries to cross cultural and ethnic boundaries by assuming that all people everywhere can become members of its community.

The terms specific and natural are used in this article to name these groups, even though the latter term presents a problem of multiple meanings. Many presuppositions lie behind any use of nature, and most of these are irrelevant to their present use. One should not assume, for example, that natural religious groups are sociobiologically based in a way that specific groups are not. In fact, nothing that follows need be understood as affecting theories concerning the biological determination of human social behavior. All that is meant by the use of natural in this context is the identity of the religious community with those forms of social organization that are mostly inevitable in human life: family, clan, ethnic group, and nation.

Even though one is born into such social structures, initiation into "real" participation in the community is one of the signs that the social unit is also a religious community. At birth or puberty, or at both of these life passages, a ceremony such as circumcision or some act of consecration marks the official (or ontological) entrance into society. In many places such initiation is more marked for boys than for girls, although there may be rituals connected with the onset of menstruation. It is to be expected that gender, lineage, and comparable identifications will be more significant in natural religious groups than in others.

In natural religious groups the religious leaders or functionaries are generally the leaders of the society as a whole. It is rare, however, to find a community that does not also have its religious specialists, perhaps a shaman or medicine man, whose appearance and role depend on a special recognition that is not determined by "nature" in the sense used here.

It should also be noted that specific religious organizations may exist within natural religious groups. The primitive secret society is an example of such a group: it has its own dynamics as a voluntary group with special religious functions and rites apart from the society as a whole. Similarly, groups based on family, gender, ethnic background, and related natural factors may be found within or alongside specific religious communities or may even seem to merge with them. Men's fraternities are a common example of a gender-based grouping, and the practical identity (at least in former years) of Spanish background and Roman Catholicism is an example of the apparent merging of the natural with the specific religious community.

Humans face a special situation in the phenomenon of the nation as a religious communityspecial in that the basis of community is not necessarily "natural" in the way that it is for gender, family, or lineage. In a nation, unrelated peoples can be joined together, slaves or slave populations may be incorporated into the political unit, and foreigners may have a place in the society as merchants or mercenaries. When the nation is also a religious community, however, it typically develops a set of stories (a mythology) to make the diverse groups appear to be a family. It is not at all certain, for example, that the ancient Israelites were all descended from Jacob; but new tribes could be included by having their patriarchs included among Jacob's sons. Emphasis on the "natural" in this type of religious nation may also be seen in the Israelites' insistence on the number twelve (the names of the sons of Jacob vary, but they are always twelve in number); this probably reflects a desire to repeat in human society the pattern of the heavens: twelve lunar cycles within a single solar cycle.

To the Israelites and other ancient peoples, political and religious functions were indistinguishable. While in modern times people differentiate between religious and civil law, ancient lawgivers recorded both in the same codes and in the same manner. The king was political, military, and religious functionary in one. Society, nature, and the gods were all seen as part of one interrelated organism. This outlook led to such phenomena as blaming crop failure on the weakness or immorality of the king. The king was characteristically seen as a god, the son of a god, or a representative and link from the heavens to earth and society.

This set of concepts is not entirely limited to the past. Some modern nations take on many of these characteristics (for some of their people) and thus become religious communities of a sort. Nations, both ancient and recent, have been known to cultivate epics of their origin, promote their peculiar concepts of the world, claim special connection with a god or gods, and link their success (or failure) to divine purpose. Not all of these nation-religions are generally recognized as such, but the Shintō tradition of Japan clearly exemplifies this phenomenon.

The religious and political dimensions of human life may be connected in another way as well, one that goes beyond the nation as a political unit. Islam, the most recent of the major religions, exhibits some of the characteristics of the very ancient natural religious community. It is based on the premise that the religious regulation and the civil regulation of life are to be derived from one source and litigated in one way. The international community of Islam thus presumes that a family of nations or peoples can be Muslim in law and belief. Some Muslim nations have begun to reject the notion of a secular government (i.e., one that is determined not by religious belief but by human deliberation) in favor of a religious government based on the Qurʾān. Although Islamic government of this sort does not necessarily have a kinglike figure or a theology of agriculture, in most other ways it is like the ancient nations, a natural religious community.

Specific Religious Communities

Specific religious communities are sometimes called "founded" religions because they have appeared within the scope of recorded history as the result of efforts of a particular person or small group. As noted above, this category could also be termed "universal," "differentiated," or "voluntary." Contemporary pluralistic societies include religious communities of this type, even though some characteristics of natural religious communities can be observed on occasion.

Sociologists of religion, mainly Westerners interested in Christian groups, have put most of their energies into analyzing specific religious groups. As the examination of the social dimensions of religion became a recognized scholarly discipline, the categories "church" and "sect" were developed to distinguish between religious communities. This terminology applied well to sixteenth-century Europe but was insufficient elsewhere. For America it was necessary to add at least the category "denomination." One widely used typology of religious groups that developed out of the earlier distinctions lists six major types of religious community: cult, sect, established sect (or institutionalized sect), denomination, ecclesia, and universal church. These categories were developed particularly with reference to the ways in which the religious community is integrated into the society as a whole and to a lesser degree with reference to the internal dynamics of each group or its theology. Nevertheless, these six types can provide a framework for understanding Christian communities and can be applied with some adjustments to other religions as well.

The kind of group that is least involved in the rest of society is called a "cult." A cult may comprise barely more than the audience for a charismatic leader or healer. It is loosely organized; often it is small and short-lived. Its religious style is personal and emotional.

A "sect" is a religious community that is more clearly organized than a cult, that provides a great amount of religious value to its members (in terms of social relationships, ritual activities, ethical and doctrinal direction, and so forth), but that plays little role in the society at large. Taken to its extreme, a sect can form a completely separate miniature state either mixed into the society geographically or located in its own separate territory.

It is also possible, however, for a sect to move in a different direction and become more stable within the larger society. A sect so changed would be an "established sect," or an "institutionalized sect." In this situation the wider society's acceptance of the sect can be great even though the sect remains exclusive and self-centered. An established sect has lost its appearance of opposition to the rest of the society and other religious groups, but it remains doctrinally or theoretically exclusive.

At this point the "denomination" assumes its place in the six-type scheme as another type of Western religious community. It is the kind of group that maintains separate and distinct organization despite its acceptance of the legitimacy of other denominations or communities. It may conceive of itself as the best, but hardly the only, community in which adequate religious practice can be found. It is also relatively more involved with and accepted by the larger society.

Students of American religious communities have been struck by the tendency of each Christian sect and denomination to be made up of people from a single socioeconomic class. Furthermore, they note that a sect tends to become an established sect or a denomination and that as it does, the class composition of its members tends to change. Some of the characteristics of the transition from sect to its more established form or to a denomination are an increase in the members' and the institution's wealth; movement toward the center of the surrounding culture and away from criticism of it; less ridicule of other religious communities and more cooperation with them; less exclusion of potential members for being thought potentially unworthy; fewer casually prepared part-time leaders and more professionally trained full-time ministers; more concern for children and education; less emphasis on death and the next world and more attention to life in this world; and less spontaneity and emotion in worship and more use of hymns and texts from the liturgical traditions. The established sect and the denomination might be similar in most of these departures from the patterns of a sect, but the denomination has a different theology, while the established sect, no matter how institutionalized or accepted, retains its exclusive and condemnatory thought and speech.

The next two categories, beyond denomination, represent the most established and, culturally and socially, the most prominent kinds of religious community. One has been called the "ecclesia" and consists of the established national churches, for example, the churches of England and of Sweden. The other is termed "universal church." It is as well established as the ecclesia but exists in many nations and cultures; the classic example is the Roman Catholic church of the thirteenth century.

One of the characteristics of the specific religious community as compared with the natural religious community is its voluntary character. Yet this characteristic is almost completely absent in the ecclesia and universal church and is of little importance in the denomination and the established sect. The sect is noted for its emphasis on conversion, a voluntary, adult decision to join the group. The more established churches, however, incorporate the children of members almost automatically into the community, thus operating somewhat like a natural religious group. Furthermore, kings and other political functionaries tend to become semireligious officials in the ecclesia and the universal church categories.

As noted above, most of the terminology used here has been derived from studies of Western Christian religious communities, but it can be applied to Eastern Christianity and other religions with some limited success. Sunnī Islam can be seen as a universal church; Shīʿī Islam in Iran can be seen as an ecclesia; other Shīʿī groups can be seen as sects or established sects, and so on. Eastern Christian groups are usually of the ecclesia type in their home countries and have had to shift character in order to be denominations in America. In Thailand and Sri Lanka, Buddhism has had ecclesia status; its role in China can be analyzed in various periods as taking the forms of sect, denomination, and so onall this despite its essentially monastic structure.

It is more important in examining non-Western religious communities to note their patterns of internal relationships and their role in the larger religious tradition than to concentrate on their relationship to the state or society. In non-Western societies, the different mix of natural and specific groups must be considered, as well as the recent and incomplete phenomenon of secularity (the separation of civil from religious jurisdiction). For example, Hinduism is, for the most part, a natural religious community, but some associations within it are of the specific type. These groups (sampradāyas ) select a certain god or family of gods, a certain style of worship, and certain temples from the whole range of Hinduism, and these elements become the basis for the group's religious life. Thus a community with its own leaders and priests emerges. This phenomenon has many of the characteristics of the denomination in its recognition of other (almost as good) practices and gods in Hinduism, but it is sectarian in its lack of involvement with the society as a whole and in its governmental structures.

The different circumstances of non-Western religious communities can be understood better in terms and categories other than the six reviewed above. The following categories have been developed especially by anthropologists and ethnologists, and they help people to understand the subgroups within larger religious communities or traditions.

Communities within Communities

One large distinction that can be made within both natural and specific religious groups is that of "great" and "little" traditions. The professional leadership of a society or a specific religious community promotes a literate, fairly sophisticated, and often transcultural understanding and practice of its religion. The ordinary members of the group, however, may be imperfectly incorporated into this tradition. They may maintain some notions and practices from older religions or participate in the tradition in a way that is based on different media. These two strata do not form clearly separate communities but constitute a pattern in many countries.

On a much smaller scale there are other communal formations that can be found in both natural and specific religious communities. Prominent among these is the master, guru, or teacher with his following. This is the basic format of the cult as defined above, but it is also both a regular phenomenon in almost all religions as well as the point of origin for many new religious communities. The master with his disciples is an evanescent phenomenon. Beyond the first generation it must become something like a sect, pursuing a separate identity; it must institutionalize the master-pupil pattern in a more or less monastic structure; or it may do both (as does, for example, Buddhism). The model of the Hindu ashram or of the Muslim ūfī shaykh with his disciples indicates a recognition of this kind of religious community in their respective traditions but without much regularization or institutionalization.

The monastic community is often to be found within larger religious communities. It may be defined as a group of people drawn from a larger religious community who live together for shorter or longer periods of time in order to cultivate religious techniques and disciplines. This inclusive definition can apply to secret societies or to men's groups within tribal societies as well as to the institutions prominent in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. Islam displays a variation of this kind of community in the ūfī orders.

Monastic communities may be at the center of their larger traditions, as in Buddhism. Here the monks may be the only leaders of the religious community and thus take on functions characteristic of priests and ministers in other traditions. Within Christianity, however, monasticism has been a supplementary pattern of religious leadership that exists alongside the priestly hierarchy. Often monastic communities as well as other subgroups have originated in a protest against prevailing practices or doctrines in the larger group. When such a protest becomes estranged, a new religion is formed, but often the protest is institutionalized and becomes another option within the larger community.

Certainly the most common subgroup in any large religious community is the worshiping unit. This can be quite an independent group with little involvement in the larger tradition (such as the Christian "congregationalist" polity), or it can be a casual association of people whose primary communal identity is with the larger group (e.g., those Hindus who happen to be at the same temple at any given time). Pilgrimage to a certain shrine can give a very large community the sense of being essentially one worshiping group even when most religious practice actually takes place in various localities. Islam's concept of the ummah, with its ājj and orientation of prayer toward Mecca, is the most prominent example.

See Also

Church; Cults and Sects; Excommunication; Expulsion; Jewish People; Monasticism; Religious Communities; Sagha; Schism; Secret Societies; Society and Religion; Ummah.


The most comprehensive typology of religious communities that attempts to cover all religions and cultures is Joachim Wach's Sociology of Religion (1944; reprint, Chicago, 1962). There is a shorter typology in Gerardus van der Leeuw's Religion in Essence and Manifestation, 2 vols., translated by J. E. Turner from the 2d German ed. (1938; reprint, Gloucester, Mass., 1967). Werner Stark's The Sociology of Religion: A Study of Christendom, 5 vols. (New York, 19661972) discusses the forms of community extensively, but it ignores non-Christian examples and structures. The distinction between church and sect was formulated by Ernst Troeltsch in The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 2 vols., translated by Olive Wyon (1911; reprint, New York, 1931). The form of the denomination was added to Troeltsch's pattern by H. Richard Niebuhr in The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York, 1929). The sixfold typology of religious communities was developed by J. Milton Yinger in Religion, Society, and the Individual (New York, 1965) and elaborated by him in The Scientific Study of Religion (New York, 1970). A survey of the attempts to develop a typology of religious groups is to be found in Roland Robertson's The Sociological Interpretation of Religion (New York, 1970) and in Michael Hill's A Sociology of Religion (London, 1973). The dichotomy of the great and little traditions was created by Robert Redfield in The Primitive World and Its Transformations (Ithaca, N.Y., 1953) and The Little Community: Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole (Chicago, 1955). Examples of sects, mostly Christian but from many places around the world, are given in Bryan R. Wilson's Religious Sects: A Sociological Study (London, 1970).

New Sources

Cross, Mike. Communities of Individuals: Liberalism, Communitarianism, and Sartre's Anarchism. Burlington, Vt., 2001.

Etzioni, Amitai. The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society. New York, 1996.

Fergusson, David. Community, Liberalism, and Christian Ethics. New York, 1998.

Gross, Rita. "Some Reflections about Community and Survival." Buddhist-Christian Studies 23 (2003): 320.

Kramer, Matthew. John Locke and the Origins of Private Property: Philosophical Explorations of Individualism, Community, and Equality. New York, 1997.

Tan, Sor-hoon. "From Cannibalism to Empowerment: An Analects -Inspired Attempt to Balance Community and Liberty." Philosophy East and West 54 (January 2004): 5271.

Warner, R. Stephen, and Judith Wittner, eds. Gatherings in Diaspora: Religious Communities and the New Immigration. Philadelphia, 1998.

Wurthnow, Robert. The Restructuring of American Religion. 1988; reprint, Princeton, 1990.

George Weckman (1987)

Revised Bibliography


views updated May 29 2018


The sociology of community has been a dominant source of sociological inquiry since the earliest days of the discipline. Each of the three most influential nineteenth century sociologists (Marx, Durkheim, and Weber) regarded the social transformation of community in its various forms to be a fundamental problem of sociology and sociological theory. Thomas Bender (1978) suggests that as early social thinkers observed the disruption of the traditional social order and traditional patterns of social life associated with industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of capitalism, significant attention was focused on the social transformation of community and communal life. It should be emphasized that contemporary sociology remains, at its core, a discipline largely concerned with the definition and persistence of community as a form of social organization, social existence, and social experience.

The definition of community in sociology has been problematic for several reasons, not the least of which has been nostalgic attachment to the idealized notion that community is embodied in the village or small town where human associations are characterized as Gemeinschaft: that is, associations that are intimate, familiar, sympathetic, mutually interdependent, and reflective of a shared social consciousness (in contrast to relationships that are Gesellschaft—casual, transitory, without emotional investment, and based on self-interest). According to this traditional concept of community, the requirements of community or communal existence can be met only in the context of a certain quality of human association occurring within the confines of limited, shared physical territory.

The classic perspective on community offered by Carle Zimmerman (1938) is consistent with this theme, in that the basic four characteristics argued by Zimmerman to define community (social fact, specification, association, and limited area) require a territorial context. George Hillary (1955), in a content analysis of ninety-four definitions of community advanced in sociological literature, discovered basic consensus on only three definitional elements: social interaction between people, one or more shared ties, and an area context. However, Hillary noted that area context was the least required of these three definitional elements. Others (e.g., Lindeman 1930; Bender 1978; McMillan and Chavis 1986) argue that community can be achieved independently of territorial context where social networks exist sufficiently to sustain a Gemeinschaft quality of interaction and association. According to this point of view, territory is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition to define the existence of community. In this vein, David McMillan and David Chavis suggest a state of community exists when four elements co-exist: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connections. They argue that communities can be defined either in relational terms or territorial terms as long as these four elements are present together.


The major questions that concern the sociology of community include the distinguishing characteristics and definition of community, the bases of communal experience and integration, the unique functions and tasks of community, the units of social structure within the community and the relationships and interactions between structural units, the economic and social bases of the community social structure, the relationship and distinction between internal community social structure and macrosocial structures external to the community, the relationship between individual experience and behavior and communal experience and behavior, the causes and processes of transformation from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft states of social existence, and processes of community persistence and adaptation in the face of social change.


Community studies undertaken by sociologists over the past sixty years have to a large extent sought to address some if not all of these issues. The most famous and controversial include Robert and Helen Lynd's Middletown studies (1929, 1937) and the Yankee City series by W. Lloyd Warner and his associates (1963). The more well-known studies that have focused on the problem of community within large cities have included William Whyte's Street Corner Society and Gerald Suttles's The Social Order of the Slum, which themselves are aligned with earlier Robert Park and Ernest Burgess conceptions of the "natural community" arising within the confines of a seemingly faceless, anonymous, large city (Suttles 1972, pp. 7–9). Descriptive studies that emphasize field work and examine social structure as a spatial phenomenon are the hallmark of the highly influential Chicago School that arose and flourished under Robert Park and Ernest Burgess of the University of Chicago Department of Sociology during the 1920s and 1930s.

Robert and Helen Lynd carried out two studies (1929, 1937) involving extensive personal field work on the town of Muncie, Indiana: Middletown (1929) and Middletown in Transition (1937). In the first Middletown study, the Lynds spent the years 1924–1925 participating in and observing the community life of Middletown (population 36,500), and performing extensive survey work. Their objective was to address all aspects of social life and social structure of the community. A fundamental focus of the Lynds' earlier analysis concerned the consequences of technological change (industrialization) on the social structure of Middletown, in particular the emergence of social class conflicts subsequent to turn-of-the-century industrialization.

Although the Lynds found distinctions between the living conditions and opportunity structures of business and working-class families that were consistent with their Marxist expectations (i.e., children of the working class were more likely to drop out of school to help support the family, working-class families labored longer hours for less pay and less financial security, and living conditions in general were more harsh for working-class families), they failed to discover a disparate value structure or alienation among the working class. At all levels of social class, the Middletown of 1925 shared a common conservative value structure that entailed self-reliance, faith in the future, and a belief in hard work. The subsequent study, undertaken in 1935 by Robert Lynd and a staff of five assistants, addressed the effects on Muncie of certain events during the period between 1925 and 1935, some of which were economic boom times, a thirty-seven percent population increase, and the emergence of the Great Depression. The Lynds' fundamental questions in the later study addressed the persistence of the social fabric and culture of the community in the face of the "hard times" and other aspects of social change, the stability of community values concerning self-reliance and faith in the future when confronted by structurally-induced poverty and dependence, whether the Depression promoted a sense of community or undermined community solidarity by introducing new social cleavages, and the outcomes of latent conflicts observed in the mid-1920s (Lynd and Lynd 1937, p. 4).

The conclusion reached by the Lynds was that the years of depression did little to diminish or otherwise change the essentially bourgeois value structure and way of life in Middletown, and that in almost all fundamental respects the community culture of Middletown remained much as it did a tumultuous decade earlier: "In the main, a Rip Van Winkle, fallen asleep in 1925 while addressing Rotary or the Central Labor Union, could have awakened in 1935 and gone right on with his interrupted address to the same people with much the same ideas" (Lynd and Lynd 1937, p. 490). Although this remark seems to reflect some amount of disappointment on the Lynds' part that Middletown's bourgeois value system and class structure remained so unchanged in the face of widespread and unprecedented destitution, the Lynds still remained convinced that the Middletown family was in jeopardy, as evidenced by (among other things) an ever-widening generation gap. The Lynds' apprehensions concerning the survival of the American family were (and are) in keeping with the popular belief concerning the decline of the American family as its socialization functions are assumed by other formal social institutions external to the family.

The Middletown III study undertaken from 1976 to 1978 by Theodore Caplow, Howard M. Bahr, and Bruce A. Chadwick, attempted to closely replicate the methodology of the Lynds. However, their findings were at odds with the more pessimistic predictions of the Lynds. In contrast to the Lynds' foreboding in 1935 and popular sociology since that time, Caplow and his associates contend that Middletown's families of the 1970s have "increased family solidarity, a smaller generation gap, closer marital communication, more religion, and less mobility" (Caplow et al. 1982, p. 323). The conclusions derived from the third Middletown studies also reject similar assumptions concerning consistent linear trends in equalization, secularization, bureaucratization, and depersonalization consistent with the relentless Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft theme (Bahr, Caplow, and Chadwick 1983).

Although many of the Lynds' predictions concerning the social transformation of Middletown failed to pan out as history unfolded, their work and remarkable powers of observation remain unparalleled in many respects. Of equal importance, the early Middletown studies helped to inspire such other works as Street Corner Society and the Yankee City studies, and they remain the standard by which all other community studies are judged.

The largest scale community study undertaken remains W. Lloyd Warner's Yankee City, published in a five volume series from 1941 through 1959 (W. Lloyd Warner and Paul S. Lund, The Social Life of a Modern Community 1941; W. Lloyd Warner and Paul S. Lund, The Status System of a Modern Community 1942; W. Lloyd Warner and Leo Srole, The Social Systems of American Ethnic Groups 1945; W. Lloyd Warner and J. O. Low, The Social System of the Modern Factory 1947; and W. Lloyd Warner The Living and the Dead 1959). The Yankee City project was undertaken by Warner and his associates in Newburyport, Massachusetts during the late 1930s. Warner, an anthropologist, attempted to obtain a complete ethnographic account of a "representative" American small community with a population range from 10,000 to 20,000. To accomplish this task, Warner's staff (numbering in the thirties) conducted aerial surveys of Newburyport and its surrounding communities, gathered some 17,000 "social personality" cards on every member of the community, gathered data on the professed and de facto reading preferences of its citizens, and even subjected plots of local plays to content analysis (Thernstrom 1964).

Warner's conception of Yankee City was that of a stable, rather closed community with a social structure being transformed in very negative ways by the latter stages of industrialization. According to Warner's vision of Yankee City, the loss of local economic control over its industries through a factory system controlled by "outsiders" disrupted traditional management—labor relations and communal identification with local leadership. Moreover, the factory system was seen by Warner as promoting an increasingly rigid class structure and decreased opportunities for social mobility. In particular, Warner's discussion of the loss of local economic control through horizontal and vertical affiliation, orientation, and delegation of authority seems to have offered a prophetic glimpse into the future for many American communities.

Although the Yankee City study produced a voluminous ethnographic record of an American city that has remained untouched in scale, Warner found little support for his contention that the ethnographic portrait of Newburyport produced by the Yankee City series could be generalized to other small American communities. Moreover, Warner's contention that social mobility is reduced by industrial change was not supported by the quality of his data and was less true in Warner's time than it probably is today. Other critiques of Warner's Yankee City study primarily concern his nearly exclusive reliance on ethnographic information as the basis for all measures of social structure and his disdain for historical data (Thernstrom 1964).

Both Gerald Suttles's The Social Order of the Slum (1968) and William Whyte's Street Corner Society (1943) provide sociology with unparalleled ethnographic accounts of neighborhood social structure and communal life in urban environs. Suttles's work focuses on the territorial relationships, neighborhood social structure, and communal life among Italian, Latino, and African American inhabitants of the slums of Chicago's Near West Side in the 1960s. Whyte's Street Corner Society, based on Whyte's residence in a Chicago Italian slum district a generation earlier, provides sociology with an understanding of the complex and stable social organization that existed within slum neighborhoods conventionally believed to have epitomized social disorganization. Whyte's observations and keen insights concerning small group behavior are pioneering contributions to that area of sociology. Both studies, in method, theory, and substance are classic examples of Chicago School sociology. More contemporary community studies, while they draw heavily on Chicago School sociological traditions in theory and method, have as their primary concern aspects of community that relate to poverty, juvenile delinquency, and violence. For example, Robert Sampson and his colleagues conducted a large-scale study of Chicago neighborhoods that linked subjective definitions of neighborhood with social cohesion and violence inhibiting actions on the part of neighbors (Sampson 1997a, 1997b). Theoretically, Sampson's work draws heavily on Robert Park's conception of the social cohesion that exists within the "natural areas" of the city that are defined by both physical and sentimental boundaries (Park 1925), while methodologically Sampson and his colleagues employed the classic Chicago School preference for field observation—albeit with the modern advantages of a video camera located within a slowly moving van in place of the shoe leather sociology of their predecessors.


Efforts to enhance the social context of human existence continuously take place at all levels of social organization, from the microcontext of the nuclear family to the macrocontext of relationships between nation-states. No unit of social organization has received more attention in theories and activities linked to social reform than the human community, however it is defined and measured. Community in the context of social reform is typically viewed or employed in one of the following four ways: as a unit of analysis for the purpose of broad generalization, as a critical mediating influence between the organization of mass society and individual outcomes, as a specific target of social reform efforts, or as a symbolic conception of whatever is "right" or "wrong" with society at large.

The use of rural and urban communities as the basis for reform-motivated generalization emerged in the United States during the Progressive era, when social activists affiliated with Chicago's famous settlement house, Hull House, and the newly formed Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago shared a common geographically-rooted conception of social science and concern for the living conditions of Chicago's urban poor (Sklar 1998). Hull House Maps and Papers, published in 1895, provides a remarkably detailed description of the lives and living conditions within Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods based on the field research of university students and full-time residents of Hull House. In fact, the beginnings of Chicago School sociology were clearly rooted in the methods if not the concerns of Hull House social reformers, despite the fact that as women they were excluded from holding academic appointments until the creation of the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy in 1907 (Muncy 1991).

In later years, small towns and neighborhoods within larger towns became a common unit of analysis as community studies conducted by the federal Children's Bureau tried to assess the incidence and causes of infant mortality. The first of these studies, conducted in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1913, was the earliest scientific study of the incidence of infant mortality by social class, education, occupation, and specific living conditions conducted in the United States (Duke 1915). Reform-driven community studies since then have addressed such social issues as child labor, juvenile delinquency, education, industrial working conditions, and adequate housing. Although single communities are still used by social reformers as a basis for broad generalization, such studies are enormously expensive to conduct, often of limited use for generalization, and altogether less frequent with the availability of national survey data.

Despite the conceptual ambiguities involved, the geographically-bounded community (e.g., census tract, city ward, resident defined neighborhood) is generally viewed by liberal and conservative social reformers alike as the critical mediating social context between the well-being of individuals, the effective functioning and stability of families, and society at large. Robert Hauser and his associates identify such factors as the physical infrastructure, the quality and quantity of neighborhood institutions, the demographic composition, and the degree of "social capital" present as measurable aspects of neighborhoods that are critical to the well-being of children and families (Hauser, Brown, and Prosser 1997). The concept of social capital, introduced by James Coleman, refers to the beneficial normative context that arises in some neighborhoods based on the social ties among neighboring households and local institutions (Coleman 1988). In this vein, Robert Sampson demonstrates that neighborhoods with evidence of more social capital are more effective in inhibiting adolescent delinquency (Sampson, 1997b). Speaking from the opposite perspective of social disorganization, William Julius Wilson (1987, 1996), and Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton (1993) emphasize the deleterious effects on the normative context within communities created by such macrolevel exogenous factors as economic restructuring, concentrated poverty, and racial segregation. A related concern is the extent to which increased spatial stratification by social class may be promoting neighborhoods and larger communities, which function as distinct social worlds with ever more divergent values and opportunity structures (Massey 1996).

Efforts to effect social reform at the community level have a long tradition of sentiment, failure, and mixed success. There are a variety of reasons for failure, not the least of which is that communities, like individuals, both mirror and are shaped by complex exogenous social processes. Contemporary issues include conceptual differences in the measures used for community, the fact that community effects on individual outcomes are difficult to isolate and often weaker than popular theory would suggest (Plotnick and Hoffman 1999; Brooks-Gunn, Duncan, and Aber 1997), and the limiting effect of macrolevel processes on community-level reform efforts (Wallace and Wallace 1990; Halpern 1991). Recent efforts at community-level social reform have placed more emphasis on understanding the unique social context within a target community before applying social prescriptions that appear logically appealing or may have worked elsewhere. For example, David Hawkins and Richard Catalano, in their work on juvenile drug and alcohol abuse, focus on a community assessment process that considers the risk and protective factors that are unique to each community before deciding upon specific community-level interventions (Hawkins and Catalano 1992).


Every generation of sociologists since the time of Durkheim have concerned themselves with the social transformation and meaning of community in the face of industrial change and urbanization. Roland Warren (1978) describes the modern social transformation of community as a change of orientation by the local community units toward the extracommunity systems of which they are a part, with a corresponding decrease in community cohesion and autonomy (Warren 1978, pp. 52–53). Warren identifies seven areas through which social transformation can be analyzed: division of labor, differentiation of interests and association, increasing systemic relationships to the larger society, bureaucratization and impersonalization, transfer of functions to profit enterprise and government, urbanization and suburbanization, and changing value.

Bender (1978) proposes that the observations by various community scholars at different points in historical time, each suggesting that theirs is the historical tipping point from community to mass society, contradict linear decline or an interpretation of history that stresses the collapse of community. He suggests that a "bifurcation of social experience" or sharpening of the distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft realms of social interaction is a more accurate interpretation of the historical transformation of community than that provided by the linear Gemeinschaft-to-gesellschaft framework.

Barry Wellman and Barry Leighton (1979) suggest that there are three essential arguments concerning the fate of community in mass society: community "lost," community "saved," and community "liberated." The community "lost" argument emerged during the Industrial Revolution, as traditional communal modes of production and interaction gave way to centralized, industrialized sources of production and dependence. According to this hypothesis and its variations, the intimate, sustained, and mutually interdependent human associations based on shared fate and shared consciousness observed in traditional communal society are relentlessly giving way to the casual, impersonal, transitory, and instrumental relationships based on self-interest that are characteristic of social existence in modern industrial society.

The classic essay in the community "lost" tradition is Louis Wirth's "Urbanism as a Way of Life" (1938). Wirth's eloquent essay presents a perspective of urban existence that continues to capture sociological thinking about the emergence of a heterogeneous urban mass society characterized by a breakdown of informal, communal ways of meeting human need and the rise of human relationships that are best characterized as "largely anonymous, superficial, and transitory" (Wirth 1938, p. 1). Another important contribution in the decline of community tradition is the "community of limited liability" thesis (Janowitz 1952; Greer 1962). According to this thesis, networks of human association and interdependence exist at various levels of social organization, and there are social status characteristics associated with differentiated levels of participation in community life (e.g., family life-cycle phase). The idea of "limited liability" poses the argument that, in a highly mobile society, the attachments to community tend to be based on rationalism rather than on sentiment and that even those "invested" in the community are limited in their sense of personal commitment.

In direct contrast to the community "lost" perspective, the community "saved" argument suggests that communities and communal relationships continue to exist within industrialized bureaucratic urban societies as people are increasingly motivated to seek "safe communal havens" (William and Lieghton 1979, p. 373). For example, Bahr, Caplow, and Chadwick (1983), forty years after the Lynds' Middletown in Transition study, failed to find the singular trends in bureaucratization, secularization, mobility, and depersonalization that would be predicted from a linear decline of community hypothesis. Their observation of Middletown in the 1970s was more consistent with the perspective proposed by Robert Redfield (1955); that both urban ways and folkways coexist within contemporary small towns and cities: "In every isolated little community there is civilization; in every city there is the folk society" (Redfield 1955, p. 146).

The community "liberated" argument concedes and to some extent qualifies key aspects of both the community "lost" and community "saved" perspectives. While it acknowledges that neighborhood-level communal ties have been weakened in the face of urbanization, it argues that communal ties and folkways still flourish, albeit in alternative non-spatial forms. The community "liberated" argument suggests that the spatial dependence of communal ties have been replaced by ease of mobility and communication across boundaries of both geographic and social distance. Although the community "liberated" argument preceeded the development of the Internet and cyberspace "chatrooms" by decades, it emphasizes the role of communication technology in the creation of such future manifestations of community and in that sense was strikingly prophetic.

Despite the fact that the decline of community or the community "lost" perspective continues to hold broad appeal (e.g., Robert Putnam's "The Strange Disappearance of Civic America," The American Prospect, Winter, 1996), the empirical evidence for a real decline in community is far from conclusive. A time trend analysis of national surveys concerning the persistence of community in American society by Avery Guest and Susan Wierzbicki (1999) suggests that while traditional intra-neighborhood forms of socializing have slowly declined over the past two decades, they have been largely replaced by communal ties outside the local neighborhood. Moreover, Guest and Wierzbicki's findings also suggest that spatial "within neigborhood" communal ties continue to be important to a large segment of the population. Their findings imply that the major questions about the place of community in mass society should not be about whether communal forms of relationships will continue to exist, but rather under what conditions and in what form.


Bahr, Howard M., Theodore Caplow, and Bruce Chadwick 1983 "Middletown III: Problems of Replication, Longitudinal Measurement, and Triangulation." Annual Review of Sociology 9:249–258.

Bender, Thomas 1978 Community and Social Change in America. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Brooks-Gunn, Jeanne, Greg Duncan, and Lawrence Aber 1997 Neighborhood Poverty: Context and Consequences for Children, Volume I. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Caplow, Theodore, Howard M. Bahr, Bruce A. Chadwick, Reuben Hill, and Margaret Holmes Williamson 1982 Middletown Families: Fifty Years of Change and Continuity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Coleman, James 1988 "Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital." American Journal of Sociology, 94 (supp): S95–S120.

Duke, Emma 1914 Infant Mortality: Results of a Field Study in Johnstown, P.A., Based on Births in One Calendar Year. U.S.D.L. Children's Bureau Publication No. 9. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Greer, Scott 1962 The Emerging City: Myth and Reality. New York: Free Press of Glencoe.

Guest, Avery, and Susan Wierzbicki 1999 "Social Ties at the Neighborhood Level: Two Decades of GSS Evidence." Urban Affairs Review 35: forthcoming.

Halpern, Robert 1991 "Supportive Services for Families in Poverty: Dilemmas of Reform." Social Service Review 65 (3):343–365.

Hauser, Robert, Brett Brown, and William Prosser 1997 Indicators of Children's Well-Being. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Hillary, George A., Jr. 1955 "Definitions of Community: Areas of Agreement." Rural Sociology 20:111–123.

Janowitz, Morris 1952 The Community Press in an Urban Setting: The Social Elements of Urbanism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Jencks, Christopher and Susan Mayer 1996 "The Social Consequences of Growing Up in a Poor Neighbor-hood." In Lynn Le and McGeary MGH, eds., Innercity Poverty in the United States. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.

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Lynd, Robert, and Helen Lynd 1929 Middletown: A Study in American Culture. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

——1937 Middletown in Transition: A Study in Cultural Conflicts. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

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Gunnar Almgren


views updated May 23 2018


Community is a term with widely varying historical and current meanings in both specialized and everyday discourse. It also possesses several dimensions—ethical, political, social, ontological, psychological, and epistemological—many of which are relevant to discussions of science and technology.

Theorists generally consider community to be a good that, carried too far, may undermine its own moral and political values for those both within and outside it. Community is an important source of meaning in human lives, and it encompasses the sets of values, beliefs, and interpretative frameworks by which the world takes on meaning. Indeed, the scientific and technological enterprise is often described as dependent on the special values of a scientific or technical community (Merton 1942). Community, however, may also manifest itself in oppressive political forms that defy universal values, shared rights, or basic forms of well-being of certain members of a society in the name of community. Political forms of community such as nationalism or populist fascism, or Thomas Hobbes's or Jean-Jacques Rousseau's different versions of collective identity, may belie other human values such as individual liberty. Members of the scientific community have also sometimes ignored the rights of nonscientists or the larger social orders of which science is a part.

At a minimum, community is a set of shared goals or values perceived as good by those who participate in their formation or by those who belong to the heritage these shared values define. A qualitative sense of belonging therefore attends community, and a broader notion of community also includes common language, rituals, geographical territory, religion, historical memory, and ethnic identification.

Community versus Society

In 1887 the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies developed the distinction between community and society in terms of the informal, moral, familial bonds of traditional communal life and the formalized and impersonal, amoral, juridical, and administrative relations of industrial society. "Community" was taken to have an organic quality, whereas society was mechanistic in nature. The importance of this distinction relates to the sense of belonging in social relations and has applications for notions of citizenship, the legitimacy of political representation, ideas of the common good, and the meaning of public participation. "Society" corresponds to the "neutral" structural conditions of modern life. For better or worse, Tönnies's distinction has served to circumscribe much of the sociological, political, and moral meaning of community to this day. In contemporary political thought, for example, the distinction is manifested in terms of holistic communitarianism versus individualistic liberalism. While complex, these latter terms highlight the relative importance of participation in political life, whether the good is best articulated collectively or individually, and the extent to which institutions should choose between a fully embodied moral community and a minimally protective framework for individual liberties.

If one assumes that shared values and frameworks of belief are paramount in the legitimate governance of societies, Tönnies's distinction between community and society has also influenced modern science and technology in important ways. Twentieth-century critics of technology as varied as Martin Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, and early Jürgen Habermas maintain that the intrinsic qualities of communal life were slowly eroded by a postindustrial society of "technoscientific," instrumental emphasis on values of use and efficiency. Langdon Winner (1986) further argues that technological choices determine broader social and administrative structures and reframe the conditions of moral and political life, even though these choices remain beyond the scope of communities. In such views, modern society is an "organizational" society in which rationalizing "technoscientific" approaches to social organization root out the affective (emotional) characteristics of sociality and the bonds of community that Tönnies and others ascribe to community. Expert management replaces participation and communal frameworks of value as the main force of modern social and value formation. If moral value is rooted in community, then technical social management entails institutions that express a small set of values disguised as socially neutral instruments. Others argue, more specifically, that the global spread of modern technologies has served to destroy traditional cultures, communities, and economies and to undermine modern values such as sustainability (see, for example, Helena Norberg-Hodge's studies of Ladakh [1991]).

Scientific and Democratic Community

In contrast, John Dewey (1954 [1927]) and others argue that technological society, especially through new communications technologies, harbors the potential to revive local community. Similarly, Thomas C. Hilde (2004) suggests that the integration of modern technologies and science into the global formation of norms presents not only risks to traditional notions of community but also new possibilities. For Hilde this framework constitutes an "epistemic cosmopolitanism" capable of facilitating new forms of community.

The scientific sense of communal inquiry and of the production of knowledge is further developed by Peter
M. Haas (1990) and others as "epistemic community." Epistemic communities are, according to Haas, scientists and others united by both causal explanations (of, for example, ecological damage) and shared values regarding which policies should emerge from scientific evidence.

If scientific inquiry always harbors the preferences of a broader community and social organization in which scientists work (Kuhn 1962, Longino 2002, Harding 1998), then the currently dominant utilitarian values enframe the broader technological/scientific project. This, in turn, constricts the range of values embodied in technical decisions that influence the shape of society and its future policy outcomes. If this basic thesis regarding the importation of value is correct, then both community and scientific inquiry merit further discernment of beneficial preferences from damaging ones, and in such cases deliberation may be better sought through the broader community. Scientific inquiry might then better serve to advance not only the knowledge of the broader community, but also its methods of inquiry.


SEE ALSO Civil Society;Communitarianism.


Bauman, Zygmunt. (2001). Community: Seeking Safety in an Insecure World. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

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Hilde, Thomas C. (2004). "The Cosmopolitan Project: Does the Internet Have a Global Public Face?" In The Internet in Public Life, ed. Verna V. Gehring. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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Merton, Robert K. (1942). "Science and Technology in a Democratic Order." Journal of Legal and Political Sociology 1: 115–126. Reprinted as "The Normative Structure of Science." In The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations, ed. Norman W. Storer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Norberg-Hodge, Helena. (1991). Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

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Winner, Langdon. (1986). The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


views updated May 18 2018


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).

Species Diversity

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.


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. Disturbancesincluding fires, floods, and volcanoesare 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 Collinsand 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.


views updated Jun 27 2018


Community in its most generic significance pertains to the personal relationship experienced among individuals that is essential to the constitution of human society. Thus all of man's activities insofar as they affect two or more individuals exhibit various dimensions of community; the more such activities affect the personhood of the individuals, the more intense and demanding is the sense of community. All religious traditions are, therefore, characterized by a concern with community, at least as the natural situation of society. There is also a tendency in the social organization of religion to develop specifically religious forms of community. This is true even of traditions that are doctrinally centered upon the isolation of the individual seeker, as is the case in Buddhism with the Sangha "The Holy Order" or "Brotherhood" which in a variety of community forms, most notably the cenobitic monastic, is regarded as one of Buddhism's three irreducible principles (along with the Buddha himself and the Dharma or law).

Christian. The Christian concern for community is two-fold: involvement in the historic socio-cultural condition of man which is always communal, and the affirmation of the essential extension of incarnation through community as an incorporation of individuals into Christ. The Christian doctrinal understanding of man's relationship to the sacred embraces senses of community proper to both man and God. The doctrine of the Trinity affirms community of God: the absolute oneness of the Godhead is not a static isolate, but a selfcommunicationGod who is Father communicates himself in his own internal Self Image, the Son or logos, and self and image are in internal dynamic unity, the power or spirit. The doctrine of the Incarnation affirms community of God and creation together: the Logos is the creative center of all things that, as manifestations of God, have been created through the Logos or God's perfect Image. The Logos is also the unifying center of creation by the union of Logos and the man Jesus of Nazareth, so that there is but one hypostasis, Jesus-Logos, in the fullness of both human and divine natures. The doctrine of incorporation affirms the open extension of Incarnation to all men: each human being is called to participate fully in Christ-life by becoming member-for-member the Body of Christ. From this flows the understanding of the Church as the community-in-Christ and the inter-individual relationship of community as koinonia or the sharing of life in unity.

Contemporary. The contemporary concern for community includes a rejection of the rationalist concept of society that has dominated Western thought since the formulation of Rousseau's doctrine of the social contract. The rationalist concentration on man as a self-contained individual, each essentially interchangeable with all others and each possessed of the same faculty of reason and will to natural goodness, called for a negative evaluation of society. Society was regarded as a pragmatic necessity to overcome the practical limitations of individuals who entered a social contract, so that through a combination of their efforts they might achieve a common benefit. Such a society results in an inevitable curtailment of the individual's independence and thus is a limited evil, tolerated insofar as the common goal is agreed upon as valuable to each participant. The failure of continental enlightenment republicanism to achieve a "contractual society" prompted further development of a negative vision of society, most notably the Nazi reduction of individuality to the natural superiority of the Leader, the Fuehrerprinzip, and the Marxist reduction of individuality to mass society as the "new socialist man," the collectivity.

Moving beyond this merely negative reaction, the new direction in religious community is responsive both to the development of the personalist vision of man and to the discovery of the inter-personalist constitution of society. Through the existentialist reorientation whereby man was not thought of as an example of an abstract nature, but as a personal existent, a new concern for individuality in terms of personal authenticity and individual values has become one of the fundamental elements in the theology of community and attempts for renewal. The "I and Thou" motif of buber's existentialism typifies this sensitivity. Complementing the existentialist emphasis on the personal is the reevaluation of the nature of society as a community of persons and the gathering of personal communities as the basis for a new type of mutation in the evolution of human species. teilhard de chardin's concept of the process toward collectivity as an inter-personal creative union has provided theology with a new perspective on community renewal in the context of predictable socio-cultural change. Emerging in the growing understanding of personal community is the realization that man is constitutionally inter-personal and his inter-relation in community extends the process of the individual's interior self-reflectivity. Thus communities can now be recognized as a force that, through a conscious sharing of values, can bring these values to a greater level of individual reflection. Religious communities are called to a new creativity in both the personal visibility of their members and shared consciousness in the collectivity.

Bibliography: m. beha, Dynamics of Community (New York 1970). g. moran, Experiences in Community (New York 1969). r. niebuhr, Man's Nature and His Communities (New York 1965). l. orsy, Open to the Spirit: Religious Life after Vatican II (New York 1968). c. peifer, Monastic Spirituality (New York 1966). a. van kaam, Personality Fulfillment in Religious Life (Pittsburgh 1967).

[r. e. whitson]


views updated Jun 08 2018


A community is made up of all of the populations of different species living in a specific environment. A community consists of only the living components (biotic) of the environment. Ecologists study the different roles each species play in their community and also study the different types of communities and how they can change over time. A community has no particular size.

An example of a pond community would be all of the algae, plants, fish, frogs, ducks and other organisms that live in and around a particular pond. These many species living within a community interact with each other in many different ways. These interactions are very important in that they play a significant role in shaping the size and structure of the community. There are three major categories of interactions: competition, predation, and symbiosis.


Competition occurs when members of the same or different species compete for or share a limited resource. A dramatic example of a competitive interaction affecting a community is the death of or departure of a species from a community because others were using up a scarce resource (like food) that the species needed. Since competition for food almost always exists in nature, each species eventually finds its own "niche" in the community. A niche (also called an ecological niche) is a specific job or role in a community that relates to feeding. In general, the niche of one species does not overlap with that of another species. However, ecologists do not agree as to why this is so. Some say that one species out-competes another in a certain area and that the other species is forced out of the community, thus surrendering the niche to the winner. Others say that one species occupies a certain niche because it is the one best suited (or best physically equipped) to do so. A good example of two species having their own niche are the woodpecker and the nuthatch. Although both these birds eat grubs (insect larvae) found in the cracks of trees, they are seldom in serious competition because each has its own niche. While feeding from the same tree, the woodpecker will begin at the bottom and work its way up. The nuthatch does the opposite, working from the top down.


The second type of interaction between species is predation. Predation occurs when one organism catches and kills another organism. Predation is a good example of how community interactions can result not only in community change but in the actual evolution (gradual genetic change in a group of living things) of the species involved. As a result of one species hunting another, the one doing the hunting may evolve better tools to catch its prey, while the one trying to get away from the predator may evolve better ways of escaping or avoiding being noticed. The numbers of how many predators and prey exist will influence the community structure. If there are many predators in a particular community, the number of prey will probably decrease since many of them are caught and eaten. This could mean that within the prey population there will be less competition among themselves. However, if too many prey disappear, the number of predators is likely to go down, since there will be less and less for predators to eat.


Symbiosis is the third major interaction that has an effect on a community. Symbiosis describes an especially close relationship between two different species within the same community. Although the term can refer to any type of partnership, it sometimes means a type of relationship that is to the benefit of both species. Flowering plants and bees have a symbiotic relationship that benefits each other. Bees get the nectar they need from flowers and, in turn, the flowers are pollinated by the bees. Certain bacteria have the same relationship with rabbits that cannot digest the cellulose (the walls of a plant cell) in the plants they eat. The bacteria live in the rabbit's gut and benefit from the warm, moist environment; they in turn break down the cellulose for the rabbit to digest. This interdependence between species can result in evolutionary changes. In the short run, however, a community often experiences a noticeable change in one species when its symbiotic "partner" disappears.


Changes that occur over time in a community are called ecological succession. These are usually slow, natural changes that take place in any community. Weather patterns change, as do soil minerals and organisms; even populations rise and fall. Ecologists describe two types of succession, primary and secondary. Primary succession occurs when organisms move into a place that formerly had no life, like a newly formed barrier island. Secondary succession happens after an established community suffers some sort of drastic change, like a fire or volcanic eruption. In this type of succession, there is a pattern by which life introduces itself back into the community. For plant life, a meadow will first develop, to be followed by shrubs and later trees.

Studying communities is more complicated than studying populations since the number and type of interactions can be so large and complex. Even relatively simple communities with small numbers of species form a complicated, interrelated web of dynamic interactions.

[See alsoCompetition; Environment; Population ]


views updated Jun 11 2018

community The concept of community concerns a particularly constituted set of social relationships based on something which the participants have in common—usually a common sense of identity. It is, to paraphrase Talcott Parsons, frequently used to denote a wide-ranging relationship of solidarity over a rather undefined area of life and interests. According to Robert Nisbet (The Sociological Tradition, 1966), it was the most fundamental and far-reaching of the core ideas incorporated in the discipline's foundations, principally because concern with loss of community was central to nineteenth-century sociology. The sociological content of community has, however, remained a matter for endless dispute.

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


views updated May 18 2018

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.

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