Community in Social Sciences
Throughout the whole history, people tried to organize groups. It was easier for them to hunt and get everything by doing all the everyday things together. As a rule, they lived very close to each other and had the same goal in life. That was the beginning of the community. When people live in the same territory, have common beliefs and close relationship, they can be called a community. The word derives from Latin and is constantly used in sociology.
As each social phenomenon, community has its own history. First communities were based on economic relations. The history of community development reveals the transformation of an individual from a pioneer to a businessperson. It is not only material relations that make communities but also spiritual and cultural kinship (e.g. Australian aboriginals). Communities are an inalienable part of every society and they co-operate with each other according to the principles of understanding; this cooperation is mutually beneficial.
Concept of Community
There are various approaches to the notion of community. They are different, but the core points in its definition are identical. Concept of community is based on uniting people on the basis of a common purpose. Many sociologists suggested their definitions of the term; however, the most vivid are the following.
Parson (1951) stated that community is a group “the members of which share a common territorial area as their base of operation for daily activity” (p.91). According to his theory, all societies are communities and every individual should belong to one of them. Other sociologists, such as Durkheim and Tonnies, disagree with such opinion because they consider that community is incompatible with modern developed society. They are different in many characteristics. That is why community cannot be treated as society.
Etzioni (1996) in New Golden Rule points out that community has certain moral dimension which allows to rule the others. A community can also be characterized by commitment to a set of shared histories and identities, in other words, to a particular culture. He adds to the specific features of community cultural (moral) characteristic.
Williams suggested that community will not disappear, but it will transform into another form, not limited by geographical position, neighborhood, and experiences (Day 2006, p.33). It is obvious in modern world when the communities are forming in most countries. The difference between the old and modern ones is that one can choose the community to belong to regardless of the one they were born in. He/she is aware of the choice.
Ferdinand Tonnies considers that community is usually built on kinship, feeling of belonging and cooperation between its members. His famous distinction between gemeinschaft and gesellschaft shows that when people unite, they share experience, emotions, and habits. It is a positive remark, but he only took into account rural communities; no other types were considered (Day 2006).
M. Weber claims that community was formed only due to economic needs. The main reason was money, and economic relations grouped people in order to form one community. Cohent defines community as a group of people united by common religion, beliefs, ethnicity and place (Day 2006, p.174). He mentions religious community, which has always been popular. In such a community, the relations are established and regulated by the leader (priest).
Karl Mannheim refers to community as a circle of people who live on the same territory, have the same lifestyle and common interests. “Community has a type of social existence” (Day 2006, p. 170), because people unite according to certain features (age, gender, interests, occupation), and they perform certain social roles in the society.
It may be noticed that the main principles are actual for every type. It can be stated that general definition of community is as follows: community is a group of individuals possessing some common features (business relation, hobbies, gender, occupation), who settle in a certain place, have common goals, and interact with other people.
Each definition of community partially describes one or several aspects of it. The common characteristics are territory, close relationships, interaction with each other, group feeling, and cultural identity. Not all the sociologists agree with such classification, but as sociology continues to develop, there could be other discoveries in community studies.
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Community Types and Their Characteristics
There are various types of communities. Their number is constantly increasing as the world and the society in it are developing. Thus, there are common features represented in every community. They are the following: territory for living, close relations between all members, group feeling and belonging to the community, and cultural similarity. If these features are present, a group of people can be called a community.
There are four types of community. The first one is called geographic or neighborhood. All scholars agree that this characteristic is present in all the communities. The second type is the community of identity, the main criteria of which are culture, religion, gender, age. It does not necessarily have geographical boundaries. The third type is a community of interests. Its members share similar interests. They can form parties, fight for women’s rights or initiate an ecological campaign saving trees or animals. This movement can be of local and global character. The fourth type is intention community. This type embraces people that want to support each other. It is voluntary and it always proposes help in various situations (Aggarval).
Hagel and Armstrong (1997) divided communities into consumer-focused and business-to-business ones. The first type includes geographic, demographic, and topical communities, and the second one features vertical industry, functional, geographic, and business categories. The characteristic features of traditional communities are commonly known; therefore it is necessary to explain the business-to-business communities. Therefore, members of vertical industries form a user group; functional community is devoted to the functions of business (marketing, selling); geographic one serves to meet the needs of consumers on the certain territory; business category supports small businesses (Hagel & Armstrong 1997).
Akkinen (2005) distinguishes also virtual community. It “exists in cyberspace, having its activities supported by computer-based IT” (Akkinen 2005, p.8). The main principles of the given community are boundaries, trust exchange, communication, identity, and expression. All this can be achieved by the members of virtual community. The place and means of communication and interaction is computer. The members of such a community are differentiated according to their level of computer literacy (user, lead user, etc.) (Akkinen, 2005, p.8).
Community is often confused with society. Nonetheless, they are completely different. Geographical position is not essential for society; in community, conflicts are rare and easily solved; for society, population is not so relevant. These two notions are closely connected in most sociological theories.
Having defined the types of classical and modern communities, it is only up to an individual to decide what type of community he/she wants to belong to.
History of Community
Community developed through ages in two directions – economic and rural ones..
Development of communities began when there was only one person. It does not mean that there were no other people; nevertheless he felt lonely. He was a pioneer and spent all the time sitting in his dwelling and thinking. Later, he became a farmer because he led his own farm and had a family – a small community. There were many families, and the connections with the neighbors were established. The interaction between them resulted in close relations.
Under the pressure of economic problems, the farmer was forced to become an exploiter. It increased the income of the family. The next stage was becoming a husband who is very economical and follows the world’s economic demands. The last stage was the formation of community where everything was common but the institution of family vanished. This is the economical direction of development (Wilson 2009).
The development of a community cannot be successful without a leader. In religious communities, this function is fulfilled by a priest, and a church becomes moral and cultural centre of the community. It also uses modern approaches in teaching the Bible and other religious issues.
Another approach to the development of a community is development of towns. Families were constantly joining each other and forming groups. They settled on a certain territory and the population gradually increased to a small town. The process continued resulting in the formation of metropolis. Thus, such approach is closely connected with the economic one because money relations and force people to interact closely with different groups of people.
Communities in Australia
Communities in Australia are determined by economic development. Most members of the communities work in the sphere of agriculture and are dependent on it. There are also various types of communities in Australia, mostly non-profit and volunteer ones.
According to Alston (2005), the role of women in Australian communities changed throughout years of the development of rural communities. Firstly, there was gender discrimination in rural communities; women did not have any business relations, they only dealt with agriculture. Nowadays this problem is still present and the role of women in society is not defined clearly (Alston 2005).
There are many volunteer communities in Australia. Warburton and Oppenheimer (2000) state that “volunteering and volunteer work have been part of the social and economic fabric of Australian society” (Warburton & Oppenheimer 2000, p.2).
The most popular communities in Australia are ethnic ones. They have human capital that can be used in the development of community. A group’s culture encompasses “… an entire way of life, including languages, ideas, beliefs, values, behavioural patterns … ” (Zhou & Bankston 1994, p.822) . Cultural identity is the basis of
Australian Ethnical Communities
Another demand of modern community, which is especially topical for young people, is public good. If community members see that their work and savings are protected and it is possible to improve their social status in the community, it will increase their desire to work for the goodness of the community (Giorgas 2000).
Australian community greatly influences the family relations. Children and their parents communicate with other members and are protected from outer harmful impact. Children have a certain stereotype of community relations and are brought up in the atmosphere of helpfulness and support in difficult situations (Edwards & Wise 2009, p.3).
Most of the Australian communities are non-profit or volunteer. They are established to help their members in business or emotional issues. These communities have special programs and grants aimed at improving the living standard of its members. They give opportunities for young and mature people to compare the practical implementation of community principles in various communities.
The diversity of Australian community can be explained by the number of immigrants who live in the country. It is difficult for them to enter a new community and establish new relations. The Australian aboriginals belong to ethnic community. Their primary objective is to save their identity and follow their own rules of development.
In sociology, the term community is defined according to certain approaches. Sociologists take into consideration economical, social, and cultural aspects of this notion. Thus, the concept of community features so many aspects that scholars can only attempt to combine them in one definition.
Community has also its own way of development in society and performs certain functions. However, community is not a society but its constituent. They are interdependent in economic, social, and cultural terms. The example of such relations are Australian communities, which are formed on the basis of economical, ethnical and cultural peculiarities. A great number of immigrants caused the establishment of new communities that are constantly developing and improving.
- Aggarval, P. Understanding Community, pp.67-76.
- Akkinen, M 2005, Conceptual foundations of online communities, Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki.
- Alston M 2005, ‘Gender perspectives in Australian rural community life’, in Cocklin C &, Dibden J (eds.), Sustainability and change in rural Australia. Australia: University of New South Wales Press, Australia, pp. 139-157.
- Day, G 2006, Community and everyday life, Routledge, New York, p. 289.
- Edwards, B, Wise, S, Gray, M, Hayes, A, Katz, I, Misson, S, Patulny, R & Muir, K 2009, Stronger families in Australia study: the impact of communities for children, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra Busines Centre, p.106.
- Etzioni, A 1998, The new golden rule: community and morality in a democratic society, Basic Books.
Giorgas, D 2000, Community formation and social capital in Australia, Darling Harbour, Sydney, p.15.
- Hagel, J III & Armstrong, AG 1997, Net gain: expanding markets through virtual communities, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA.
- Parson, T 1951, The social system, Free Press, Glencoe, MN.
- Warburton, J & Oppenheimer, M 2000, Volunteers and volunteering, Federation Press, Leichardt, NSW.
- Wilson, WH 2009, The evolution of the country community, The Pilgrim Press, Boston, p. 222.
- Zhou, M & Bankston, CL III 1994, ‘Social capital and the adaptation of the second generation: the case of Vietnamese youth in New Orleans’, International Migration Review, vo. 28, no. 4, pp. 821-845.