19 October 2010

The meaning of community

I think we need to be careful and not expand the meaning of ‘community’ to include any form of human association or relationship. Community involves both social and geographical attachment.

Community entails a network of human contacts arising from daily life. These will typically include neighbourhood, school, work and leisure activity. To the extent that relationships with and within these institutions are regarded as belonging to the people as opposed to being merely commercial transactions, one has community. Community is further evidenced and reinforced by the voluntary formation of civic organisations and initiatives (e.g. parties, pressure groups, clubs, etc)

The geographic element is a sentimental attachment to place (Heimat). “This place is where I live; it’s mine although I share it with others and I care about it”

A community is universal/secular to the extent that anybody living in the area is considered as a potential member of it.

(The use of the word “community” in the sense of “the gay community” is something else entirely; i.e. to describe a collection of people who share a common characteristic.)

There was no golden age of community, if only because community was never 100 percent and the community of yesteryear also maintained repressive and conservative values. I believe, for example, that the rapid advancement of gay rights and acceptance in Britain after 1997 (which I support) owes something to the diminution of community.

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