Community, Types of community

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Summary

A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values. Although embodied or face-to-face communities are usually small, larger or more extended communities such as a national community, international community and virtual community are also studied.

Details

A number of ways to categorize types of community have been proposed; one such breakdown is:

  1. Geographic communities: range from the local neighbourhood, suburb, village, town or city, region, nation or even the planet as a whole. These refer to communities of location.
  1. Communities of culture: range from the local clique, sub-culture, ethnic group, religious, multicultural or pluralistic civilisation, or the global community cultures of today. They may be included as communities of need or identity, such as disabled persons, or frail aged people.
  1. Community organizations: range from informal family or kinship networks, to more formal incorporated associations, political decision making structures, economic enterprises, or professional associations at a small, national or international scale.

The usual categorizations of community relations have a number of problems: 1. they tend to give the impression that a particular community can be defined as just this kind or another; 2. they tend to conflate modern and customary community relations; 3. they tend to take sociological categories such as ethnicity or race as given, forgetting that different ethnically defined persons live in different kinds of communities — grounded, interest-based, diasporic, etc.

In response to these problems, Paul James and his colleagues have developed a taxonomy that maps community relations, and recognizes that actual communities can be characterized by different kinds of relations at the same time:

1. Grounded community relations This involves enduring attachment to particular places and particular people. It is the dominant form taken by customary and tribal communities. In these kinds of communities, the land is fundamental to identity.
2. Life-style community relations This involves giving give primacy to communities coming together around particular chosen ways of life, such as morally charged or interest-based relations or just living or working in the same location. Hence the following sub-forms:
  • community-life as morally bounded, a form taken by many traditional faith-based communities.
  • community-life as interest-based, including sporting, leisure-based and business communities which come together for regular moments of engagement.
  • community-life as proximately-related, where neighbourhood or commonality of association forms a community of convenience, or a community of place (see below).
3. Projected community relations
This is where a community is self-consciously treated as an entity to be projected and re-created. It can be projected as through thin advertising slogan, for example gated community, or can take the form of ongoing associations of people who seek political integration, communities of practice based on professional projects, associative communities which seek to enhance and support individual creativity, autonomy and mutuality. A nation is one of the largest forms of projected or imagined community.

In these terms, communities can be nested and/or intersecting; one community can contain another—for example a geographic community may contain a number of ethnic communities. Both lists above can used in a cross-cutting matrix in relation to each other.

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