Definition of Community Essay

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Etymology of a "Community"u

Community is a group of people that share similar values and interests, work towards similar goals and support each other. There are many different types or groups of people that qualify as a "community." A community does not have to be a particular size to qualify as a "community" although generally most communities consist of a group of people that is roughly a dozen or more (Smith, 2001). The neighborhood most people live in and work in is generally considered a community.

Smith (2001) quotes Hoggett (1997) in stating that since the late 19th century, the "use of the term community has remained to some extent associated with the hope and the wish of reviving once more the closer, warmer, more harmonious type of bonds between people vaguely attributed to past ages" (p. 5). Most people consider the term community a "positive" term, meaning they associate the word community with something favorable, something they enjoy being part of. The term community was first used by C.J. Galpin in an effort to define rural homesteads with regard to the areas in which they traded and provided goods and services surrounding central villages (Smith, 2001). This suggests that a community is a group or network of people that someone would desire to become part of. Someone would selectively elect to become a member of a particular community, not just randomly find themselves a part of any community. As stated, there are many different types of communities. Common examples of communities most people are familiar with include schools, neighborhoods, ethnic groups and support groups. While some of these types of communities may be randomly selected, most people do not end up in a community like these by chance. Each of these communities has different support functions they serve.

Community as People Sharing Similar Values

One of the more common and well-recognized forms of communities is the community of people known as a people sharing similar values, ideals, or morals. People in a certain community will share similar values and these values could differ from those other communities share (Smith, 2001; Putnam, 2000). Typically communities tend to gather and form based on a groups shared interests, likes, values, morals and other principles. These communities do not randomly come together in most instances; they are formed with mission, purpose, and intention (Smith, 2001). At times they may be well-planned in advance, with directives in place to accomplish certain goals or tasks. Communities can gather and form based on various shared principles. These can vary tremendously. For example, a community can form based on a group of people's desire to live in a central geographical location (Smith, 2001). Likewise, a community can form based on shared religious values or moral principles. Age-related reasons can also result in the formation of a community. The values a community has may dictate the functions or mission of the community, if there is a mission or objective statement the community has or plans to have enacted.

Asian community vs. Western community

Not all communities have objectives; some exist simply because of the culture or ethnicity of the people that comprise the community. There is very distinguished difference for example, between Asian communities and Western communities. These have largely to do with the principles and values each type of community is founded upon. For example, for the most part, Asian communities tend to be more uniform and dedicated to the ideal of a community as a networking of people with shared and common goals than Western communities (Putnam, 2000). Traditionally Western communities have emphasized more individualism (Putnam, 2000) and liberties associated with individual success. This may be due to the historical foundation on which many Western communities were founded. Western communities by and large were founded on principles of individual liberties, freedoms and choice. This has not always been the case for some Asian communities. It is important to explore the history of communities when considering the foundations for their belief systems, moral principles, and philosophies (Putnam, 2000). By doing so, one can avoid making judgments about the rightness or wrongness of a communities norms or beliefs. Historically however, the idea of individualism within communities has resulted in the defeat of some communities, because by very nature communities tend to thrive when everyone acts in the best interests of the team or community, rather than in the best interests of the individual or minority representative.

Group Interests vs. Individuality

Individuality can be very beneficial, and crucial to the success of organizations, and some community settings; it can also be destructive however, depending on the mission and goals or objectives of a community, particularly very large communities. Group interests are often the highlight of community existence; while individuality is encouraged, it does not supersede the interests of the group at large. One of the benefits of living in a community, is that individual members have the choice of whether to choose a community, or to leave (Smith, 2001). Traditionally the group majority will flesh out the needs of the group based on common interests. Typically individuality is expressed, but conforms to the overall group interests within a community environment (Smith, 2001).

Collectivist vs. Individualistic

Collectivist views tend to favor that which is in the best interests of the majority community view rather than what is in the best interests of the individual views (Putnam, 2000). Thus, to assist in the building of thriving communities, one would support more collectivist viewpoints, to ensure the well-being of the community is undertaken in the most efficient manner possible. Individualism often denotes that a community will not have very strong ties or bonds among the people (Smith, 2001). This can be damaging in the community environment. This may not be true, but historically this often has been the case (Putnam, 2000). Collectivist connotes very strong bonds among community members, and is preferred in community environments. It suggests that from birth people within a community are strongly united and bonded to support the community ideals. It implies strong bonds that are virtually impenetrable and unbreakable. It is much like a family environment; which is more likely to stand strong in stormy times or in unsettling economic trials (Smith, 2001).

Community And Shared Interests

Smith (2001) defined community in early terms as the area in which people shared a common life. It included people that lived within the same village, but also the people in the village that lived in the same place that shared the same interests and ideas. In this way, one might also deem the community those that shared the same political ideologies, or at least the same desires to have their community benefit from the same political ideologies (Lindeman, 1921). A community or the theory of the community from this perspective, may be approached as a value, or the value one perceives in the community based on the shared and similar interests of the community members living together. This may include the number of elements shared by community members, based on solidarity, trust, and mutuality (Smith, 2001). Some might consider a community in this perspective, more of a fellowship than an actual community, where members were considered part of a fraternity (Smith, 2001).

Community as sharing the same language

A community also includes individuals that share a common language. This may be natural, particularly for those members living in a particular place, which look to their community as an area where common life is shared; in this sense the community represents a place, or territory, where people share something in common; this shared element may be language and geography. Some refer to this as linguistics and locality (Smith, 2001). Community in this respect may be approached from the perspective of community studies, locality studies, or language studies (linguistic studies) (Smith, 2001).

Community Shared History

Shared history might be looked at from the perspective of shared communion (Smith, 2001) which often includes a community members' "attachment to a place, group, or idea" where a "spirit of community" may reside (Smith, 2001). This may also entail a communion around God, or creation, where a community may feel strongly toward a spiritual union within a historical place, or surrounding certain historical events that may have taken place within a certain geographical region during a specific point in history; this may have happened for example, during the time of Christ, and among Christians (Lindeman, 1921). Attachment often happens in these areas, where individuals have common ground to tread upon, especially based on historic events.

Community Similar Goals

Working toward similar goals also helps build a sense of shared identity and shared mission. In this sense the term community can help create a symbolic role or meaning, helping to create a common elective goals and interests, such as religious beliefs, occupational interests, ethnic origins or interests, sexual orientation or other interests that may reflect the self-conceptual model that makes up the community (Smith, 2001; Putnam, 2000). This often creates an important place role within…[continue]

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