I am starting to understand now some fundamental criteria sociologists know and I, personally, have not really questioned before. One set of criteria is the difference between ‘Community’ and ‘Society’.
This is important, as the word ‘community’ has come up time and time again in my work, and will continue to do so – yet it seems clear that often the two can be confused or misrepresented for the sake of getting things done. What follows are my own current, concise definitions:
- Community: Individuals grouped for mutual interdependence, usually by choice, with social relationships.
- Society: Individuals grouped for pragmatic reasons, usually by chance, with pragmatic relationships.
The two german words Gemeinshaft and Gesellschaft seem (because of the work of sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies in the 1920s) to be commonly used in discussing the difference between the two – effective, perhaps, because of their etymological origins, but mostly because of their similarity in appearance and sound.
Having been reminded of the subtle difference between a Big Society and a Good Society in a recent talk, I also have started wondering why the former initiative relies so much upon Communities and what implications there are for consideration:
- Is a society strictly just collection of communities?
- Do communities see themselves as part of societies/ society?
- Is passing control from a society (government) to communities possible without change of functionalism?
Furthermore, Society seems to urge a top-down model of influence, and Community a bottom-up model – or is this too simplistic?