Community: meaning and characteristics

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The term ‘community’ is given different interpretations and used in different ways to mean different things. People often use the term community to refer to a racial community, or a religious community, or a national community, etc. It is used in various contexts.

Some definitions of community:

1. Bogardus defined community as “a social group with some degree of ‘we-feeling’ and living in a given area”.

2. Talcott Parsons said “Community is the aspect of all social units.”

3. Lundberg defined community as “a human population living in a limited geographical area and carrying on a common interdependent life”.

4. MacIver said “Community is an area of social living marked by some degree of social coherence”.

5. According to Duncan Mitchell, “community denotes the collectivity of people who occupied a geographical area, are engaged in economic and political activities and constitute a self- governing social unit.

A community is essentially an area of social living. It is marked by some sorts of social coherence. ‘Community’ is an all-inclusive term. It includes all our social relationships. Elements of community: The main bases of community are: 1. Locality and 2. Community sentiment.

1. LOCALITY: A community is a territorial group. It always occupies some geographical area. Locality is the physical basis of community. In contrast to a society, a community is more or less locally limited. Even the wandering tribe or nomad community, for example, has a locality, though changing habitation. A group of people forms community only when it begins to reside definite locality. For example, caste is not a community since it is not necessary that all the members belonging to a certain cast live together in a definite location, whereas a village and a city can be called a community under certain conditions. Living together facilitates people to develop social contacts, gives protection, safety and security. It helps the members to promote and fulfil their common interests.

2. COMMUNITY SENTIMENT: Locality alone cannot make a group, a community. There are cases where people do live together but do not have any contacts or communications. These cannot be placed under community. For example, in a city there can be different localities. The members of these locality need not be sharing any common interests or may not have common outlook. A community is essentially an area of common living with a feeling of belonginess. ‘Community sentiment’ means a feeling of belonging together. The members must be aware of their staying together and sharing common interests. The members develop a sense of ‘we-feeling’. Without a sense of identification, a sense of awareness, a sense of living and sharing some common interests in life, there cannot be a community.

Other Aspects of Community:

1. Stability: A community is not a temporary group like a crowd or a mob. It is relatively stable. It includes a permanent group life in a definite place.

2. Naturalness: Communities are not created deliberately. They are not created by an act of will or by planned efforts. Individuals become its members by birth itself. Membership, hence, is not voluntary. This does not mean that caste is a community.

3. Size of the community: A community can be big or small. A small community can be included in a bigger community. For example, a city and a village may be included in a wider community called district. Thus, the term community is used in a relative sense.

4. Regulation of relations: System of traditions, customs, morals as well as set of rules and regulations are there to regulate the relation between its members.