Network Perspective on Structures Related to Communities

Network Perspective on Structures Related to Communities

Alvin Wolfe
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-444-4.ch002
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The application of network perspectives to communities requires some appreciation of the variety of ways people are now writing about communities. Some scholars and practitioners have drifted toward the view that a community is composed very largely of the personal networks of the individuals who are members of the community. But the whole community is more than the sum of those related parts, and the structure of a community must include not only those direct interpersonal relations but also the relations among the clusters and groups and corporate entities that interact in and about this whole. If scientific knowledge about these matters is to accumulate, comparing findings among various studies is of vital importance. From the 1940s well into the 1960s, the local community was the recognized social unit that sociologists and anthropologists studied. Linton wrote of the necessity of the local group. Many sociologists and anthropologists gave their full attention to this local level of social integration through a field called “community studies.” The work of Conrad Arensberg, Sol Kimball, Robert Redfield, Carl Taylor, Eric Wolf, and others had views of communities that had a network cast to them. The category “community” includes a wide range of social formations, generally local systems of fairly densely connected persons in households and organizations, systems on a scale somewhere between those domestic households and wider society.
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On Defining Communities

The editors of the Encyclopedia of Community, From the Village to the Virtual World (Christiansen and Levinson 2003) tell us that Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone (2000) was by far the work most cited by the hundreds of authors in their four-volume encyclopedia. Carrying the subtitle “The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” Bowling Alone (2000) should be a good source in which a curious student might look to find a definition of community.

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