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Rock Street, San Francisco
Rock Street, San Francisco

A community is fundamentally based upon relationships amongst individuals which contribute to a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Communities themselves are created by a group of individuals and therefore this will always be a sort of relationship between these individuals. However whether or not these relationships are always intimate is debatable. Early theorists can be seen as complementary because there seems to be an agreed upon idea on a “community”. Tonnies’1 idea was written in 1887, 50 years before the other theorists, yet there are combined ideas which support each other’s theories.

All three theorists agree that a close-knit homogeneous rural community was a better environment for people to live in as the way of life was based on personal relationships. Wirth, Wirth, L. (1938) ‘Urbanism as a way of life’ in Reiss, A. I. Hath, P. K. (eds. ) (1951), Cities and Society, New York, Free Press. (P984/1 ‘Living in a Changing Society’ OU, p. 30), suggests that because of the size of cities that people were surrounded by thousands of heterogeneous people it causes insecurity.

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This insecurity would inevitably lead to instability to city society. This leads us into Redfield, R (1930), Tepozlan, A Mexican Village: A study of Folk Life, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, where he studied an isolated village in Mexico called Tepozlan. His findings support the ideas of Tonnies as they showed that the village was a homogeneous stable society which supports the view of a “traditional” community was in decline but nevertheless a healthy environment for the people.

All three theorists seem to believe that “traditional” communities were in decline and a new kind of community, city life, was emerging but seen as unhealthy and an unstable environment as it was mixing a heterogeneous population in the confines of the city. Are new forms of communities such as city life and online communities always based upon intimate relationships?

According to the early theorists above, the answer would be straight and simple is no. However in N. Sherratt 1991, Living in a Changing Society, chapter 3, it does talk about Young and Willmott’s study, Young, M.and Willmott, P. (1957) Family and Kinship in East London, Harmondsworth, Penguin, which talks about Bethnal Green, a closely knitted community within a capital city, namely London.

It showed families living next to people they had created personal relationships with over the years and family life and community life is interlinked as generations continue to live in close proximity of each other. However I am not sure whether it actually it is a community, which is within a bigger city community. I wasn’t too sure about the whether there was a true sense of shared purpose.

When linking this with whether or not there it was based on intimate relationships. It is clear in my mind that maybe communities aren’t based on intimate relationships. Communities have developed over the past 100 years. During the myth of a “Golden Age” it seemed like communities were rural based but, with the rise in cities, a new form of communities, the city life came. However in the past decade or so, there has been a growth in “suburbs” as communities, which are on the outskirts of a city.

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