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[Xmca-l] Polysemy of "Community"

"Community" is most definitely a polysemous word! Orthodox Marxism has alwzys rejected it as a "bad concept" because "community" obfuscates "class," but I don't think such an orthodox position is quite right. "Community" is polysemous because it is *relative*.

One common meaning for "community" is all those people sharing a bit of ground and the associated built infrastructure. Clearly this is in the main an abstract construct, as the actual relations tying those people together may be very thin indeed, and the community may be fraught by sharp conflicts. But still, those conflicts arise over the use of the shared artefacts (i.e., land, roads, buildings, etc.) and these are after shared activities.

Sometimes "community" references a nation state. Clearly, the citizens of a nation state share a great range of artefacts, all of which are used in mediating their actions, and at the same time, nation-states are projects within which considerable conflict takes place. Collaboration always, essentially, contains such elements of conflict. A newspaper or radio station might also be the artefact which defines a "community."

So I can see a problem with making "community" the subject matter, or "unit of analysis" for a study; one would have to first select an artefact or combination of artefacts, (such as language and land) which serves to define the basis of the said "community." The point then is that the "community" is *not* defined by shared *meanings*; in fact, different components of the "community" may attach diametrically opposite meanings to a given artefact (word, symbol, tool, ...) or even use it in ways which are quite incommensurable. But! the material form of the artefact is *universal* in what ever way it is used, meant or interpreted. The *materiality* of artefacts is the foundation was what is *universal* in human life. Projects give us what is *particular* in human life (ascribing different meanings to one and the same artefact), and actions (not persons) give us what is *individual* in human life, for the purposes of theoretical analysis.

That's how I see it anyway, from my Hegelian point of view.


mike cole wrote:

One thing about Cliff and Roland's article that I found myself wondering about is their use of the term, community. Culture is quite explicitly defined. Why not community? My guess is that the polysemy noted for activity and culture will reign here too, but I am a neophyte looking for direction which is why this article is interesting to me. I have downloaded two articles from a special issue of J Community Psychology from a special issue in 1996 that take on the notion of "sense of community" which is traced back to Sarason in Nelson and Prilleltiensky's text on Community Psychology. If people are interested, email me directly.