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[Xmca-l] Polysemy of "Community"
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- Subject: [Xmca-l] Polysemy of "Community"
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- Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2013 13:01:45 +1000
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"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.