Concepts of Community Essay

Concepts of Community


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Origin of Concept of Community

             The idea of community has been continuously evolving ever since from the early 18th century up to the present - Concepts of Community Essay introduction. As far as etymological background is concerned, the word community is derived from the Latin word Communitas, which means “the same”. Such turn consequently evolved into communis defined as “common, public, shared by all or many”, which eventually arrived with its prefix- com (together) and munis (exchange of service). In a sociological angle, the terms community and society have been first coined by the sociologist, Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936), using the words, Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesselschaft (society) (Skirbekk and Gilje 394). According to the proposition of Tonnies, Gemeinschaft is considered as a tighter and more cohesive form of social relationships (e.g. family, kinship) due to the concept of “unity of will”, while Gessellschaft is another terminology defining an association wherein the relationship of an individual to a larger community is rather more important the individual’s self interest (Lin and Mele 16). Meanwhile, the concept of community is further elaborated by the psychologists McMillan and Chavis in 1986 through their proposal of “four elements of sense of community”: (1) membership, (2) influence, (3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and (4) shared emotional concerns.


Introduction of Quick Road Map

            Relationships in a community are oriented in multi-faceted and diverse forms that allow legal approach, regulatory aspects of different types and follows complex social conditions. The concept of community indicates social relations that possess stability and moral meaning, but does not necessarily employ territorial fixation and can possess certain fluidity and transience (Cotterrell 65). According to Roberts and Magrab (1999), the concept of community involves two concept of existence, particularly (1) psychology and (2) physically (1). In this discussion, the study examines the Jewish community and the concepts of community manifesting among their relationships.

According to Cotterrell (2006), the idea of community suggest a diversity of social collectivities, commitments and systems of interests, values or beliefs, coexisting, overlapping and interpenetrating (67). In consideration of the Jewish community, the territorial setting of their country, Israel, or religion, Judaism, does not entirely define the communal relationships existing among the Jews; rather, the Jewish Community per se is bound by their culture, traditions, common beliefs and their regards to their religion. The concept of community provides incorporate and transcendental traditional views of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention through models of service and supports, specifically (1) universality, (2) derived on individual family strengths, (3) possess both formal and informal support systems, and lastly, (4) provide significant partnership within the settlers of a particular community (Roberts and Magrab 1). Community emphasizes the contributions and established relationships not only of its settlers but most especially its members bonded by similar culture and social patterns.

Concept of Community – Chicago School

            The early concept of community involves the context of rural or village illustration wherein romanticist and conservative senses distort the dominating communal conditions of the early 20th century. Originally, the early notion of community extracts the elements of rural life for emulation in order to coincide within the cultural hierarchy of urban superiority that permits intellectual social analysis. Unfortunately, as supported by Creed (2006), the positive elements of community associated with the rural past are no longer applicable to the urbanized setup of society (27). Chicago school, also known as the Ecological School, has emerged during the 1920s to 1930s and specifically influenced the concept of urban sociology through the ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago. According to Warren and Vavrus (2001), the Chicago School succeeded in the first few decades of the century in turning the attention of sociologists to community, trying to explain and chart a path for the social transformation caused by migration and immigration they have witnessed, and culminating in an impressive collection of community studies in the 1920s (152).

            Due to the vast acculturation and assimilation of cultures, as well as the existence of diverse community setup under the umbrella of one society, the Chicago school has associated the early 20th century in the “myth of the loss of community”. According to Creed (2006), early founders of the Chicago School equate the rural society with the idea of community in an effort to underline urban distinctiveness and superiority (27). The Chicago School has provided the idea of urban sociology and argues that the various social processes implicated in urban change have a destabilizing effect on lower class and immigrant neighborhoods in the inner city core, undermining the community’s capacity for effective social control producing the occurrence of deviant society and antisocial subcultural norms (Critchlow and Parker 1998 200). According to the propositions of Chicago school, the new urban community is vaguely governed by impersonal forces of the society aiming to compete and to succeed. Chicago school is able to identify the requisites of society that satisfy the competition among the members of society, namely (1) economic production, (2) transportation, (3) resource distribution, (4) administration and (5) recreation, which all illustrate the essence of competition and succession.

            In the experimental intervention initiated by the Chicago Area Project in 1930s, Chicago sociologists have tried to disorganize the community setup by modifying the elements in their control population (neighborhood committees and indigenous leaders). The primary and initial purpose of the project is to map the criminal occurrences and deviant behaviors by providing urban planning and alternatives to incarceration as crime consequences. From the experimental study of Chicago school, the concept of competitive community has been recognized. According to Critchlow and Parker (1998), the proposition of Chicago School has introduced a difference perspective of community far from the original concept of community (200). The introduction of competent community has modified the rural version and conservative outlook of the community people to a different overview wherein members strive to compete and attain maximum potentials of survival. Critchlow and Parker (1998) has also added that the early Chicago-school experiments have become the springboard of a radical and explicit political model of community organizing, which actually inspired some of the most confrontational strategies utilized by community-oriented agencies in 1960s (200).

Jewish Community

            Jewish community is one of the oldest existing groups recognized as the origin of various religious Christian orthodoxy, especially in the New Testaments of the Christian bible. The community of the Jews has always been bounded by their absolute zealousness in the pride of their religion, beliefs and practices. The Jewish faith is considered as an important component that maintains the intact relationships and irreducible bonds among Jewish members. According to Young (1999), the concept of community among the Jews is basic to the Jewish religion wherein individuals normally hold primacy over the religion and community of Judaist believers (26). However, as defined by Cotterrell (2006), community does not only revolve in a single denominator and in fact, the concept of community is further influenced by other criteria (e.g. family setup, culture, traditions, superstitions, etc.) contributing to the overall character of a given community (65).

Even though faith is the primary defining character of the Jewish community, the concept of communal organizations still exist and manifested by the reaching-out of those Jews who have abandoned the Judaism faith. As supported by Young (1999), the fact is that Jews have developed a strong tradition of communal organizations exempting the qualifications from synagogue ties since 1800s (26). Furthermore, the concept of Jewish community has expanded and considered other alternative Jewish practice as trademarks of their communal affiliations. Some of these include the maintenance of Jewish family traditions, Jewish holidays, attitudes and beliefs, and the Jewish culture implicating diverse interlinked practices (e.g. marriage to similar Jews, concealment of Jewish blood, etc.)

Aside from religion, Christensen and Levinson (2003) have pointed family as another defining character of Jewish community (813). In Jewish community setup, extended family is considered as the basic unit of Jewish ritual and ceremonial practices, and it is the common identifier of Jewish perpetuation. The essence of extended family is another tradition practiced even before the time of Christ up to the present. According to Christensen and Levinson (2003), this tradition is practices in order to harness the sense of belongingness and form part of the integral Jewish cultural identity (813). Therefore, even without the physical attachment of Jews to their religions, the sense of communal attachment can still be fostered by familial ritualism through extended Jewish family practices. The idea of corporate policy is central to the concept of Jewish community wherein the identification of Jews revolve among their ancestral origins and tradition such as the Passover. Christensen and Levinson (2003) have supported the isolationism being imposed by the traditional Jewish family by considering this as another effect of the intensive persecution confronted by the Jews during the period of Holocaust (813). The practices of absolute autonomy and intense isolationism have become more evident during the post-world war II due to the incidents of Nazi’s murderous persecution among their community.

Concept of community among the Jewish society has been confronted with various propositions and theoretical definitions from different point of view, such as (1) the sociological concept inclined on the communal composition of Jews than the structural society, (2) the religious categorization of Jews relating them to the belief of Judaism, and (3) territorial explanation of Jewish concept of community from the ecologists and geographic point of view.

In religious point of view, the concept of Jewish community lies with the practice of Judaism as their sole religious oath sworn by their fathers, Abraham and Moses, to God the Father Himself. However, due to the recent diversifications and decentralizations of Jewish culture and faith, this concept has also been confronted by applicability issues. With the advancing globalization, diverse Christian faith (e.g. Roman Catholics, Protestantism, Mormonism etc.), and the scattering of Jewish families globally, the religious perspective have already become part of the rural definition of concept of community.

Meanwhile, the defining fields of Geography and Ecology have considered the idea of community as a product of territorial influence. In this point of view, Jewish community is being correlated to the existence of Jewish environment within the borders of their Jewish lands known as Israel. However, such ideology is also confronted by the evolving conditions of Jewish community since most Jewish families have been scattered world wide especially during the war, but still form part in the Jewish community; hence, territorial idea also appears a problematic statement of Jewish community concept.

Lastly, in analysis of these perspectives, the concept of community in the sociological principle of community identifies the communal character of Jews as beyond structural components, such as family characteristics, culture, religious practices, territory, etc; rather, sociological point of view considers ancestral origin of Jews and prevalence of Jewish trademarks (culture, practices, beliefs, superstitions, etc.) regardless of setting of practice or territorial exclaims. According to the principle of community by Roberts and Magrab (1999), community exempts the stereotypic criterion of territory or settlement since one can form part in the Jewish circle of community even if these Jews are practicing their Jewish trademarks outside their ideal settlement –Israel.

Is Community a True Community

            The symbols of community are mental constructs that provide meanings or sense of identity among its members as a bounded whole – a sense of belonging to a local social context (Cotterrell 67). While relations of community may well be expressed through institutions and social structure, community in its symbolic dimension exists as something for people to think with. From the different ideas presented in the latter portions of the discussions (religious, geographical/Territorial and sociological concepts), the essence of community can be identified primarily within its basic units – Jewish Family – and sociological idea revolving among every member of the family. However, according to various authors (Jupp 531; Smucker, 124), the important elements of community are (1) its national territory, (2) similarities in prevailing ideology, and (3) culture and traditions.  From this argumentative standpoint, Jewish community may not be ideally termed as a community due to the scattered Jews worldwide.

            However, during the introduction of McMillan and Chavis (1986) and the Chicago School modifications of the new concept of community, a different view of community has considered Jewish conditions. The initial and ideal trio components of community have already been considered impractical and inapplicable in the current generation. With McMillan and Chavis’ (1986) elements of community: (1) membership, (2) influence, (3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and (4) shared emotional concerns, Jewish community can be considered as a true community.

            Using the first element, membership, Jewish community members possess ancestral trademarks that bind them to their communal characters despite of being away from their national territory or from practicing different religion. American Jews, Asian Jews, and/or European Jews are all considered essential parts of Jewish community despite of their hybridized races, Transcultural characters, different territories and diversified characters. Meanwhile, the second component influence is also present among Jews in that despite of their territorial displacements, Jewish community is still able to render its influence among other cultures as well as hybridized Jews. The third and fourth components are also present among their community as manifested by their united struggle against the racial persecutions. Based from the original concept of community by Ferdinand Tönnies, the unity of will is indeed present among the Jewish community, which qualifies them in the criterion of being a true community.


            In the initial sections of the study, the origins of the concept and the evolution it has encountered have discussed. Ferdinand Tönnies’ ideas of Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesselschaft (society), and McMillan and Chavis elements of community have further defined the concept of community. Meanwhile, the Chicago School has contributed to the evolution of community concepts from the rural to urbanized perspective since the classical idea is no longer applicable to current environment. Lastly, the Jewish community is considered as a true community by satisfying the elements proposed by McMillan and Chavis regardless of territory and practiced religion.

Works Cited

Christensen, Katherine, and David Levinson. Encyclopedia of Community: From the Village to the Virtual World. London, U.K: SAGE Press, 2003.

Cotterrell, Roger. Law, Culture and Society: Legal Ideas in the Mirror of Social Theory. Chicago, U.S: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.

Critchlow, Donald T., and Charles H. Parker. With Us Always: A History of Private Charity and Public Welfare. New York, U.S.A: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 1998.

Lin, Jan, and Christopher Mele. The Urban Sociology Reader. London, U.K: Routledge, 2005.

Pupp, James. The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Roberts, Richard N., and Phyllis R. Magrab. Where Children Live: Solutions for Serving Young Children and Their Families. New York, U.S.A: Greenwood Publishing, 1999.

Skirbekk, Gunnar, and Nils Gilje. History of Western Thought: From Ancient Greece to the Twentieth Century. London, U.K: Routledge, 2001.

Smucker, Donnovan. The sociology of Canadian Mennonites, Hutterites and Amish:. Wilfrid Laurier: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1977.

Warren, Catherine A., and Mary D. Vavrus. American Cultural Studies. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2001.

Young, Toni. Becoming American, Remaining Jewish: The Story of Wilmington, Delaware’s First Jewish Community. Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1999.

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