Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Mary Lou Mayo
Theorists do not agree on the precise definition of community. Referents for the term range from ethnic neighborhoods to self-help groups to Internet chat rooms. What is broadly agreed upon is that community is a locus of social interaction where people share common interests, have a sense of belonging, experience solidarity, and can expect mutual assistance. Communities are the source of social attachments, create interdependencies, mediate between the individual and the larger society, and sustain the well-being of members. When locality based, such as in a town or neighborhood, they also provide a place for people to participate in societal institutions and, as such, are linked with democracy. Because community is recognized as socially imperative, community absence or weakening becomes a social problem. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, social theorists, looking at different types of places (a typological approach), observed the shift of population from rural areas to ...