Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Song of the N. H. Volunteers: Captain Paul Whipple and the 7th Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers

 Captain Paul Whipple 
and the 
Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers

Regimental Colours after the war. National Archives.
Recruitment Poster

On December 13, 1861 Paul Whipple was first mustered into the First Regiment of NH Volunteers, for three months. After being mustered out when that unit was disbanded, he immediately enlisted in Company K of the 7th under Captain. W. E. F. Brown.  He was promoted to Sergeant and then First Sergeant shortly after “for good conduct and strict attention to duty”. 
Captain Paul Whipple, brother of J. R[eed]. and J[ames]. B. Whipple, who was born here in 1840, is another man eminent in another line. At twenty-one years of age he enlisted in Company K, Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers, served throughout the war, and was discharged captain in August, 1865. He at once returned south to Darlington, S. C, and with the aid of several hundred colored hands, men, women, and children, he cultivated his own plantation of 5,000 acres. On his estate are fifty cabins, a church, and school-house, for his help, for whom he supports a teacher and pastor. He has won the love of the Southerners who at first were his bitterest foes, and has been honored by them with public office.
From the Granite State Monthly: A New Hampshire Magazine Devoted to History, Biography, Literature, and State Progress.  Volume XXII, Concord, N.H. Published by The Granite Monthly, 1897. 

Song of the New Hampshire Volunteers. 
By Marian Douglas.
Respectfully Dedicated to the Seventh New Hampshire Regiment.

From hill-top and mountain
We press to the fight;
Up, up with our Banner,
For God and the Right!
We dare not stay weakly
And trembling at home;
The moment for action,
For conflict, has come!

The fire sweeps the prairie,
The tempest the sea,
But nothing can conquer
The hearts of the free!

'Tis ours to keep burning,
On hill-top and glade,
The fire on the altars
Our fathers have made.
Our hearts beat together,
And shall to the last;
Who fears for the future,
That thinks of the past?

The fire sweeps the prairie,
The tempest the sea,
But nothing can conquer
The hearts of the free!

Then up with our Banner!
'Mid sunlight or shade,
Before we would suffer
Its brightness to fade,
Amid the wild tumult
Upon the red plain,
Our hearts, with their life-blood,
Would dye it again!

The fire sweeps the prairie,
The tempest the sea,
But nothing can conquer
The hearts of the free!

[Van Nostrand. New York, New York. 1862.]
Annie Douglas Green Robinson (a.k.a. 'Marian Douglas' 1842-1913) poet and author from Plymouth, New Hampshire. She published the collection of verse entitled Days we Remember (1903), and several works for children such as Picture Poems for Young Folks (1872) and Peter and Polly; or, Home Life in New England a Hundred Years Ago (1876).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Theodor Adorno on Theory and Practice.

Theodor Adorno, Self-portrait.

Theodor Adorno on Theory and Practice.
From Problems of Moral Philosophy.  Stanford University Press, 1995: 4-5. [Lectures: May 7, 1963 - July 23, 1963.]

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I urge you therefore to exercise a certain patience with respect to the relations between theory and practice.  Such a request may be justified because in a situation like the present - one about which I do not entertain the slightest illusion, and nor would I wish to encourage any illusion in you - whether it will be possible ever again to achieve a valid for of practice may well depend on not demanding that every idea should immediately produce its own legitimizing document explaining its own practical use.
The situation may well demand instead that we resist the call of practicality with all our might in order ruthlessly to follow through an idea and its logical implications so as to see where it may lead.  I would even say that this ruthlessness, the power of resistance that is inherent in the idea itself and that prevents it from letting itself be directly manipulated for any instrumental purposes whatsoever, this theoretical ruthlessness contains - if you will allow this paradox -- a practical element within it.  Today, practice - and I do not hesitate to express this in an extreme way - has made great inroads into theory, in other words, into the realm of new thought in which right behavior can be reformulated.  This idea is not as prardoxical and irritating as it may sound, for in the final analysis thinking is itself a form of behavior.  In its origins thinking is no more than a form in which we have attempted to master our environment and come to terms with it - testing reality is the name given by analytical psychology to the function of the ego and of thought - and it is perfectly possible that in certain situations practice will be referred back to theory far more frequently than at other times and in other situations.  At any rate, it does no harm to air this question.
It is no accident that the celebrated unity of theory and practice implied by Marxian theory and then developed above all by Lenin should have finally degenerated in [Stalinist] dialectical materialism to a kind of blind dogma whose sole function is to eliminate theoretical thinking altogether.  This provides an object lesson in the transformation of practicism into irrationalism, and hence, too, for the transformation of the practicism into a repressive and oppressive practice.  That alone might well be a sufficient reason to give us pause and not be in such haste to rely on the famous unity of theory and practice in the beleif that it is guaranteed and that it holds good for every time and place.  For otherwise you will find yourself in the position of what Americans call a joiner, that is to say a man who always has to join it, who has to have a cause for which he can fight.  Such a person is driven by his sheer enthusiasm for the idea that something or other must be done and some movement has to be joined about which he is deluded enough to believe that it will bring him a kind of hostility towards mind that necessarily negates a genuine unity of theory and practice."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A rare victory against one of my chess programs. Nimzovich-Larsen Attack

White               Black
BRBIII -- Arasan 3.5 
[Nimzovich - Larsen Attack ECO A01]
New York City, August 5, 2011 (5 minutes per move)

1.P-QN3 P-K4 
2.B-N2 P-Q3 
3.P-K3 N-KB3
4.N-QB3 B-K2 
5.B-N5+ P-B3 
6.B-B4 P-Q4
7.B-K2 0-0

8.P-Q4 PxP 
9.QxP P-B4 
10.Q-Q1 N-B3
11.N-B3 P-Q5
12.PxP NxP 
13.NxN PxN
14.N-N1 B-QN5+ 
15.P-B3 PxP 
16.BxP QxQ+
17.KxQ N-K5 
18.BxB NxP+ 
19.K-K1 NxR 
20.BxR KxB
21.B-B3 B-B4 
22.N-B3 R-B1 
23.R-B1 B-Q2
24.N-K2 RxR+ 
25.NxR P-QN3 
26.K-B1 B-N4+
27.K-N1 N-N6 
28.PxN K-K2 
29.N-K2 K-B3 
30.K-B2 B-Q2 
31.N-Q4 P-QR4 
32.B-K4 K-K4 
33.K-K3 P-R3 
34.N-B3+ K-Q3 
35.K-Q4 P-QN4 
36.N-K5 B-K1 
37.P-R3 P-B3 
38.N-Q3 B-B2 
39.P-QN4 PxP

40.NxP B-K1 
41.N-B2 P-R4 
42.N-K3 P-N3 
43.N-Q5 P-B4
44.B-B3 B-B3 
45.N-B3 BxB 
46.PxB P-B5 
47.PxP K-B3 
48.K-K3 P-R5 
49.K-B2 K-B4

50.N-K4+ K-Q5 
51.N-Q6 K-B4 
52.N-N7+ K-B3
53.N-R5+ K-N3 
54.N-N3 K-B3 
55.K-N2 K-Q4
56.K-R3 K-B5 
57.N-B1 K-B6 
58.KxP K-N7
59.N-Q3+ K-N6 
60.K-N5 K-B5 and Black Resigns
"Nimzowitsch, along with other hypermodern thinkers such as Richard Reti, revolutionized chess, proving to the chess world that controlling the center of the board mattered more than actually occupying it. Nimzowitsch is also a highly-regarded chess writer, most famously for the 1925 classic My System, to this day regarded as one of the most important chess books of all time. Other books include Chess Praxis which further expounds the hypermodern idea, and the seminal work The Blockade explores the strategy implied by his famous maxim, "First restrain, then blockade, finally destroy!"
As a profound opening theoretician, Nimzowitsch has left a legacy of variations, many of which are still popular today. The Nimzo-Indian Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) is named after him, as are several variations of the French Defense. He also is credited in part for the Sicilian, Nimzovich-Rubinstein (B29) Variation (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6), the Nimzovich-Larsen Attack (A01) (1.b3), the Nimzowitsch Defense (1.e4 Nc6), and many others."
From The Games of Aron Nimzowitsch http://www.chessgames.comperl/chessplayer?pid=10249

Monday, November 14, 2011

Text and Slides from SLAS Seminar on "Until Darwin" blog

The text and slides of "Until (and a bit after) Darwin" my portion of the SLAS Faculty Research Seminar with Chris Jensen of Math & Science are now up and available on the Until Darwin website.  Click here or on the image above to go to the page.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

SLAS Faculty Research Seminar: Diversity, Culture, Theory, and Data: Science on Human Variety. Monday, November 7th from 12:30-2:00.

Please join us for this semester's faculty research seminar, which is being held on Monday, November 7th from 12:30-2:00 in Dekalb 206. This is a brown bag affair, so bring your lunch. We will provide coffee. Below you will find a description of the seminar. I hope to see you there.
Andrew W. Barnes, Ph.D.
School of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205

Diversity, Culture, Theory, and Data: Science on Human Variety
B. Ricardo Brown and Christopher X J. Jensen

Human variety plays a pivotal role in history: how we interpret human diversity dictates what kind of society we construct. Over the last three hundred years, science has played an increasingly influential role in explaining and interpreting human variety. How has the rise of science influenced our conception of human variety? Does science shed light on the nature of our differences or simply legitimize prevailing cultural conceptions of difference? Through this talk, we will address these questions by considering the historical trajectory of how science conceptualizes human variety. Starting with the battle between the monogenists and the polygenists of the 18th and 19th centuries, Ric will describe how the cultural conflict over slavery was reflected in battles between scientific camps. He will discuss how prevailing culture influenced the questions scientists asked, the theories they posited, and the way they used data to validate these theories. Ric will explain how increasing access to information about the natural world -- paired with changes in the way science was pursued -- eventually led to the key insights of Charles Darwin, whose theories in large part displaced previous conceptions of human variety. Chris will then consider how post-Darwinian science has conceptualized human variety, beginning with eugenics and ending with the revolution in genomic technologies. Shifts in the culture of science and the culture in which science operates, as well as increased access to genetic data, have all transformed how we interpret human variety. Nonetheless, echos of past scientific shortcomings still reverberate through the present-day science of human genomics. The talk will conclude with the opportunity for the audience to discuss how present-day science influences our understanding of human variety.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part VII - Conclusion: Social Formations, Systems of Classification and Social Evolution

Conclusion: Social Formations, Systems of Classification and Social Evolution
In sociology there have been at least two discursive formations in the investigation of community.  Of course, they are not mutually exclusive in time and so have always coexisted, though one predominated in the time before 1975 and the other became dominate in the years since.  During the first period, which dates roughly from 1945 until 1975, the discursive formation regarding community was  organized by the relation of four obects of study: definition, classification, evolution, and territory.  Discussions of community constantly referred to these as forming the parameters of sociological study during the period when the definition of community and the classification of definitions became a primary research activity.  Of course, definition had been important prior to this period, for writers such as Giddings and Tonnies, whose vision of social progress brought together evolutionary and taxonomic aspects of classification in the service of social reform.  This vision of social progress did not survive the realities of an era book-ended by trenches and camps.  However, it was the “normative-meliorative” vision of social progress that infused the discipline of sociology that gave rise to the myriad definitions of community. 

The sociological study of community had come to an impasse.  Researchers had no idea if they were speaking about the same object of study and there were seemingly as many definitions as there were researchers.  Hillery’s oft cited work did not offer a definition of community, only a classification that brought order to the chaos of idiosyncratic conceptualizations.  His classification was intended to bring order to the definitions that had preceded him, but he also established the boundaries of the sociological study of community for decades to follow.  At bottom, his classification of definitions constituted a representation of a scientific consensus.  Hillery’s  lesson is that neither the definitions of community nor the utopias it produces correspond to any particular community of the past or present.  Like him, we confront a moment in the history of sociology when community is expressed not as something “out there” but as an object constructed through the norms of sociology itself.

Franklin Giddings noted that
“the subject matter of classification may consist of concepts only.  The dichotomies are made in thought only.  Societal facts are actualities.  Classification of them is a sorting of them into actual, or as we usually say, factual, groups, the dichotomies of which have been actually made by processes which men have observed and may now observe” (Giddings 1924:69). 

The point is not to denounce classification, but to understand that the sociological definitions of community are also constitutive of the community it seeks to investigate.  The meaning or truth of community can not be understood apart from the ways in which we express its meanings.  Hillary assumed that the definitions he found in the library reflected real communities and therefore to classify definitions is the same as classifying real communities.  Then, as the definitions and classifications became synonymous with --- but also detached from --- real social relations, each tended to recapitulate the other and this repetition give validity to conceptions of social evolution.

Giddings argued that because “plants, animals, and human beings do not behave forever in the same way,” classifications must also change.  To understand these changes, any classification of social facts (concepts) must be articulated along with a scheme of “social genesis..... in sociology a study of societal variability, carried out into a classificatory scheme, and thereby checked up, is of correlative importance with the study of societal genesis, in a like manner carried out” (Giddings 1924:76).  Classification is necessary for a scientific study of community that centers on social evolution, and it is this evolutionary aspect that unites community with territory.  Definition and classification, evolution, and territoriality were essential for the sociological study of community.  They can not be connected in a broader or even utopian social formation without each undergoing significant transformation.  Neither does placing them in new discursive formations always deprive them of their oppressive force.  

The consolidation of any discipline carries with it changes in the production of knowledge.  In the case of sociology, its consolidation as a discipline brought with it a reliance on specific scientific ideologies (Canguilhem 1991).  Sociologists have often misread both the theory and the substance of the history of science.  There are no better examples of this than the sociological tendencies which have embraced forms of positivism, Spencerism, and orthodox Marxism.  But to misread is not necessarily to get it all wrong.  Hillery and others may have misread the ability of science to speak the truth about community, but they recognize the fundamental importance of classification in the practice of science and in the acceptance of scientific ideologies.  Systems of classification like Hillery's were necessitated by the demand that sociology be more than a mere scientific ideology.  Whenever experimentation is impossible, as is usually the case in social research, classification becomes the necessary foundation of science.  Classification became essential for legitimizing theories of social evolution by providing first a means for linking the sociological study of community to the production of the most “advanced” forms of scientific knowledge and secondly an evolutionary trajectory for  human society.  In some it compelled a historical movement: Gemeinschaft gives way to Gesellschaft, tradition to modernity.  In others, community became a utopian vision of social progress made possible by the precise application of sociological knowledge to social problems.  In still others, the problem of community was speed of social evolution and the constant danger of degeneration. 

Social evolution was believed to operate within the territorial boundaries each community established and maintained through either force or the internalization of a “consciousness in kind,” or consanguinity. The sociological problem of establishing the boundary and government of a community in time and space was one whose solution was sought in a consensus on the classification of types to express either to social evolution or degeneration. This solution was mandated by the needs of the day, proved inadequate to the challenges posed by the new conditions of authority and resistance in the post-war period.  The demise of this consensus was a signal announcing the appearance on the horizon of Gouldner’s coming crisis of Western sociology.

The middle of the 1970s,  definition, classification, evolution, and territory, formed the limits of the sociological study of community.  These objects of knowledge were decentered, but did not cease to exist.  They were transformed or replaced by new objects:  Identity as redefined by multiculturalism and postcolonialism; new social movements combined with identity to produce new struggles over everyday life as well as new forms of academic knowledge; degeneration reemerged as the threat of the underclass to a bourgeoisie no longer confident in its authority or destiny; new enclosures of community expressing an anxiety of loss and a reterritorialization of community not with the poor and working classes, but within the newly expanded middle classes.

Sociology, like all disciplines, rest upon particular regimes of truth.  A common element in these regimes is that the origin of the discipline in question is always to be found in a genius having lived, a discovery being made “out of the blue,” a theory and prediction being put to the test, or a group of texts establishing an entire field of knowledge.  The moments become the mythical history of a discipline, its “report, naming, the narration of a Beginning,  but also presentation, confirmation, explanation” (Horkheimer and Adorno: 1969:8).  Sociology is no different, its origins reveal the precariousness of its history --- a precariousness and a forgetting that is a general condition in the history of the disciplines.  Examples of unseemly origins abound in the disciplines: take geography, with its legacy of environmental determinism, or Indo-European studies and historical linguistics, which were often allied with  scientific ideologies supportive of Germanic/Anglo-Saxon supremacy (Gossett 1963).  As for sociology, it had amongst other tendencies its” eugenicist “normative-meliorative” reformism, its Spencerism and “Social Darwinism” ---- and all of these have been forgotten, minimized or treated as aberrations in the histories of the discipline.  Take for example Gouldner’s  periodization, where we find no mention of Spencer or Sumner.  A subtle reminder that the work of forgetting sociology’s  past “scientific ideologies” is not limited one’s political and ethical commitments. 

If the crisis of Western Sociology continues to haunt us --- and like all disciplines sociology is always in crisis --- then it demands genealogies of sociology and its interventions into public policy.  “Sociology has a venerable genealogy”  wrote Albion Small in 1924.  It is indeed true that sociology has come to acquire several genealogies intersecting to produce its specialized fields.  Although it only addresses the narrow question of community in sociology, this essay has presented a possible alternative to the usual history of sociology and its study of community.  The history of sociology, like the history of any science, is as much the history of errors as it is the history of truths and like the history of any science, it is also the history of forgetting. 

Previous posts in this series:

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part VI - A Break

A Break

Essays by Effrat and Gusfield in 1975 are among many that mark the transformation in the study of community in sociology. Gusfield’s invocation of the communal ideals of the New Left was located in the utopian forms of communitarianism, while Effrat identified community with a politics of localism and participatory democracy. Because Effrat provided a summation of sociological work, and it is best to begin with her analysis.

Central to Effrat’s analysis is the assertion that conceptualizing community was akin to “trying to scoop up jello with your fingers” (1975:1). Faced with the same heterogeneity of definitions that Hillery had already found, but with twenty intervening years, Effrat too attempted to bring order to the chaos of sociological definitions. Instead of producing categories of definitions as Hillery had, she commented more broadly on the “process of debate” within post-Chicago School sociology was responsible for the current chaos because sociologists had avoided the “controversial issues” surrounding community: territoriality and function. Because of the reluctance to engage those two aspects of community, sociologists had come to enveloped community within
a gelatinous mess of hypotheses, research, and value judgments.... The term “community” is frequently invoked in tones of profundity by ideologues (social scientists as well as “laypersons”) from the far left to the far right. Like motherhood and apple pie, it is considered synonymous with virtue and desirability. Indeed, much of the problem in identifying the various definitions lies in separating the content of the conception from the value-laden imagery of warmth and camaraderie attached to it in many cases (1975:1-2).

Effrat recommended a more empirical approach because the study of community had shifted away from the ecological concerns of territory and population which should have remained central to the sociological study of community. Instead, the study of community was understood as a problem of identity and not about conflicts in the everyday existence of an ideology whose function it was to unite a population within a territory. Only when territoriality was reduce to being a mere theoretical problem could sociologists ask “whether community must be grounded in a particular, delimited place, or whether it can exist among people who are territorially dispersed” (1975:6). The authority of sociology to effect social policy and reform rests upon such fundamental questions.

Although Hillery acknowledged that territoriality and social interaction are common characteristics of community, his own classificatory scheme could not fully “separate [out] the value-laden imagery” because it depended upon the same value-laden language. While aware of the political aspects of definition and classification in relation to evolution, Effrat wanted to separate out “the content of the conception” of community and highlight the conflicts between definitions of community while Hillery highlighted the points of agreement. To complete her task, Effrat presented a history of four traditions distinguished by their reliance on territoriality and the size of the population. The focus of studies on municipal power in urban and suburban areas with large populations characterized this investigation of the territorial community. However, newly emerging traditions without a strong territorial grounding, “community as society” and “personal community” are based instead on occupation, leisure, lifestyle, and professional associations as forces/institutions of social cohesion.

Gusfield’s typology of intellectual concepts reveals a series of disciplinary paradigm shifts. The 
development of sociological theories centered on the fundamental difference between “community and society,” or “concepts and counter-concepts” although this distinction is an artificial one, for 
community and society are always idealized concepts. For Gusfield, “the concept ‘community’ [has]
significance in three dimensions. In one dimension, it points to and describes a specific form of human association. In another it is part of a theory of social evolution. In still another dimension, it is part of an ideological debate over the value of the present as compared to the past and to possible alternative futures.... the concept of community” as “part of a system of accounts used by members and observers as a way of explaining or justifying the members behavior. (1975:21)” This ”consciousness of kind” formed the implicit basis of the concept of community that Gusfield compared to class consciousness: both are ”facilitated by the capacity to evoke symbols of community. Within the emergence of a consciousness of kind is the rise of a collective experience; a sense of participating in the same history” (1975:35). Community in this sense can not be separated from ideology and discourse. It is ”a system of accounts” to be drawn upon depending on one's social status and cultural capital, and the very phrase reminding us that the everyday experience of community is indistinguishable from the community of money.

Despite his invocation of a Left utopia, Gusfield’s analysis emphasized the traditional binary of community and society. “I use the idea of system to characterize the concepts of “community” and “society” and “tradition” and “modernity”.... Community must decline if society is to grow. “Tradition” and “modernity” are in struggle and one must give way to the advantage of the other” (1975:54). At the same time Gusfield also proposed that “this use of the community-society dichotomy as a theory of social evolution distorts and confuses processes of social change....We can better understand change by emphasizing the mixture and interpenetration of types than we can by emphasis on conflict between systems” (1975:55). By juxtaposing community and society, Gusfield removed them from the “dialectical” development of modernization and progress that he believed united community and society into a single object of study.

Gusfield once again quickly modified his view: “The persistence and continuation of communal elements and the emergence of social institutions and activities are not necessarily in conflict” (1995:55 [emphasis in original]) because they interpenetrate each other. He then suggested an additional conception of community: as a utopia that is nothing less than “an anguished cry against those facets of modern life in which men and women are categorized, isolated, typed and in which their specific qualities as human beings and as emotive and dependent persons is ignored” (1975:104).

In contrast to Effrat, Gusfield concluded that “the scientific, semantic meanings of sociology are not sufficient to grant significance and moral direction on their own. But the infusion of dramatic, poetic, even distorting, meaning is essential for the vitality of scientific concepts and their significance for relevant human concerns. That the concept of community has had so constant a usage is testimony both to its power and to the ubiquitousness of its ideal” of a “utopian communitarianism” (1975:104). These communes served as potent critiques of contemporary life. “Each age is the judge of its own utopias.... the ideology of community and the utopian communitarian movements are expressions of the concern of modern men [sic] with the specific quality of life today” (1975:102). As critiques, communalism and “utopian communitarianism” point toward the possibilities for social change inherent in their resistance to the community of money, including the possibility that they might become reactionary movements.

In the period preceding Effrat and Gusfield’s reassessment of community, the sociological work had centered on the concern for a scientific or rational definition of community. This search was organized around and greatly aided by the dichotomy of community and society. There was an emphasis on classification, definition, evolution, and the territorial aspects of community. The taxonomies of community existed alongside the broader sociological studies on the evolution of society. Not only did the community/society dichotomy contain an assumption of a progressive movement, but the task of classification necessitated a continuous search for intermediate types that might prove to be the links in an evolutionary development. Territory became a mandatory characteristic of community within which teemed a consciousness-in-kind rooted in a geographical landscape and sense of place. The positive aspects of this “sense of place” have been quite extensively explored by geographers (James 1972, Johnston 1983) and so too have its reactive aspects found obvious practical expressions, for it is not difficult to move from an emotive sense of belonging to an ideology of consanguinity and soil.

For Effrat, the study of community ---like much of sociological theory--- was straining under the weight of questions that could no longer be incorporated within the discipline’s structures. In a last attempt to preserve the integrity of the four traditions she described, Effrat proposed an system of four traditions, with each inhabiting its specialized niche. In Gusfield’s work, community became both an abstraction and aspiration.

If there is a typology of ideal (symbolic) types, along with a classificatory regularity, then there must also be criteria for their inclusion. Loomis gave three criteria which for Parson’s had to be met for a social group’s inclusion in a classification of community: history, derivation, and content. Hillery used several criteria to select the definitions of social groups for inclusion in his classification of community. Gusfield recognized how “the dichotomy between ‘community’ and ‘society’ has played a significant role in the development of such theories, especially in the distinction between ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity.’ In positing ‘community’ as opposite ‘society,’ ‘tradition’ as opposite ‘modernity,’ both the evolutionary sociologists and the modernization theorists have given us a simplified and distorted picture....” (Gusfield 1975:80-81).

Hillery’s method for producing his classification of definitions further illuminates the methods and problems early researches encountered. Much like Borges” librarian, Hillery literally browsed the available literature on sociology on the shelves of the library. He first looked up the definitions that the are regularly referred to as important works. Then he used the cited references in that first group of important works to uncover additional definitions in less well known works. In the course of tracking these definitions down, he perused the nearby shelves for interesting titles and included these in his classification. He does not mention that the indexes of the texts and the bibliographical order of the library catalog provided a preexisting classification. Nor did he in anyway question how a work comes to be important. Hillery’s work was not theoretical; he was not testing a hypothesis or theory, his empiricism was descriptive and yet his study remains a fundamental reference because he captured the extent of sociological opinion regarding the definition of community, but never reaches a final true definition.

Gusfield shared Effrat’s desire to produce a classification of all previous sociological work on community. Effrat’s very different scheme limited the question of community to social theory or associate it with particular types of community. The break marked by the very different essays by Effrat and Gusfield was the shifting away from a classification of types and definitions of community toward reinvestments in and revaluation of identity, politics, and locality. Now proceeded a gradual deterritorialization of community as “a place where one’s life may be wholly lived within” (MacIver and Page in Hillery 1955) in favor of an identity which one lived in every setting. The era of the New Left ended, to be replaced by the emergence of the New Social Movements and an understanding of multiculturalism in which giving meaning to community became an explicitly political and organizational imperative: a style of life.

Next: Community: Discursive Formations, Systems of Classification and Social Evolution

Previous posts in this series:
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Understanding Community
Part III: The Reception of Tonnies Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft [Community and Society]
Part IV: Hillery and Hollingshead: Two Conceptions of Past Sociological Studies

Part V: The "Societal Community" of Talcott Parsons

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part V - The "Societal Community" of Talcott Parsons

    Parsons’ general concern was to understand the fundamental mechanisms maintaining the stability of societal communities as self-regulating entities.  Parsons argued that the similarity between biological and social “classes of living systems lies in the applicability to both of the fundamental concepts of adaptation and integration.”  In this work, Parsons followed Durkheim, who he praised as “probably the most seminal theorist in the field of studying the integration of social systems....”  We can see the influence of 19th century evolutionary theory in Durkheim’s famous duality of the “normal and the pathological” carried over into Parsons’ analogy of social and biological systems.  It is at this same moment in the history of the discipline that we encounter the figure of the sociologist as the physician of society interwoven with discourses of degeneration and recapitulation.  If we see society is an organism, then we must also conclude that the division of labor is a process of adaptation and  specialization and integration of systems.  These systems provide the functional needs of the social organism and maintain social equilibrium, i.e., normalcy. 

    When Parsons remarked that no one in his own day read Herbert Spencer anymore, the reason for this neglect was not due to Spencer’s evolutionism, but because of Spencer’s “extreme individualism,” na├»ve positivism and confidence in the direction of social change.  Parsons’ later writings on the “societal community” sought to cleanse the evolutionary aspects of Spencerian sociology of their association with individualism and determinism.  It is from this perspective that in his later writings that Parsons sought to bring together an understanding of both the reproduction of social life and the process of social evolution.  The social order is “the patterned normative order through which the life of a population is collectively organized [as a] ‘societal community’” (1966:7) built upon the everyday experience of its legitimacy to govern that population.

    Drawing upon the 18th and 19th Century scientific ideologies, Parsons used the body as a metaphor for the societal community to refer to “the body of social theory and knowledge of empirical fact”   that evolves in the sense of its immanent properties unfolding according to an established sequence.  Parsons regarded the societal community as “an organic whole” (1968:15) recapitulating in itself the development of a “body of social knowledge.”  This is the reason that no one reads Spencer anymore, “the body of social theory” evolved beyond his preliminary remarks.  Spencer’s cosmic philosophy was merely the “victim of the vengeance of the jealous god, Evolution” (1968:3).  Parsons’ earlier Structure of Social Action is rooted in the development of an organic “body of knowledge.... in this case the evolution of scientific theory.”  It is the study of the “anatomy”(1968:39) of a single body of knowledge whose development recapitulates the development of scientific theory itself.  The Structure of Social Action can be read as a general theory of scientific change comprising two distinct moments “the definition and classification of the elementary units and the determination of the relevant relations of the units in systems” (1968:39).  It is an early elaboration of a theory rooted in the belief that the progress of scientific knowledge consists of the “cumulative piling up of discoveries of fact” (1968:6).  Only sociology and ecology can so easily speak of social organisms and of the significance of a Nature as a social order and a social order that is natural.

    It almost goes without saying that Parsons and Durkheim based their views upon a commitment to  modernity and to the special role that sociology could now serve in the promotion of modernity.  Both had a deep attachment to the institutions of liberal democracy and its companion traditions of Enlightenment.  In Parsons, this commitment shows through quite well in his essays on National Socialism, where he defended liberal institutions from both the right and the left.  Reason played for him a greater role in the evolutionary progress of societal communities than morality.  Whenever we are discussing community, Parson argued, we are discussing “a legitimation system [that] is always related to, and meaningfully dependent on, a grounding in ordered relations to ultimate reality.  That is, its grounding is always in some sense religious” (1966:11).   While the norms of religion, race, and law can establish social equilibrium, the norms of religion and race are at the same time frequent sources of conflict or “disequilibrium.”  Parsons argued that in modern societies such as the United States, the focus of legitimacy is the legal system and it was precisely this central normative code that was in peril.  Parsons’ envisioned a procedural ethic of communication inspired by courtroom procedure: interrogation, confession or disavowal, judgment, punishment and reform.  It is the legal jurisdiction that structures a community’s  territoriality.  Cowan summarized Parsons” position:

Jurisdiction, says Parsons, refers to obligation.  Obligation implies enforcement.  Enforcement entails sanction.  Sanction to take effect must reach its object.  The object to be reached must have a location in space.  We start with jurisdiction and end with space.  In between we have obligation, enforcement, sanction.  It adds up, a political theorist might say, to a notion of territorial sovereignty (1959:181).
    Alvin Gouldner would later assert that evolutionary theory had little importance in Parson’s  sociology, but  Gouldner’s  assessment came when Parsons was only just beginning to elaborate his theoretical “critique of unidimensional accounts of social evolution.  He did not believe that modernity is a matter of unleashing private interests, the consequent destruction of community, and its replacement by new class and bureaucratic ties” (Mayhew, 41).  Modernity would not bring an end to community.  Indeed, community could be easily allied with Modernity.  Rather than an assumption that they are always in opposition, the two forces of social cohesion might instead reinforce each other.

Next:  "A Break"

Previous posts in this series:
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Understanding Community
Part III: The Reception of Tonnies Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft [Community and Society]
Part IV: Hillery and Hollingshead: Two Conceptions of Past Sociological Studies

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part IV - Hillery and Hollingshead: Two Conceptions of Past Sociological Studies

    If community is not something lost, but something transformed; and if the modernity of the social relations of capital has ripped it from its historical foundations in nature and collapsed the binary of community and society, then how is community to be defined, arranged and classified?  For George Hillery the answer lay in identifying and classifying the commonalities of all previous sociological definitions of community.  He understand community as a vital yet mysterious aspect of modern social life.  The task Hillery set for himself was to in some way measure the “extent of agreement among definitions of community” (1955:111) and this task ultimately proved to be too difficult.  In sociology, conceptions of community had by then reached such a degree of “heterogeneity” that it had become “difficult to determine whether any one of the existing definitions, or even any one group of definitions, affords an adequate description” (1955:111).  He pointed out that even the best of the previous classifications ---e.g., Hollingshead (1948), Reiss (1954), Gillette (1926), and McClenahan (1929)--- demonstrated conceptual differences rather than supplying genuine classifications.  Hillery attempted to bring order to this anarchy by compiling and classifying all of the definitions he could identity the sociological literature.  He based his classification on morphological descriptions and the discursive regularities within those definitions.  In so doing, Hillery sought to demonstrate the fundamental importance of classification to the study of community in sociology and created a work that became a ubiquitous reference in the study of community.  Any early 19th Century Natural Historian would have looked approvingly on Hillery’s use of comparative morphology and extinct varieties as the basis for his work of classification.

    In the few years leading to Hillery’s essay, the meaning of community became a persistant problem in sociology.  During his presidency of the American Sociological Association, Lewis Wirth created a committee to review the state of research on “the “community” as exemplified in rural and urban sociology and in ecology... in light of 1. background; 2. division of labor, and 3. theoretical problems.”  Hollingshead’s essay (Hollingshead 1948) was one product of this committee’s  work.  The sociological study of community was the “empirical study of socio-cultural phenomena in localized areas, variously referred to as neighborhoods, towns, cities, communities, [and] regions” which are “assumed to be an organized structural and functional entity with spatial, temporal, and sociological dimensions” (1948:136).  Looking back over fifty years of the formal sociological study of community, Hollingshead identified three distinct periods in the study of community and the construction of community as an object of knowledge. 

    The first period stretched from Giddings taking the newly created Chair of Sociology at Columbia until sociology as a science of society separated from the activist/reformist commitments of social work and the social survey movement.  Despite the fact that these reformist approaches would “gradually gave way to the analytical” approach of social science, the early normative-meliorative approach influenced the later analytical study of community.  The studies of rural communities undertaken by Giddings and his students identified community as a “field laboratory to which the sociologist must turn for inductive study if he is to develop a “science of society”” (1948:138) supporting “the conviction of social actionists that American farm, village, town, and city life was changing rapidly and – in their judgment – for the worse” (1948:128).  These students emphasized the disorganizing effects of modern communications on small communities, and showed how “people and institutions made successive adjustments to the expanding urban world” (1948:138).  Soon the city became “the natural laboratory of social science” (1948: quoted from an announcement issued by Columbia University in 1894 when Frankling Giddings was appointed to the newly created chair of sociology).  Sociologists approached community with:

a set of implicit assumptions as a guide to what they thought community life ought to be; they compared what they saw with an ideal construct and found the concrete realities were not congruous with their cherished abstractions.  Therefore since the ideal was assumed to be the normal, the real must be abnormal.  Value judgments were implicit in this frame of reference, one of which was the assumption that the role of the investigator was to “expose” the situation he investigated and “improve” it, that is, to make the real [community] like the ideal community (1948:137).

Hollingshead maintains that the normative-meliorative period of the study of community came to an end,, when the reformism of the “actionists” could no longer be reconciled with the scientific approach of the discipline of sociology.  This reorientation “eventuated in the separation of social work from sociology” (1948:138).

    Hollingshead’s second period has its origins in the publication of Charles J. Galpin’s Social Anatomy of an Agricultural Community and Robert E. Park’s “The City: Suggestions for the Investigation of Human Behavior in the City Environment” and his monograph The City (1925).  Galpin’s work in particular inspired a popular line of research during the 1920s “characterized generally by the assemblage of masses of detailed facts, usually statistical in nature, on some particular phase of problem of rural life, usually without explicit orientation or clear-cut conclusions” (138).   Galpin’s  work exemplifies the tensions between the normative-meliorative and the social scientific approaches.  He wanted to define community empirically and thus map the territorial limit of social interactions and reform the rural communities by bringing a kind of enlightenment and cosmopolitanism to the everyday life of the farmer.  He warned against being pessimistic in the face of the new “rurban problem” by resolving the antagonism between the city and the farm through civilizing the farm so that it might survive in an increasingly urban world.   Meanwhile in Chicago, Park’s work provided the basis for human ecology “as a new approach to and interpretation of communal life” (1948:139).  In general, the study of community in “the 1920’s  was characterized by an assiduous accumulation of multitudinous facts about rural and urban life, the coinage of terms (“rurban”), the enunciation of concepts (“natural area”), the formulation of hypotheses (the Burgess zonal hypothesis of city growth), and the investigation of processes believed to underlie communal growth and structure (competition, invasion --- succession, segregation)” (1948:139).

    The third period was inaugurated by the publication of Middletown in 1929. “Middletown focused attention upon a viewpoint that had been largely neglected by ecologists, namely, the interrelations between the daily life of people, their institutional organizations and function, and the social structure of the community” and these sociologists “framed their work around [the] organizing concepts [of] social change, institutional organization and function, and social stratification.  In the intervening seventeen years since Middletown, the sociological study of community could still be divided into three categories: ecological, structural, and typological, but the ecological work had been eclipsed in favor of structural and typological studies.  “Although little in the way of theory has been developed in the past decade, the idea persists that there is a legitimate place for human ecology in the social sciences” (1948:140). 

    Hollingshead gave great credit to the ecologists for freeing themselves from thinking of the world as divided between cultural and non-cultural forces.  Neither the social determinist nor the “instinctivists and geographical determinists” positions were uniquely “theoretically justified, since man is both an animal and a member of a socio-cultural community, and any particularistic explanation which arbitrarily excludes the natural environment, the individual, society, and culture is untenable” (1948:141).  In the uncritical acceptance of core ideological constructs as the true measures of social life, the structuralist errors resembled the errors of the ecological tendency   Hollingshead separated his “stratificationists” into social anthropologists and sociologists, differing only in the former’s  use of caste and the latter’s  adoption of class “to explain away the complexities and contradictions in human behavior in a way very reminiscent of the early ecologists” (1948:143).  The structuralists are further distinguished from the typologists in their attempt to use culture, relations with other communities, geographic and economic bases, size, and “population composition... to determine how these factors organize and give meaning to the activities and interpersonal relations of its inhabitants” (original emphasis, 1948:144).  The typologists sought to construct “ideal-typical community types” (1948:144) on the assumption that “a given complex of population, culture, and communal organization gives rise to a characteristic way of life, with a correlated complex of meanings and personality types” (original emphasis, 1948:144).  Hollingshead associated this approach with “formal models of this type of thinking” (1948:144) such as Durkheim’s “sacred and secular” and Tonnies' Gemeinshaft and Gesellschaft

    In his early, but certainly more insightful analysis, Hollingshead does not so much propose a classification as characterize the kinds of sociological and typological studies that displaced the ecological studies of the earlier period.  It is not surprising that Hillery’s  classification of concepts bears out Hollingshead’s  view that typological studies had in his time become central to the study of community and Hillery’s classification remains widely referenced in the sociological study of community.

    Hillery noted that more than half of the definitions included in his classification appeared between the time of McClenahan’s 1929 study and his own.  The importance of a precise definition of community was recognized, but the study of community had not been organized or systematized.  His classificatory scheme sought to overcome this by generating a new definition based upon a consensus of sociological opinion.  Where previous authors had set up a priori classificatory schemes to justify their own definitions, Hillery let the morphology and regularities of the definitions determine the number and extent of the classes that make up his scheme.  He maintained a “strict prohibition against discarding any definitions.  If they would not “fit,” then a separate class was created---though that class might have only one occupant” (1955:117).  If we are correct in understanding that community exists as the consensus of sociologists, then Hillary’s method expresses this perspective quite nicely.

The 94 definitions used in this analysis are not all of the definitions of the community.  However, it is believed that the picture given is a fairly representative one, as indicated by the method of obtaining the definitions.  Beginning with a few definitions already known, the writer traced the references given by these authors, referred in turn to those sources furnished by these references, and so on, collecting the definitions in various works as the search progressed.  As a supplementary procedure, to decrease the possibility of limiting definitions to any “school” or “schools,” all of the promising titles on the library shelves adjacent to those works already located were checked in the same manner.  When no further references could be obtained by this method, the search was halted.  Thus, the coverage given is wide, but no measure is available as to how wide; the author may only claim more conclusiveness than has hitherto been available, not finality (1955:112).

    Hillery found that sociologists agree on the general definition of community, and that the greatest variation in definitions tended to be found amongst those working outside of the discipline of sociology.  Internally, the consistency of opinion rested on three characteristics of community: territoriality, common ties, and social interaction.  The ecologists in Hillery’s sample offered only what he characterized as “deviant” definitions because they did not find social interaction necessary to community. 

    Implicit in his study is the assertion that community had not been lost, but that it had undergone evolutionary transformations.  Hillery traced the literature up to 1950 but Talcott Parsons brought an end to the era with his introduction of the concept of “societal community” ---a theoretical alliance of evolution, classification, modernity, organicism, and community was intended to reconcile the binary of community/society.  For Parsons, the recapitulation of the social order in the social subject is accomplished through the internalization of social limits.  This social subject is a creation of the community.  He experiences these internalized limitations as essential or natural, and if the process is successful, he behaves as a good citizen.  Normative behavior comes at a cost, and we are constantly called upon to admit to or proclaim to which community we belong, identity we elect and to submit to the ideological practices that maintain social equilibrium. 

Next: "The Societal Community" of Talcott Parsons
Previous posts in this series:
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Understanding Community
Part III: The Reception of Tonnies Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft [Community and Society]

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part III – The Reception of Tonnies Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft [Community and Society]


Ferdinand Tonnies
Louis Wirth asserted that “when we use the term ‘community’ we seek to isolate and to emphasize the physical, spatial, and symbolic aspects of human group life, whereas by the term ‘society’ we wish to bring into focus and to stress the psychic, deliberative, rational, normative, and congenial phases of group existence” (Wirth 1951:295). Wirth did not understand that the period when community and society could be theoretically separated had already come to an end. This oversight is easily understood if we remember that Wirth’s statement was the general view of sociologists of the time. The work of Giddings (1910, 1922, 1924), Cooley (1897, 1918), MacIver (1932), and many others laid the groundwork for the investigation of the relationship between community and society, but not all did so in response to Tonnies’ dichotomy. Odum argued that Tonnies division was not widely held and the attention that it was currently receiving was contributing to “the neglect of the scientific study of community” (1951:292). He lamented that “as late as 1947 the distinction between society and community could still be debated at a symposium called ‘The World Community.’’’ Despite this, Tonnies’ dichotomy of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft has figured in almost every postwar sociological discussion on the nature of society. Tonnies reception by American sociology began in earnest with the postwar publication of the English translation in 1957 framed by the commentaries of Sorokin, Loomis, and Loomis and McKinney. The distinction that the commentators make between the “two modes of mentality and behavior, and two different types of society” (Sorokin 1957:vii) becomes a fundamental discursive regularity in sociological theory. For Tonnies, the dichotomy of community and society was complex and rested on five others “dealing with one’s relation to one’s fellow beings’: 1) acquaintanceship and strangeness; 2) sympathy and apathy; 3) confidence and mistrust; 4) interdependence, “the condition of being bound to others.... a feeling or a realization of moral obligation, moral imperative, or prohibition, and a righteous aversion to the consequences of incorrect, illegal and unlawful, as well as of immoral and indecent conduct and action”; and 5) the “bond” of economic relations of exchange (1957:237).
Louis Wirth

In his Table of Concepts, Loomis used these binary types to reveal Tonnies’ grand classificatory structure even as he acknowledged that Tonnies work lacks a “perfectly logically ordered construction.... The original book, to use Stoltenberg’s apt characterization, resembles the beauty of an old castle” (Loomis 1957:263). This description discloses the relation of Loomis’ Table of Concepts to Tonnies’ text, as well as the assumptions that underlie both the table and the text. Though Loomis does not acknowledge it, his Table of Concepts, while only intended to provide a schematic representation of Tonnies concepts, merges with the original text.

The Table of Concepts is on page 269.

The Table of Concepts presents Tonnies work as a structure of intricately arranged binary concepts, with some pairs hierarchically related to others, but all are equally idealized abstractions. There emerges from the Table three taxonomic concepts --- “vegetative,” “animal,” and “mental”---that modify each other in a movement from the most primitive to a modernity wherein the development of each community is recapitulated in the development of the others. This movement through successive developmental stages is constitutive of a theory of social evolution. “In the same way as the individual natural will evolves into pure thinking and rational will, which tends to dissolve and subjugate its predecessors, the original collective forms of Gemeinschaft have developed into Gesellschaft and the rational will of the Gesellschaft. In the course of history, folk culture has given rise to the civilization of the state” (Tonnies 1957:III).

In further commentary, Loomis and McKinney view the structure of the dichotomies underlying Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft as providing a paradigm for a science of community that can distinguish “fundamentally different types of social organization” and provide a “standard by which the processes of change or intermediate structural forms can be comprehended from the perspective of the continuum” (Loomis and McKinney 1957:12). It is along this continuum that sociologists established the link between the classification of social groups and their evolution. “It was Tonnies' belief that it remained for the scientific man to devise the means of freeing the majority from the role of mere machines or puppets; but that the scientist must have different eyes than those of the social engineer who constructs or copies Utopian plans and attempts to fit people into them; he must learn that society is a living, organic thing, unfolding naturally from within like a growing embryo or plant bud” (Loomis 1957). This is the preformist concept of evolution that was radically transformed by Darwin’s descent with modification but survived in both neo-Hegelianism and sociological organicism.

Franklin Giddings
The Loomis and McKinney commentary places Tonnies in a tradition of their own construction that begins with Confucius and Plato, and ends with Durkheim. In this scheme, Tonnies accomplishment was in making the differences between community and society into a sociological problem around which the discipline could orientated itself. The Table of Concepts served as both an outline of Tonnies work and an attempt to establish the outer limits of the sociological discourse of community. After the translation of Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, the concepts of definition, morphological analysis, and classification of types came to dominate the sociological study of community. Tonnies became a key referent, but previous to the 1950s the work in American sociology presents a different genealogy. Giddings discussion of classification in relation to social evolution or “social telesis” a reminder to us that not everyone took the view that Gemeinschaft replaces Gesellschaft. Many American sociologists followed Giddings in understanding community as not previous to, but rather as constitutive of society, the boundaries of civilization, and the goal of social progress.

There were other theoretical perspectives on community that deserve at least a short digression. In particular, Marx and Simmel offered different approaches despite being misread on occasion so as to appear to endorse Tonnies' ideal dichotomies. For example, Marx used the words gemeinwesen and gemeinschaft almost interchangeably and usually both are translated as “community.” Marx’s gemeinwesen is literally “common character” and is used in the context of his discussion of the social relations of capital and its “the community of money” which expresses the social and historical aspects of this “common character.” In contrast, Tonnies gemeinschaft (“common stock”) implies both share-holding in an institution as well as a line of descent of a stock or “volk.”

The analysis of community in the Grundrisse described the changes in the social relations between humans. In the Grundrisse, the earth itself is the first medium of community, for it is the essence of humanness to cooperate in the social labor necessary to extract the necessities of social life. With the separation of city and country, the earth ceased to be the medium of community, at least in the cities where money rather than the authority of the chief became the representation of Gemeinwesen: “Money thereby directly and simultaneously becomes the real community [Gemeinwesen], since it is the general substance of survival for all, and at the same time, in money the community [Gemeinwesen] is at the same time a mere abstraction, a mere external, accidental thing for the individual, and at the same time merely a means for his satisfaction as an isolated individual” (Marx 1993:226).

Marx did not romanticize past social formations or suggest the restoration of a previous real or imagined community. As for the present --- our present --- there is only “the community of money” where at At the level of the everyday we do not know that we are producing and reproducing the multiple determinations of this “community of money.” In this light, the much discussed loss of community in America was not the passing of some idyllic community, but only a different formation of the gemeinwesen of money. And yet the “loss of community” was and still is denounced as the loss of something supposedly quite ancient. For Marx, community was not something lost, but something produced. And perhaps most importantly, Marx disassociated community from consanguinity and place.1 “The metropolitan type arises from the dominance of money as the form of modernity.... For Simmel modern social life is synonymous with the moment when exchange relations become the dominant social fact of metropolitan life” (Aronowitz c.1992).

Edmund Des. Brunner noted that even in the most idyllic of societies the idea of community offers no “break on self-interest.” Instead, every utopia contains a system of social relations wherein “each social rank has its customs, determined functions, rights and duties may in effect be the skillful manipulations of those in the top social ranks to maintain their existing status and privileges.” Moreover, Brunner recognized that “the earliest rural sociologists” often used terms “descriptive of community which if employed today would be said to show [Tonnies’] influence” when in fact they wrote “without benefit of Tonnies.” American sociologists had developed the “heritage of our own science... in terms of our national locale.” Tonnies would no doubt recognize similarities, but they result from convergence rather than influence (Brunner, 1942:76). Rudolf Heberle, whose essay on Tonnies was the target of Brunner’s critique, responded that while there might have been similarities between the American rural sociologists and Tonnies, the Americans never systematized their study of community and so remained empirical without becoming scientific. On the other hand, Heberle argued that Tonnies gave the discipline a system of types that could be used to classify communities. The meaning of community would be found “in studying communities and “typing” them within some larger theoretical frame of reference” (Hollingshead, 1948:144).

Next: Hollingshead and Hillery

Part I: Introduction
Part II: Understanding Community

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975: Part II - Understanding Community

The Study of Community in American Sociology, c.1900 - c.1975

"The Crowd"


A version of this series of blog posts was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, August 2003.


The meaning of community has been asked in many ways and the manner of raising the question tell us a great deal about the social conflicts expressed by the proliferation of authoritative answers. The traditional questions concerning community were always questions of definition and classification, nomenclature and description, and over time these proved insufficient to furthering the sociological study of community. It is not that our contemporary questions are better and the traditional ones are simply obsolete. Our understanding of community results from the continuities and discontinuities in the sociological investigation of community.

For example, a break occurred c.1975 that marked the end of a period in which the sociological investigation into community centered on the requirements of definition and classification, the mapping of real or imagined territories, and the tracing of a speculative evolutionary development. In our own period the question of community centers on identity, new social movements, enclosures of community, and the degeneration accompanying a lack of community. These breaks were not simply due to the internal dynamics of discourse, but to the social dislocations and expressions of the forces of modernity.

Early in the study of community, we find an emphasis on problems of definition, classification, territoriality, and development. The volume of references and studies in the field testifies to the regularity with which sociologists felt compelled to comment upon the meaning and definition of community. The study of community became a site where the assumptions and scientific ideologies which guide our desire to rationally change our social relations meet the difficulties of governing the very populations that often appear to stand between us and the enlightened society. The accumulation of knowledge about community is constitutive of the social relations it describes. Community provides investigators with an ephemeral baseline from which to measure social change, validate sociological assumptions and theories, and create objects of social policies we proposed, implemented, evaluated, and sometimes terminated. It is in this sense that ‘community’ is a point of articulation between sociological theory and social policy.

Next: The Reception of Tonnies in American Sociology: Is there a debt?

Previous: Introduction