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Rod Munday | Friday May 01, 2009

Categories: Other Topics, Social Networking, Community

A second overlapping tradition that has informed the academic research on social networking has been sociological studies of community. The word community has been in existence since the fourteenth century It comes from the old French word comuneté, which in turn was derived from the Latin communitatem, which can be literally translated as ‘common’ (in the sense of shared relations or feelings). From the seventeenth century, the word took on something of its modern meaning, where community is distinguished from society in terms of its greater intimacy (Williams 1976 65). As Raymond Williams points out, the word community distinguishes between:

The more direct, more total and therefore more significant relationships of community and the more formal, more abstract and more instrumental relationships of state ” (ibid., 66).

Max Weber

Community has been and is an important idea in sociology because changes in the forms of community are used to map changes in the social structure of societies. For example, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the industrial revolution saw a mass migration of peoples as they moved away from villages (sites of traditional community) to live in large cities (sites of modern community) where life seemed much more temporary, anonymous and alienating. The famous sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920) claimed that the erosion of traditional community was not an unintended consequence of industrialisation, but rather was essential to its success:

The traditionalistic attitude of a dependence on family and personal loyalties had to be at least partly overcome in the Western World before the further development to the specifically modern type of rational capitalistic economy could take place (Weber 1922, 71 quoted in Beniger 1986, 127).

Max Weber’s analysis of community is based on the work of Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936) Tönnies was the first sociologist to make a meaningful distinction between...

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