M. Community

In this Chapter:

People like to live, work, and socialize together in various ways, so we build communities of many kinds.

Study Questions

  1. Does true community require face-to-face interaction?
  2. The United States is known for the “rugged individualism” of its citizens. But Americans are also avid church-goers and members of a variety of service organizations and social clubs. What is the true nature of the people who live in the United States?
  3. What promising new efforts are moving us towards greater and better community?

Overview Article M

6 pages total

“Barbara Ehrenreich on the Importance of Collective Joy,” an interview with Barbara Ehrenreich by Laura Barcella, AlterNet, April 7, 2007, 6 p.

In her new book, Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich links the current epidemic of depression with our lack of group bonding rituals and explores how festive gatherings can be vehicles for social change.

Reading Set M1: Principles and Frameworks

60 pages total

“The Community Page: Ecovillages, Intentional Community, Cohousing, Cooperatives, Healthy & Livable Communities, Group Process & Creating Community Anywhere,” PlanetFriendly.net, 25 p.

Resource guide with an overview of widely different kinds of communities.

“Community,” infed: the encyclopaedia of informal education, 17 p.

An overview of the ways community is defined; different kinds of community, characteristics of community, the significance of boundaries, and social networks and social norms; and why attention to social capital and communion may be important.

“The Cornucopia of the Commons,” by David Bollier, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2001, 11 p.

Community gardens, free software, self-help groups, and other examples of how the gift economy fosters community and social cohesion as well as economic innovation.

“Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” by Robert D. Putnam, adapted from an article in the Journal of Democracy, January 1995, 6 p.

The concept of “civil society” has played a central role in the recent global debate about the preconditions for democracy and democratization, yet more Ameicans are disengaging from civic activities.

“Building a Just and Caring World: Four Cornerstones,” by Riane Eisler, from Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism, edited by Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, 2005, 6 p.

The transformation from the dominator model to the partnership model can be built on four cornerstones: childhood relations, gender relations, economic relations, and beliefs, stories, and spirituality.

“Must I be part of a religious community… ?” ExploreFaith.org, 2 p.

The normal pattern of Christian life is life within community. Short, theoretical, Christian perspective.

Reading Set M2: Planned and Intentional Communities

42 pages total

“Intentional Communities — Historic Communal Utopias, Contemporary Intentional Communities, Family And Intentional Communities,” Marriage and Family Encyclopedia, 3 p.

An overview of various types of intentional communities and their characteristics plus some historical examples.

“Utopian Communities,” Encyclopedia of American History, Answers.com, 12 p.

A brief, critical history of utopian communities.

“The Eco-village Challenge,” by Robert Gilman, In Context, Summer 1991, 11 p.

The challenge of developing a community living in balanced harmony — with itself as well as nature — is tough, but attainable. From traditional to post-industrial communities.

“A Tale of Two Therapeutic Ecovillages,” by Jonathan Dawson, The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), 6 p.

Two examples of therapeutic ecovillages with a focus on service, from Iceland and Russia.

“Life Is Easier With Friends Next Door,” by Sven Eberlein, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2012, ? p.

Feeling a need for community? Cohousing can provide affordable space and neighbors to share it with.

“The Lost Art of Dropping By,” by Patrisia Gonzales, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2004, 3 p.

Conversation, visitin’ and neighborliness — that’s what makes community.

Reading Set M3: Community Based on Geography: Neighborhoods, Towns, and Cities

40 pages total

“Deadly Growth: Is Progress Killing Triangle’s Small Towns?” by Jesse James Deconto, The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), March 25, 2007, 5 p.

The effort to recreate the community of small towns. NC example.

“Detroit Renaissance,” by Shawn Rhea, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2003, 11 p.

When the big automobile companies left town, thousands of people moved away, businesses closed up, and neighborhoods were abandoned. But now a new Detroit is being born, founded in urban farms, local businesses, green spaces, youth engagement, the arts, greenhouses, fresh foods — a city with a place for everyone. the story of a grassroots effort to renew a post-industrial city. AC3T, Boggs Center, Detroit summer, Adamah, Grace Boggs, Cass Corridor Food Cooperative, Romanowski Park.

“Cleveland: Community Action Turns the Rust Belt Green,” by Ed D’Amato, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2006, 3 p.

Cleveland’s transformation toward greater sustainability is due to the actions of thousands of committed and caring people at the grassroots.

“Five Ways to a Great Place,” by Kathy Madden, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2005, 3 p.

How to create places in cities and neighborhoods where people young and old, rich and poor encounter one another, enjoy their surroundings, and experience being part of a community.

“Great Commons of the World,” by Kari McGinnis, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2001, 7 p.

Commons are places where people gather and community blossoms. What are the qualities that make a good commons?

“Going the Distance,” by Daniel Hockensmith, WKSU Radio, September 26, 2006 ?, 5 p.

Part 2 of WKSU’s series, “Here Goes the Neighborhood,” looks at some of the issues facing people who are going the distance to foster a sense of community in a rural area.

“A Community of Peers in a Big-Hearted Town,” Renewing the Countryside, 2005, 6 p.

A description of the renewal process in a small rural Oregon town.

Reading Set M4: Community Based on Shared Identity

45 pages total

“Identity Frames,” by Robert Gardner, excerpt from Beyond Intractability, editors Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder, June 2003, 4 p.

A look at the potential for conflict in claiming strong community identity.

“Preaching Revolution: A new evangelical movement offers lessons for the left,” by Zack Exley, In These Times, March 14, 2007, 16 p.

Some churches have left progressives in the dust in terms of serving and engaging people directly. Now, a new evangelical movement offers tips for the left.

“Jews: A Religious Community, a People, or a Race?” by Mark Weber, The Journal of Historical Review, Volume 19, Number 2, March/April 2000, 3 p.

While many Americans assume that Jews are essentially a religious group, Jews themselves take for granted that their community is much more ethnic-national than it is religious.

“The ‘Muslim community’: a European invention,” by Saleh Bechir and Hazem Saghieh, openDemocracy, October 17, 2005, 5 p.

Europeans’ tendency to view immigrants as belonging to a single, homogeneous “Muslim community” reflects an essentialist, neo-colonial view of the “other,” which carries negative political consequences.

“As If We Were a Community,” by Joe Sartelle, Bad Subjects, Issue 1, September 1992, 17 p.

The odd experience of attending both the Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco and the “25 Year Mission Tour” Star Trek convention in San Mateo: the role of the marketplace and the distinction between identity and community.

Reading Set M5: Global Community

34 pages total

“Sports Psychology: It Isn’t Just a Game: Clues to Avid Rooting,” by James C. Mckinley Jr., New York Times, August 11, 2000, 9 p.

Intense interest in a sports team can buffer people from depression and foster feelings of self-worth and belonging.

“Cult Brands,” by Diane Brady, Business Week, August 2, 2004, 9 p.

The BusinessWeek/Interbrand annual ranking of the world’s most valuable brands shows the power of passionate consumers.

“How Some Folks Have Tried to Describe Community,” by Nancy White, Full Circle Associates, 1999, Updated April 2005, 8 p.

A consideration of the characteristics of on-line communities.

“Report from the World Social Forum,” by Fran Korten, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2004, 4 p.

In mid-January 2004, more than 80,000 global activists, scholars, Nobel laureates, poets, musicians, indigenous peoples, and community organizers gathered to declare once again, “Another world is possible!”

“The World Social Forum: From Defense to Offense,” by Immanuel Wallerstein, Agence Global, January 31, 2007, 4 p.

The World Social Forum is presenting a real alternative, and gradually creating a web of networks whose political clout will emerge in the next five to ten years.

Additional Resources


“Why Do We Gather? Religious Community and the Transforming Journey,” by Sister Rose Hoover, Cenacle Journal, January 22nd, 2007, 7 p.

A Christian perspective on the centrality of community in a spiritual journey.

“What’s My Name, Fool?” by Dave Zirin, The Nation, August 2, 2005, 6 p.

Sports as a corrupt business.

“Buying Dreams: Visions for a Better Future,” by Michael Albert, Participatory Economics Project, 15 p.

Leftist visions have been too limited. For the future, we need a vision that includes participatory democracy, intercommunalism, participatory economics, and feminism.

“Riane Eisler, Creating Partnership Futures: My Life, Work and Vision of the Future,” by Riane Eisler, The Center for Partnership Studies, 7 p.

Suggests an intensifying struggle to complete the shift from a dominator to a partnership form of social and ideological organization. theoretical.

“Paradigm Shift: The Decline and Fall of the Dominator Culture: An Interview with Riane Eisler,” by Stephen Marshall, the Guerrilla News Network, August 2002, 28 p.

How to bring about the paradigm shift from a dominator to a partnership culture: systems theory analysis seeing the dominator and the partnership models as two underlying possibilities that transcend time and place, race, East and West, industrial and post-industrial eras, religious and secular, capitalist and communist. Long, dense, systems theory

“The Church of Branding,” blog entry by Mark Busse, Industrial Brand Creative, February 24, 2007, 28 p.

Both church and brand offer a way to belong. Long.


Next Reading Set Collection: N. Communicating Information and Values