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01 MAY 2015

The Nature of Social Worlds

"The notion of social worlds is used here to refer to a form of social organization which cannot be accurately delineated by spatial, territorial, formal, or membership boundaries. Rather, boundaries of social worlds must be determined by interaction and communication which transcend and cross over the more formal and traditional delineators of organization. The term social world is used here to develop a common referent for a number of related concepts which refer to similar phenomena, Thus, social world phenomena encompass that which other sociologists have referred to as: occupational contact networks, invisible colleges, behavior systems, activity systems, and subcultures. After tracing some of the sociological history of social world analysis, a series of concepts are developed which bring together and bind all of the previously mentioned concepts into a systematic whole. Major aspects of individual involvement, structural features of social worlds, levels of social world analysis, and some implications of a social world perspective are presented. In this way, a program for study and unification of related concepts is presented in preliminary form."

(David Unruh, 1980)

David Unruh (1980). "The Nature of Social Worlds" The Pacific Sociological Review, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Jul., 1980), pp. 271-296.

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TAGS

1980 • a social world perspective • accepting a common worldview • activity systems • assemblages of social actors • behaviour systemsbelief systems • boundaries of social worlds • cognitive orientation • collective commitmentcollective identity • collective representations • collectivity • common worldview • cultural perspective • cultural phenomenon • cultural traditionsDavid Unruh • diffuse worlds • ethnic communities • ethnic minorities • formal organisations • group membership • interaction and communication • invisible college • local worlds • located in relation to others • meaning systems • mediated interaction • networks of interrelated voluntary associations • occupational contact network • patterns of thought • perceptual framework • shared action • shared attitudes • shared common worldview • shared goals • shared intentions • shared meaningsshared practices • shared understandings • shared worldview • social construction of reality • social factssocial organisation • social unit • social world • social world analysis • social world phenomena • social worlds • spatial sites • subcultural communities • subculturethinking and acting as a group member • transcultural communities • united by a common worldview • universe of regularised mutual responsevoluntary participationweltanschauungworldview

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
29 DECEMBER 2003

Urban Theory: Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft

A key "analyst of the transformation from the pre–urban to the urban was Ferdinand Toennies. Toennies published an influential book, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft (Community and Society) in 1887. In this, he laid out the characteristics of two stages, the first was Gemeinschaft. Here, human relations are intimate, enduring and based upon a clear understanding of where each person stands in society. The worth of the individual is related to the person rather than what they have done, so status is ascribed and not achieved. The second stage, which increasingly characterised industrial society, was Gesellschaft. Here, the large scale and impersonal shapes human relations and the contractual ties that were apparently increasing. Status was achieved rather than ascribed, giving greater importance to individual actions and motivations, Toennies thus saw society as moving through a transition from one form of social organisation to another, and his work is an attempt to theorise about the changes that industrialisation A at the level of social relationships, and social groups.Of the two stages, Gemeinschaft is based on homogeneity, group orientation, informed and shaped by tradition, and guided by sentiment With each person feeling that they are part of the overall community (Table 2.1). Being a member of the community was more important than doing one's own thing. Thus individual desires were subordinate to those of the wider group. The collective nature of society meant that individuals were not specialised and so were 'Jacks and Jills of all trades'. Finally, primary relationships, that is face–to–face relationships between friends and close kin, were the most typical form.In contrast, in Gesellschaft, heterogeneity was the normal basis for society with a greater emphasis upon individualism. Individuals are guided by rationality and by actions which enhance their own self interest rather than the collective interests of the community or wider society. Tasks are specialised so, rather than 'Jacks and Jills of all trades', people become experts or specialists in particular tasks. A consequence of this is that they have to link up with others to get tasks completed. Relationships, rather than being based around a knowledge of the whole person, are more transitory and linked to the accomplishment of defined tasks. For each task, a particular combination of people are grouped together but once the task is finished the reason for that association is lost. Thus, relationships are more fluid than under the Gemeinschaft–based society.Table 2.1 illustrates the contrast between community and society that gradually became a major organising theme for this group of nineteenth–century social theorists. The terminology is a little different across the theorists. However, the differences are relatively minor as they all focus upon the idea of a contrasting typology based around notions of community and society.

Twentieth–century writing within this tradition developed more complex typologies of 'contrast' and built what became known as the rural–urban continuum. Most of the contrasts developed identified the 'rural' with the small–scale, integrated social group and set this against the 'urban' which was seen as larger in scale and more individualistic in orientation (see [Wirth, L. 1938. 'Urbanism as a Way of Life'. American Journal of Sociology 44, 1–24], [Redfield, R. 1960. The Little Community Peasant Society and Culture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press], [Pahl, R.E. 1975. Whose City? (2nd edn). Harmondsworth: Penguin])."

(David C. Thorns, 2002, p.24)

Thorns, David. C. (2002). "The Transformation of Cities: Urban Theory and Urban Cities": Palgrave Macmillan. 0333745973.


Gemeinschaft Gesellschaft
homogeneityheterogeneity
group orientedindividual oriented
tradition dominatesbusiness and commerce dominate
individual guided by sentimentindividual guided by rationality
each person part of the overall culturepreponderance of subcultures
each person jack–of–all tradesjob specialisation
relationships among people valuable in and of themselvesrelationships transitory, superficial
primary relationships predominatesecondary relationships predominate

Table 2.1

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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