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The Sociology of Communities

An Introduction

ISBN 0-9737437-0-0

by Phil Bartle, PhD

This new text book is not available on line.  Apologies.  For copyright and technical reasons, only hard copies will be available, through the Camosun College Bookstore.  Your bookstore or library can order for you.  The introduction and table of contents are included here so as to describe the book. See: Web References for the book.

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Tel: 1 250 370 3000

© Copyright 2004 Phil Bartle


The study of sociology gives us various alternative perspectives on society and culture, life around us and through the world and, ultimately, about ourselves. This book is an introductory sociology book with a focus on the social nature of communities.

This book can be used as an accessory along with a core introductory text, for a course such as Family and Community, Rural Sociology, Urban Sociology or Introductory Sociology.  While it is a survey of selected topics, it does not intend to include all topics usually found in an introductory survey.

Furthermore, it is a sociological complement to the training material in Community Empowerment, which is practical training for community workers.

The writing style is personal and informal, aimed at gently introducing new students to the joys and wonders of the discipline.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Society? Not the People; It is their Actions and Thoughts. Community as Institution; Community and society; Structure and Process. Ethnocentrism. The Nature of Society. The Sociological Perspective. Your study of Sociology.
  2. Re Viewing Culture: Symbols Instead of Genes. Culture and Learning. Ideal vs. Real Culture. Culture Conflict. Cultural Hegemony. Transcendence of Culture, Society, Community, Family. Preserving Culture
  3. The Eye of the Beholder: So how do you see it? Origins of the Major Approaches: Marx, Durkheim, Weber. The Classical Perspectives: Conflict; Functional; Symbolic Interactionism.
  4. Becoming Human:  Reproducing Culture. How do Societies and Social Institutions Reproduce Themselves? "Becoming Human" from the point of view of a society. Sapir-Whorf.
  5. Six Dimensions: Dimensions. Blind Men and an Elephant. Six Sides of the Same thing: Dimensions of Culture = Dimensions of Community. Political.
  6. Community Characteristics: Warm and Fuzzy: Community Spirit. Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. The contribution of Tönnies. Community Spirit can be Mean Spirited. The Nature of Community & Family. Essentialising. Constructed Communities
  7. Organisation and Strength: Organisation and Strength. Rationalisation. Formal Organisations and Bureaucracy. Does Making a Community Stronger Remove its Essential Characteristics?
  8. Not Equal: The Fingers are Five Different Sizes. Social Extrapolations of Biological Differences (race, sex, age). Classical Approaches: Production, Power, Prestige. Inequality.
  9. Family, Community Society: Living life and Raising Children. Reproducing Culture. How do Societies and Social Institutions Reproduce Themselves? "Becoming Human" from the point of view of a society. Sapir-Whorf. The Family. It Takes a Village. Family Work. The Incest Taboo. Homosexuality. Just a Place to Sleep; a Home is not a House. Elders. Social Promotion. The Dark Side.  Family in Community in Society: Two Spectra.
  10. Religion: Beliefs and Instututions. Sacred, Profane, Secular.  Durkheim's Elementary Forms. Truth and History.
  11. Deviates and Control: Keeping us Walking the Line. Norms. Control: Who has it and How is it Manifested? The Social Role of Gossip. Defining and Identifying Deviates. Law and its Enforcement. Restorative Justice.
  12. More People; More Strangers: Urbanisation. Urbanism. Population Density. Social Change. Community Adaptation and Survival. Mosaic.
  13. Applying Sociology to Social Problems: Does it have any use? Practical Applications. Using Communities to Intervene in Social Problems.
  14. Strengthening Communities and Fighting Poverty: Social Engineering. Poverty as a Social Problem. Empowering People by Empowering Community.
  15. Search and Research: Finding Out. What is ? not what should be. Epistemology. Problems of Prediction and Cause. Various Methods of Obtaining Information. Sampling. Ordering the Information.
  16. Community Research:  Measuring Capacity. Community Ethnography.
End: So Where Do We Go From Here?
  1. Further Studies
  2. Careers on Community Sociology
  3. Glossary and Subject Index
  4. People Index
  5. Bibliographic References
  6. Internet References
(May I introduce?)
"Student, meet Sociology."
"Sociology, meet Student."
"How do you do."
"How do you do."
"Well met."

How it begins:

Up to the end of secondary school, I lived in a rural community, on a fruit farm, and went by a yellow school bus, noisy and smelling of orange peels, 10 k. to a school in a nearby village.  The district was characterised by strong protestant Christian values, especially supporting the idea that everything depends upon the individual.  Voting was strongly conservative, anti union and anti socialist.  Politics could not be discussed in school.  I did not know that I did not know what society was.

When I took my first sociology class at university, in the big city, I spent about two months wondering what my sociology professor was talking about.  It was incomprehensible, and I could not understand how he   jumped from topic to topic.  Why?  Because (and I did not know it at the time) I had a single view of society, what could be called “atomistic” − the individual is all.

About two months into the course, “the penny dropped . . . .

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