The Culture of “Community”: A Systems Theory Perspective

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
David CONNELL, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada
The disparity between the increasing use and rising importance of community and an apparent inability to explain this cultural phenomenon presents a dilemma regarding the meaning of community. This disparity appears in the form of closure. Community theorists presume that community is too elusive to define and too complex to understand. Consequently, ambiguity is accepted as a normal condition of inquiry. When we ask about the meaning of community, this closure (i.e., community is ambiguous because it is ambiguous) becomes problematic: community theorists cannot see beyond the limitations of their approaches. Thus, whereas one might examine the “culture” of a community, I ask, what underpins the cultural transmissions and transformations of “community.” To examine this question I take leave of the normal assumptions, methods, definitions, and approaches of community studies and adopt a systems-based inquiry by replacing a presupposition of an orderly existence with a presupposition of complexity. I work from the philosophical implications of complexity and reach forward to the possibility of community. The purpose of this presentation is to address the limitations of the normal science of community theory and, in so doing, propose a comprehensive foundation for a theory of community as a social system. The theoretical framework is based on Niklas Luhmann’s general theory of society.