The character of the community and the role of the individual in it depend much on its territorial size, size of the population, nature of the local government and the economic pursuits of the people.
Identification with the Community:
One aspect of every community is its territorial base. People tend to develop attachment or sentimental identification with the area in which they live permanently. This gives rise to what is often called ‘we-feeling’. This becomes evident, as MacIver says, when people say ‘we’ and ‘ours’. The we-sentiment represents the common interests of the group.
It is because of this strong sense of identification that people react sharply whenever their village, or town, or city, or nation, the community to which they belong, is criticised, or threatened by others. For an individual the community is “home of his home and flesh of his flesh”.
Further, every individual is conscious of the fact that he has to play his role, his own function to fulfill in his community. The role may be any role, a farmer, a shop-keeper, a teacher, a servant, a carpenter, a scavenger, and so on.
This involves the sub-ordination of an individual to the group. This kind of attachment towards the group (community) on the one hand, and the realisation of the role that one has to play, the individual may develop through socialisation and “habituation in the daily discipline of life”.
Every member of the community feels that he is dependent upon the community. This involves both physical dependence and psychological dependence. An individual is physically dependent on the community because many of his “physical needs are satisfied with the community. He is psychologically dependent upon the community because it saves him from the fear of solitude and the boredom of isolation.
R.S. Lynd and H.M. Lynd in their “Middletown: A Study in American Culture” point out that we can find some common activities being performed by the people of a community despite infinite variations in detail.
They write ‘Whether in an Arunta village in Central Australia or in our own seemingly intricate institutional life of corporations, dividends coming-out of parties, prayer meetings, freshmen and Congress, human behaviour appears to consist of variations upon a few major lines of activity: getting the material necessities for food, clothing, shelter, mating, initiating the young into the group habits of thought and behaviour; and so on’.
Lynd and Lynd have mentioned six major kinds of human activities on which the impact of community (particularly the city) is comparatively great. They are: (1) Getting a living, (2) Making a home, (3) Training the young, (4) Using the leisure in various forms of play, art and so on, (5) Engaging the religious practices, and (6) Engaging in community activities’.
They have also pointed out that the character of these activities may go on changing in keeping with the changes that take place in the material as well as the non- material culture of the community.
Benefits of Community Life:
The individual not only lives in a community but also reaps the benefits of community life. The individual makes achievements and registers progress due to the support given by the community.
1. The community life provides the individual the needed protection and security. There is strength in unity. The individual is better equipped to face dangers and overcome problems with the due assistance of the other members of the community than alone.
2. The community life provides for co-operation of the members. The individual in co-operation with others can work in the more efficient manner in the social, economic, cultural and other fields. The community plays a very important role especially in the economic field. Hence the community development projects are given high priority in India.
3. The community life depends on some kind of communication system among the members. Communication is the medium of interaction. It may take place through the senses, emotions, sentiments and ideas. Language in its spoken and written form has made communication much easier.
Language has become the collective memory of mankind. It has contributed to the advancement of civilisation and to the conservation of cultural values. Thus, community life which depends on language has contributed to its development.
4. The community life provides the individual opportunities for the manifestation of his talents and abilities. It helps him to develop nobler feelings of service-mindedness, selflessness, self-sacrifice, kindness, compassion, patience, perseverance, sublimity, benevolence towards each other and so on.
The community has been reminding the individual of his social responsibilities and obligations and to become more human and less brutal in his approach. It has been helping him to move towards ever greater perfection.
The community life has its own conflicts and contradictions for the individual. It is not always smooth and free from tensions and clashes. Due to the greediness, selfishness, unsocial and anti- sooialthabits and tendencies of man, conflicts and clashes, tensions and tussles do take place in community. The community can manage with these only if it has an efficient system of social control.
Historically, the community has been an expression that emphasised the unity of the common life of a people or of mankind”. Community has been “generating a sense of belonging together” all these days.
But in the wake of modern industrialisation, increasing mechanisation of living, phenomenal growth of urbanisation, widespread division of labour and specialisation, and vast socio-economic and political changes, the task of retaining the ‘sense of belonging together’ has become, as Maclver says, ‘not less necessary but more difficult’.
As Louis Wirth observes, “In the transition from a type of social organisation based on kinship, status and a crude division of labour, to a type of social organisation characterised by rapid technological developments, mobility, the rise of special interest groups and formal social control, the community has acquired new meaning and has revealed new problems” One of the main problems mercilessly imposed by the modern complex urban community is the problem of the mental disorder. Cases of mental disorder are higher in cities.
Even living in the midst of plenty people may often feel that they are alone. The sense of identification with the community may become weak. The loss of identification may lead to the “loss fl of community” which in turn may result in ‘alienation’. Alienation may even cause suicide. This made Oswald Spengler to lament that “the wheel of destiny rolls or to its end, the birth of the city entails its death.”