[Air-l] Re: Company vs. Community

Phillip Thurtle thurtle at u.washington.edu
Tue Dec 18 14:24:32 PST 2001

David Silver wrote:

>What I'd like to see is some critical explorations
> of this relationship.  Whether it exists or not is hardly under question;
> what it means and what the repercussions are -- now there's the rub.

I know of some theoretical work that critically "explores" some of these

I've found Arjun Appaderai's work useful on this issue.  See for instance
his "Introduction" to __Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of
Globalization_.  Much of this line of thought is built on Mary Douglas and
Baron Isherwood's seminal study _The World of Goods_ where the try to move
away from notions of consumption as emulation (in the Thorstein Veblen
sense of "conspicuous consumption") to consumption as a form of
information management.  This then allows one to see how contemporary
communities use the products of capital to form communities through
information exchange.

Regarding the functionalism of the definition of "community" by the
internal members of the community:  Although frustratingly abstract, I
find Niklas Luhmann's work on social systems the most elegant probe of
this topic.  For Luhmann, social systems reproduce themselves by using
internal codes to distinguish the "inside" of the social system from the
"outside".  Thus the identity formation of a community is very much
attached to how the community sees itself in an environment and thus
implicated in the belief systems held by the community.  _Social Systems_
is the magnum opus here, but his _Ecological Communications_ provides a
much more manageable introduction to his thought.  Also, there is finally
a good secondary source on Luhmann in English, William Rasch's _Niklas
Luhmann's Modernity: The Paradoxes of Differentiation_.

Phillip Thurtle

Department of Communication
Program in the Comparative History of Ideas

More information about the Air-L mailing list