Understanding community: politics, policy and practice

Somerville, Peter (2011) Understanding community: politics, policy and practice. Understanding welfare: social issues, policy and practice . Policy Press, Bristol. ISBN 9781847423924

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Item Type:Book or Monograph
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The original idea for this book came to me from a series of lectures that I deliver to final year undergraduate students. The purpose of these lectures was (and is) to use ideas about community to understand how social policy is formulated and implemented across a wide spectrum of issues. Much, if not most, social policy literature tends to assume that social reality consists of what appear to be almost two dimensions: on the one hand, structures, processes, institutions, systems, etc, and on the other hand, perspectives, ideologies, values, etc. In fact, however, these two dimensions are inextricably intertwined, and a focus on community as both idea and practice serves to reveal this.

Having decided, then, to focus on community and signed a contract with the publishers, I had already written a few chapters before I stumbled upon what appeared to have the potential to be the unifying theme that I was looking for – one that embodied both the ideal and potential realisation of community as meaningful interconnectedness. This was the idea of a beloved community, derived from Martin Luther King. According to this idea, the ideal of community can only be achieved through the actual flourishing of all of its individual members. I then used this deceptively simple idea to evaluate a range of policies and practices and indeed a variety of kinds of community. I leave the reader to judge how successful (or not) I have been in making this evaluation.

The reader should also be forewarned that, in the concluding chapter, I attempt to explain the spiritual meaning of community (as conveyed in the expression ‘community spirit’) as an imagined wellspring of social action. Following what is perhaps now the mainstream literature on spirituality, I make an important distinction between desire and attachment: desire is an attribute of the ego (or soul), while attachment is to do with connections that exist even in the absence of desire. To try and make more sense of this, I have used concepts from Buddhism, since the Buddha’s teachings reflect my own concerns with achieving meaningful interconnectedness through the cessation of desire. The flourishing of humanity as a whole occurs precisely through this free (that is, free from desire) communion among all human beings. And lest this seem impossibly utopian, I also argue that it is no more utopian than what is currently expected by governments from their citizens.

Keywords:community, policy, development, politics
Subjects:L Social studies > L222 Democracy
L Social studies > L174 Collectivism
L Social studies > L210 Political Theories
L Social studies > L540 Community Work
L Social studies > L400 Social Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:3072
Deposited On:28 Jul 2010 14:13

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