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the problem of ‘community’

From Spam, by Finn Brunton, pg 6-7:

Two qualities unite these disparate uses of “community.” First, deep uncertainties about properties and edges: is community about location and face-to-face proximity, or does it consist of affective bonds that can be established by a text message as they are by an embrace? Does it encompass huge swathes of human experience, or is it at best a way to outline a formal arrangement of shared interests? Where is the lower bound—that is, when does a group of atomized individuals, a scattered and manifold accumulation of people and groups, transform into a community? Where is the upper bound—when does a sufficiently large or sufficiently self-reflective community become a “society,” a “public,” a citizenry, or another communal apotheosis? (And when does a community become a crowd, a mob?) The second quality that binds all these diverse applications of “community” lies in how very nearly impossible it is to use the word negatively, with its many connotations of affection, solidarity, interdependence, mutual aid, consensus, and so on. As Lori Kendall succinctly says, it “carries significant emotional baggage.” Raymond Williams summarizes the baggage as its “warmly persuasive” tone—“ it seems never to be used unfavourably.”

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