The word “community” has its origin in the Latin term communitas. The concept refers to the common characteristic, which is why it allows defining different kinds of groups: of the individuals that are part of a town, region or nation; of nations that are linked by political and economic agreements (such as the European Community or Mercosur); or of people linked by common interests (as in the Catholic community).
In Spain, the expression “Autonomous Community” is used to identify a territorial strip that, within the constitutional bases of the Spanish State, has autonomy at the legislative level and executive powers. It also has the power to have its own administration through local representatives.
It can be said that a community is a group of human beings who share elements in common, such as language, customs, geographical location, vision of the world or values, for example. Within a community, a common identity is often created by differentiating from other groups or communities.
Another definition of the concept is the one conceived by Biology. It refers to a set of different species that share the same habitat and where all of them are essential for the balance of the ecosystem.
From the point of view of sociology, certain places like prisons or barracks also constitute communities that can be described and analyzed. On the other hand, in the world of work, a company can also present itself as a community, since those who are part of it share common goals and stand behind a corporate philosophy.
Thanks to the development of new technologies and the Internet, what is known as virtual communities have been formed. Social networks, forums, instant messaging systems and blogs are sites that allow the creation of these types of communities.
According to DigoPaul, the community psychology, meanwhile, understands that a community involves a certain amount of elements to be understood as such, there is a group where the parties feel identified and have a goal in common.
According to Maritza Montero, a community is a group of individuals who are constantly in transformation and development and who have a relationship of belonging to each other, with a social identity and a community consciousness that lead them to care about the rest of those who are part of that group. These relationships strengthen unity and social interaction. Within the group, problems and interests are shared and the spirit of cohesion and solidarity is what will allow us to face them and improve as a group.
Other specialists within this area who have defined the term are Sarason and McMillan and Chavis. Sarasson believes that the sense of community implies a closeness and empathy with the other, the feeling of being part of a whole; While McMillan and Chavis affirm this but add that this feeling of belonging can develop only if there is a need or a shared faith and that it is reflected in the effort that all the members present to continue united to the group.
Now let’s move on to the four elements necessary for a community to exist: membership (refers to the history, symbols and identity of the community and rights and duties, among other elements), influence (has to do with the capacity for induction to carry out a certain joint action), integration (it has to do with the satisfaction of all the needs of the group, includes popularity, respect and status, among others) and commitment (where the knowledge of the members of the group and the goals of all united, allows to create firm emotional ties and provide support, affection and security among all).
In the biological definition of the term, there is a problem that makes the analysis somewhat complex, and that is that populations are usually not entirely stable, since some species (many birds, for example) are nomadic and are in constant movement. This has led scientists to wonder if there really was a concept of community or if each species only looked after its group. This issue is still under discussion, but explaining some issues will help us take sides.
There are two definitions of the term, one holistic and the other individualistic. The first affirms that a community is like a huge organism and works in a homogeneous way; In this definition, all organisms are essential for the development of the group to be as expected, and he adds that any population cannot be studied or understood individually, but rather according to its place within the community.
The individualist conception says that communities are formed randomly and do not even have a particular structure, for this reason it cannot be taken as a whole. The characteristics of each community are a consequence of the sum of actions carried out by each population, where the latter act with total independence with respect to the rest of the populations that live in their ecosystem.