The predominant theorists of community in American sociology define community as either geographically confined local solidarities or as networks or relatively close primary ties. These definitions fail to recognize the realities of modern life, let alone life in the context of a global economy. Community according to the earliest community sociologists was a way of organizing society wherein all the social interactions necessary to the reproduction of daily life were embedded in moral relationships, which were historically primary ties located within local solidary communities. With modernity, most of these social interactions have been removed from those moral relationships, and now occur on in a global marketplace where individuals feel no moral responsibility for the consequences of their actions. In such a context, today's predominant theories are no longer viable. In order for community sociology to remain relevant, we need an approach to community which reincorporates all of interactions necessary to daily life and that recognizes the social costs of modernity. The three articles in this dissertation together offer critiques of today's predominant theoretical approaches—the Community Saved and Community Liberated arguments, as Barry Wellman has named them—and provide an alternative that is suited to social life embedded in a global marketplace. The alternative is based on an honest reading of the so-called Community Lost argument—honest in that it is not biased by the straw men built up by the Community Saved and Community Liberated proponents—and extends that argument to include the work of several late-modern theorists (particularly, Zygmunt Bauman and Ulrich Beck). This revived version of the Community Lost argument allows us to address directly all the social interactions necessary to community and to understand the relevance of local solidarities and networks of primary ties as centers of moral proximity.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





community, liquid modernity, risk society, community attachment, sense of community, field theory, social ties, friendship, multilevel, development, Iowa, Middletown, Zygmunt Bauman, Kenneth Wilkinson



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Sociology Commons