The Little Community; Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole

The Little Community; Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole

The Little Community; Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole

The Little Community; Viewpoints for the Study of a Human Whole

Excerpt

Humanity presents itself to the view of common sense in just a few kinds of integral entities. A person is one such kind of entity, a separate and unique human individual. Another is a people, ein Volk: the Navaho, the Lapp, the Latin-Americans. Yet another, characteristic of our times but not of all, is the national state. A fourth, more difficult to delimit and to characterize even than these others, is a civilization. Person, people, nation, and civilization are forms of humanity, each kind of which constitutes a great and easily recognizable class, and each separate one of which is describable in its own characteristics as a whole.

The small community is another of these prevailing and conspicuous forms in which humanity obviously comes to our notice. In all parts of the world, in all of human history, there are and have been little communities. We think now of the Neolithic settlement of fishers and farmers built on piles in a Swiss lake, of the nomadic band of hunters in the Bolivian rain-forest, of the medieval English or Swedish village, of the camp or village of Sudanese cattle people on the Upper Nile, of the Persian pastoral tribesmen moving camp and cattle every year across the mountains, of the hamlet or village or small town in present-day Dalecarlia, Provence, or Missouri.

This book is about some of the several ways in which the organized life of man can be viewed and understood. The subject is the forms of thought for understanding humanity; it is a book about "method," if one means by that word not merely the techniques of observation and analysis, but also the conceptions which allow us to characterize and compare. The point of departure is a certain strain or struggle, so to speak, between the claims of the human whole -- person or village or civilization -- to communicate . . .

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