The Last Post

May 31, 2010
The Last Post

The playing of the Last Post at sunset

This is the last post for this blog. In February I planned to end it on the last day of May and I have kept my promise to myself.

Writing this Signs of Communities blog has been a personal learning experience.  Learning to use WordPress as a CMS Рa Content Management System. So much easier, quicker and cheaper than full web design.

I’ve also learned about communities in Kirklees, England. Learned much more than I had the time to post about on the blog. And learned about my honourable family history with its powerful Asian connections – learned very much more than I could post about.

Thank you for your interest in visiting Signs of Communities and reading my posts.

In the words of a great TV star – “Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you.”

Dave Allen

Dave Allen 1936-2005


A source revisited – Ferdinand Tonnies

April 10, 2010

Copmmunity and SocietyI’ve just revisited Ferdinand Tonnies‘ book Community and Society. You could have come across it in a course for community leaders or in any sociology course from introductory to advanced level. It’s an indispensable source. First written in 1887, it’s the ‘founding work’ in the sociology of community.

Everyone who has taken courses about community is familiar with the distinction Tonnies draws between local co-operative communitiesGemeinschaft and global competitive market societiesGesellschaft.

Read the original book carefully and it’s clear that he did not believe in a simple community = good and society = bad equation.

That crude distinction comes down to us from the ancient world:¬† Plato’s ideal communities in the Republic and the Laws versus the Sophists; Confucius’ ideal community in the Analects versus the Chinese Legalists and so on. This sharp opposition was a recurring theme in the Romantics and in many later counter-cultures.

What Tonnies rejects is clear, but what he agrees to is rather confused. It appears it’s all a matter of Will. Community comes from Natural Will and Society from Rational Will. He also draws a sharp distinction between his theory and the real world social order. So his theory cannot lead to a social science that can predict things. When first published Tonnies’ book went largely unnoticed. When republished in 1912 its sales took off when it was taken up by romantics who mistook its argument as being for an earlier age of community, of Gemeinschaft.

With hindsight it could be that Tonnies had been looking at a solution all along – but not drawing the correct conclusion. A signs of communities conclusion. He came from a rural German background to Oxford University when Britain had a vast global empire. The University was a society dominated by communities with global connections, dominated by financier, merchant and rentier money signs.

Batle of Omdurman

The colonial Battle of Omdurman 1898

What struck me as odd in Tonnies’ book is that there’s no real consideration of money in his definition of society or of community. Yet the British Empire he saw from its centre when he was at Oxford was an empire of money. It dominated the world through its control of the gold supply backed up by its navy. In Tonnies’ world and in our world – money is the supreme social sign. For the British Empire this was especially true. The book’s first publication coincided with the start of a long depression which resulted in the relative decline in manufacturing from which the island of Britain would never recover. A depression in which the power of finance was the key factor

A warm, mutually supportive financier community directed the colonial genocides, famines and slavery. It thrived on depression and industrial decline at home. A community, a Gemeinschaft, with shared life experiences from the cradle to the grave. Their harmed populations were re-made into societies, into Gesellschafts.

So the relation between community and society is one of coexistence in time. There was no clear-cut golden age of community declining later into a dark age of society as the romantics and counter-culture people believe.

Perhaps if Tonnies had thought of community and society as different systems of signs he could have led the social sciences onto a rewarding new route. A road not taken – over a century ago.

The British Empire

The British Empire at its greatest extent

Lots of laughs (LOL!) ‘communities’

April 8, 2010

Private Eye logoThe current issue of Private Eye magazine¬† gives three comic examples of how some people can read ‘community’ into anything:

“Eurocontrol, the FAA and the Russian State Research Institute of Aviation Systems have agreed on the need for three conferences which will bring together the wake vortex community at a global level” – Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers.

“Challenges facing the undersea defence community” – press release for Undersea Defence Technology conference, Hamburg.

The eagle falconry community is small, self-policing and extremely responsible” – Daily Telegraph.

Social media training for communities

February 24, 2010
A consultation session at the social media surgery

An earnest consultation at the Huddersfield Social Media Surgery

If you want to get your community group online there is free social media training for you at the Media Centre, Northumberland Street, Huddersfield. Learn about blogging, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other free websites on Monday 24th May at 4.30-7pm. Just drop in for advice, there is no need to book.

The fine people who run it are all volunteers called Huddersfield Social Media and you can visit their interesting WordPress blog filled with useful links at:

Welcome to Signs of Communities!

February 6, 2010

Signs of Communities is a web log of the work of the author and other people who work on behalf of the communities in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, England. Work to celebrate and increase the cohesion of our rich variety of communities.

This blog also makes occasional virtual trips to South-east Asia – for reasons of personal community heritage which are outlined in About Me.