Polysemic, Polyvalent and Phatic: A Rough Evolution of Community With Reference to Low Carbon Transitions

Gerald Taylor Aiken
2016 People Place and Policy Online  
This article addresses the varying interpretations, idealising and use of community, with specific reference to the way community is mobilised, deployed and put to work within the transition to low carbon futures. It surveys the broad heritage of community from nineteenth century sociology to more recent post-structural interpretations, including community as a governmental technique. This backdrop of wider understandings of community is now reflected in the emerging field of community low
more » ... community low carbon transitions. The paper looks to the multiple, overlapping yet categorically different communities implied in this theoretically and empirically burgeoning field. First, and in common with community's social science heritage, this article argues that community is polysemic. That is, it carries within it wide and varied semantic associations; importantly -amongst small-scale, place or rurality -requiring commonality and a border. Digging deeper, community also has a concurrent social theory legacy beyond referred semantic association. Here community is polyvalent, capaciously involving many different and overlapping values: from exclusive belonging, exclusion of others and difference, a more governmental fostering of correct conduct and good behaviour, to a feeling of belonging or acceptance that goes beyond semantics. Lastly, and innovatively for this area of study, the paper addresses community as phatic communication. Here, community has no meaning, nor does it imply shared or encouraged values. Rather community is reduced to gesture, which transforms understanding the way community is used in meeting low carbon challenges.
doi:10.3351/ppp.0010.0002.0002 fatcat:zrtv3ad5tra6rehpr22ao7isoq