Saturday, 17 October 2009

A ‘conductive community’?

Marcel Mauss had a word for it

Is there really a conductive ‘community’ as such out there? Myself, I presently prefer to use the word ‘movement’, since it bears no especial connotation of working together on common interests. Call it what you will, however, what kind of society in sociological terms is Conductive Education?

The French sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss (I kid you not) offered a useful concept.

M. Mauss (1872-1950) was a nephew and follower of Émile Durkheim. He observed pre-modern ‘segmentary‘ societies, social systems comprising relatively small autonomous groups that generally regulate their own affairs but periodically come together to form larger groups and, in some cases, may collectively appear to be a single large community.

When frequency of contact is limited and individuals are isolated from also dependent upon one another, encounters happen via a procedure that transforms every incipient relationship into a form of commonality. Only in this way can relationships be established at all.

Sound familiar? Not exactly a community as such but a movement with perhaps a little cohesion amongst at least some individuals when needed.


I am indebted to Tilman Allert for this concise summary of Mauss’s notion of segmentary societies:

Allert T. (2005) The Hitler Salute: on the meaning of a gesture. NY: Henry Holt and Company (Metropoltan Books), pp. 52-53


  1. In reading Tilman Alerts's book, which I got very cheap from Postscript Books, a great source of booky bargains: