The Community

November 2, 2004

Institution: Clemson University
Discipline: Sociology
Title: The Community
Instructor: B.J. Vander Mey

RS/SOC 459
The Community

Dr. B. J. Vander Mey
Office: 130 E Brackett
Phone: 656.3821; 656.7988
Office Hours: 8:00 9:00, 11:00 noon TTH; 3:30 4:30 TH.

Official Course Description:
“Close analysis of the development of contemporary communities and their place in society. Continuing effects of industrialization, migration, and technological change on community location and structure are examined. Structural relations of social class, status, and the associations among institutions are examined.”

Required Texts:

Flora, Cornelia Butler, et al. 1992. Rural Communities: Legacy & Change. South Burlington, VT: The Annenberg/CPB Collection.

Wilkinson, Kenneth P. 1991. The Community. Social Ecology Press. America. Middleton, WI:

Required Readings:
Most of the external readings will be available electronically through Expanded Academic. Some readings will be at the Reserve Desk, Level 2, Cooper Library. Check also on the CLE for Reserve readings for this course. All Reserve readings that can be scanned in (legal issue) will be scanned and available on the CLE. Some other assignments will be documents retrievable via the Internet. These will be considered required texts. To the extent possible, overheads are sent via e mail. Handouts and videos also will be used as required materials for this course.


To provide a sociological perspective and understanding of the factors associated with community emergence, vitality, disorganization, and decline;

To investigate community, neighborhood and village as our environments for social interaction, organization, and action;

To employ an institutional framework when examining complex forces affecting the social, economic, and environmental challenges faced by contemporary communities;

To understand how institutional needs and each institutional field anchors social infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and collective agency;

To investigate and the processes by which individuals become empowered to be change agents for their communities;

To explore the ways in which industrialization, structural change, globalization and other factors have differentially affected rural and urban communities;

To determine how we as individuals and groups become empowered and create equitable social action within our communities, neighborhoods and villages.


This course uses the perspectives, methods, and research from both Sociology and Rural Sociology. Because community processes and community issues reach across disciplines, an interdisciplinary perspective also will be present throughout this course. Emphases will be on communities in the US, with attention paid to factors such as climate and ecology, political traditions, environmental challenges and socioeconomic factors as they affect communities. There also will be cross cultural analyses.

This is a sociology course.
It is important that students recognize that RS/SOC 459 is a social science course. It is not a humanities course, nor is it a talk show. Students are expected to hone their sociological imagination as they address issues and scholarship related to this course.

Our attention will be on empirical and theoretical social science research. A goal of this course is to engage students in critical, sociological thinking informing our awareness and understanding of the ways in communities rise and decline, and the ways in which people and policy can have varied impacts.

Course Mechanics:
There are 2 tests and one final examination, each worth a maximum of 100 points. The final examination for this course will be administered at the officially scheduled examination period only. This final is quasi-comprehensive. Tests will rely on some combination of multiple choice, definition, short answer and essay questions. If appropriate, matching questions also will be used. There also will be one (group) project, worth a maximum of 160 points. Part of this project will be a hands on Service Learning experience. There will be three 15 point quick writes/quizzes. There will be at least one take home quiz from among these three quizzes. There are no make ups provided for quizzes and quick writes. A maximum of 20 points will be assigned for participation.

Relative Weights of Requirements:

Tests I & II, 19.0% each (38% total);
Final, 19.0%;
Project: 30.5%;
Quick Writes 2.85% each (8.57% total);
Participation, 3.8%.

Course Schedule:

Note: For this course, thinking topically is a plus. Rather trying to “memorize” the materials assigned, try instead to synthesize the substance of them to get a larger picture of the topic at hand.

January 10.
Distribute and overview preliminary syllabus.

January15, 17.
Distribute “road map” to course introduction Refresher on sociology and the sociological imagination. Sociology and Rural Sociology and the study of community. Science versus common sense; grounded opinion versus opinion; thinking versus feeling.

What is “community?” What are the key social issues facing American communities today? Flora, Chapter 1. Wilkinson, Chapter 1. Excerpts from Putnam’s (2000) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (pp. 1 28, “Thinking about social change in America.”) and Etzioni’s (1993) The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society. (pp. 1 20, “Introduction: A new moral, social, public order without Puritanism or Oppression.” ) CLE/Reserve Reading: Jeff S. Sharp., 2001. “Locating the community field…” From Rural Sociology vol. 66. Frank Young, 2001. “Putnam’s challenge to community sociology.” From Rural Sociology, vol. 66.

Jan. 22.
Professor will distribute information about projects. Help people form groups, brief group meetings.

Jan. 22, 24.
Using sociological perspectives. Key concepts. (Much of this should be a review for most students.) Overheads re paradigms to be sent by e mail prior to lecture. Lecture, working from “road map.”

Jan. 29, 31.
Methodological approaches and issues in community research. Sampling issues. The qualitative versus quantitative debate. Lecture. PowerPoint to be sent
via e mail. The case method approach. Wilkinson, Chapter 2.

Feb. 5.
Economy and culture. Flora, chapter 2.

Feb. 7.
Community and culture. Community solidarity. Community culture as a source of social problems. Flora, chapter 3. Rural decline? Expanded academic: Stephen J. Goetz and David L. Debertin. 1996. “Rural population decline in the 1980s….” From American Journal of Agricultural Economics, vol. 78.

February 14, 19.
Stratification systems and power in communities. Who runs what and why? Who are the real leaders? Flora, chapters 4 & 11.

February 21, 26.
Leadership in communities: processes, challenges and case studies. Generating community change. Flora, chapter 13; Wilkinson, Chapter 3 & 4. Expanded academic: J. Vernon Henderson & Jacques Francois Thisse. 2001. “On strategic community development.” From Journal of Political Economy , vol. 109; Ken Culp III and Brad Koh1hagen, 2000, “Identifying, defining, applying, and synthesizing leadership opportunities with adolescents.” From Journal of Leadership Studies, vol. 7.

February 28.
Globalization as a singular force. Expanded academic: Ian Sinclair, 2001,”Globalisation and regional renewal: Compatible or mutually exclusive” From Australian Journal of Social Issues, Reserve reading” Scholte, “Globalization and community.” (From his book Globalization: A Critical Introduction, 2000).

March 5, 9.
NO CLASS. Swap time for projects.

March 7, 14.
Community development, community enhancement, and Grappling with Growth. Expanded academic: “Urban community development: an examination of the Perkins Model.” 2000. From: Review of Social Economy, vol. 58; Mohammad A. Qadeer. 2000. “Ruralopolis: The spatial organization and residential land economy of high density rural regions of South Asia.” Smart growth articles to be included. Wilkinson, chapters 4 & 5.

March 26.
Sprawl in some places; depopulation in others. Challenges facing South Carolina. Internet reading: Sierra Club’s 2001. Report on Sprawl. “Smart Choices or Sprawling Growth.” At; Toward a new land ethic? CLE/Reserve Readings: Nelson, Peter B.., 2001. “Rural restructuring in the American West: Land use, family and class discourses.” From Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 17; and Rolf Pendall, Ronald M. Wolanski & Douglas McGovern. 2002. “Property rights in sate legislatures: Rural urban differences in support for sate anti takings bills.” From Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 18.

April 2.
Racial issues in community development and community revitalization. Expanded Academic reading: Sheryll D. Cashin, 2001, “Middle class black suburbs and the state of integration: a post integrationist vision for metropolitan America.” From Cornell Law Review. CLE/Reserve reading: Lincoln Quillan, 1999, ‘Migration patterns and the growth of high poverty neighborhoods.” From The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 105.

April 4. TEST II

April 9. NO CLASS.

April 23, 25.
Key issues and strategic developments in community development and community strengthening. Poverty in communities. Expanded academic: Sarah Wise, 2001. “Creating child friendly communities: a strategy to reclaim children from risk.” Excerpts from Michael R. Greenberg’s Restoring America’s Neighborhoods.”

April 29. 6:30 9:30. Final Examination.


As indicated in the syllabus, all students must complete a group project. ‘The group project is divided into three parts: an annotated paper; a visual product such as a poster or video clip; and, a presentation to the class on the topic used for the paper and visual product. The entire group project is worth 160 points. The point breakdown is as follows: Service Learning, maximum of 85 points; Research based report, maximum of 50 points; and, presentation, a maximum of 25 points.

There may be up to 5 persons per group.

Objectives for this group project

  • To encourage all students to use the library;
  • To encourage all students to make use of academic, scholarly work;
  • To help students create academic, scholarly work;
  • To help students express themselves in writing, through visual products and through presentations before the class;
  • To encourage students to learn how to express themselves as a group sharing responsibility for written and visual products;
  • To encourage students to use and hone their sociological imaginations;
  • To engage students in creating knowledge to be shared with the entire class;
  • To provide an opportunity for students to make concrete applications of concepts in real world settings;
  • To allow students to be agents of social change.


1. Brookhaven Apartments, Greenville, South Carolina
Work with the Brookhaven Apartments Residents’ Association
Major areas: strengthen this organization, empower this organization to help itself and the residents; continue efforts re Landscapes for Learning, with at least the
accomplishment of Community Wildlife Habitat; and, help residents find resources in general, and to help with specific challenges such as sustaining their New
Horizons after school program.

Contact: Ms. Wanda Jackson, President, Brookhaven Residents’ Association, 864.421.0847.

Academic areas: empowerment theory; community strengthening; leadership.

“Products” might include brochures, booklets, garden

2. Truancy Prevention Internships, with the program “It’s Your School, Too!”

Serve as mentor, role model, listening ear to very at risk children and youth. Assist caseworkers to ease the labor intensive nature of this program
Program Director, Dr. Brenda J. Vander Mey (see her for a “picture” of the entire project) Contact person: Susi Smith, Director, Communities in Schools
(CIS has a sub contract with Clemson University on this project). 864.421.9161.

The schools are: Sue Cleveland Elementary, Woodmont Junior High School, and Woodmont High School.

“It’s Your School, Too!” (IYST) is made possible by a grant from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety

Academic areas: truancy prevention, youth empowerment, youth engagement, schools as communities; communities in schools.

“Products”: a brochure about IYST (see Dr. Vander Mey); gardens; children and youth who are academically successful and do not drop out of school,
become truant, or get arrested.

3. SC Leadership in Public Service Pilot Project
Contact person: Ms. Kristy Ellenberg, Clemson Institute for Economic and Community Development, 803.788.5700, ext. 30;
Hone your leadership capacity and community building skills; learn about resources for leaders and leadership resources in South Carolina.

Academic areas: leadership; community building

“Products” a compendium of leadership resources for South Carolina available in paper form and on a web site.

This project may involve participating in one retreat on leadership.

4. South Carolina Beyond Me: Legacies of Land and Natural Resource Use

Help identify the key issues surrounding our personal lifestyles, land and nature resource use and the legacies we are leaving or could leave for the generations
beyond us. Find positive efforts being made to leave legacies of which we can be proud. Help put together a symposium on Legacies of Land and Life; video
shorts also can be included. Help host this symposium. Contact person: Dr. Brenda J. Vander Mey, 865.656.3821;

This project is funded by Alliance 20/20

Academic areas: land use; natural resource use; sprawl and its impacts on community; community preservation.

Report Writing Guidelines:

Your report should include the following:

  • A title page (title, authors’ names, course, date)
  • Introduction (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Statement of the Problem/Significance of the Problem (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Review of Research/Theory (As many subheadings as appropriate for the different questions asked/variables considered)

– Arrange your paper by variable or subject area in question. Provide a full citation for each article/book used. Under the full citation, provide a synopsis of the work,
noting nature of the study, sample, findings, author’s conclusions, and limitations, etc.

– Your synopsis should include: sample size, sampling source, findings, stated or implied limitations and strengths of the study, and, author’s conclusions.

Note: It is not uncommon for authors to fail to include a discussion of a study’s limitations. You must indicate what you perceive to be the strengths and weaknesses of each study/article.

Based upon the research annotated, what questions can be answered? (Relevant to your topic, that is.)
How the research and your Service Learning experiences converged or diverged.
Suggestions for further research. Explain briefly.

School: Clemson University
Professor: B.J. Vander Mey
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