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Psychological Sense of Community in Australia and the Challenges of Change

By Adrian T Fisher and Christopher C Sonn

Abstract

Social change is a phenomenon experienced in all societies, whether from gradual passages and time and interaction with other groups, or through the more immediate impacts as war, invasion or physical catastrophe. How societies manage change indicates much about their abilities to survive and the type of social cohesion that will be evidenced.\ud In this paper, the authors investigate the use of common symbols and shared history as ways of either maintaining social identity and moving with change, or using them in negative ways in order to resist change. The case study of immigration to Australia is used to demonstrate that members of the community are able to identify a series of salient identity markers- whether they wish to accept all of them or not- as the types of knowledge that all members share.\ud Many of the markers reflect decades of passed history, but are seen as foundational to Australia today. While they are core to identity, they are the types of symbols that are grasped as a lifestyle under threat by those who are newcomers. Often the markers are there as more unconscious constructions, to be evoked at times of high emotion to indicate what must be 'saved' in order for current ideas to survive.\ud The authors discuss the meanings of these markers as ways in which the identity of members of the community has been established. But these are seen as reminders, or glorifications, of the past, and how such markers are able to be captured and (mis)used by narrow populist and extremist interest groups. The challenge of managing change is how to build forward, maintaining those markers of real social value, and incorporating the new ones that are brought by newcomers, and those that are developed together

Topics: School of Social Sciences and Psychology, 370000 Studies in Human Society, psychological sense of community, social change, social identity, Australia, community narratives
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Year: 2002
DOI identifier: 10.1002/jcop.10029
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.vu.edu.au:404
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