Self-organization in local communities: practices and mechanisms
Keywords:solidarity, self-organization, mutual assistance, social practices, local communities
Based on the results of the author’s empirical study the paper provides an analysis of self-organization practices in local communities and the mechanisms of individual activist involvement and maintaining appropriate social behavior. In the process of self-organization the «weak» links are actualized and transform into the «strong» links, or new ties of different nature are formed. Self-organization in local communities is caused by factors «challenges» related to the degradation of the resource basis and the ineffectiveness of social institutions and factors «attributors» representing intrinsic characteristics of society and human relations (for example, respondents cited natural human desire to cooperate or to make improvements to the place of residence, etc.). The main reason behind self-organization practices is people’s desire to prevent the degradation of social environment in their communities, to help those in need, or to seek social approval. Mobilization for collective actions is dominated by external stimuli and mechanisms, i. e. the initiatives of the most active members, heads of organizations and local authorities. Public activists act as «intermediaries» between representatives of local communities and power structures; their relationship with the authorities is primarily based on a mutually beneficial exchange of scarce resources. Participation in collective activities is becoming more common among representatives of local communities. At the same time, the objective need for self-organization and mutual efforts and resources are not always transformed into appropriate attitudes and practical actions. Constraints might be a small number of opinion leaders, activists, community members in relation to the population size of the territory, low level of generalized interpersonal trust, a common belief that the «strong» ties is an important additional resource as well as predominantly one-sided communication between authorities and the public.