Who is my neighbor? Social affinity in a modern world

  • Vela-McConnell J
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The aim of this dissertation is to explore the emergence of what is called "social affinity," a concept which bridges classical sociology and the notion of social cohesion with contemporary social psychology. The ideas underlying social affinity focus on the sentiment of moral obligation which holds society together. While this sentiment is closely tied to the values we are taught, this dissertation demonstrates how social affinity and the meaning our values have for us are shaped by our social location. Four-hundred twenty-six people were surveyed and a sub-sample of 36 were interviewed regarding the hunger and AIDS issues and the issue each individual listed as being of utmost concern. Based on this data, a four-point typology extending from low to high social affinity was constructed, as represented by individual perceptions of social issues. In order to understand the process of how a sense of social affinity emerges within individuals, the concept is broken down into three dimensions: social consciousness, sentiment, and action. Each dimension is further broken down into its constitutive elements. After a consideration of each dimension in turn, they are brought together into a single model of social affinity which moves beyond the strictly linear models characteristic of social psychological theories of prosocial behavior. The concept of social affinity is then used to analyze four case studies of individuals responding to the social issues of most concern to themselves. The social location variables of social, spatial, and temporal distance and proximity are reintroduced to the analysis. These variables are indicative of the self-interest which permeates our culture. The impact self-interest has on the development of social affinity in the context of social issues and our culture of individualism is discussed. The findings of this research are applied to an analysis of urban planning--including its impact on the emergence of community--and the globalization of the economy. Finally, the question of "Who is My Neighbor?" and how such a precept applies in a modern, global context is addressed.

Author-supplied keywords

  • 0451:Social psychology
  • 0700:Social structure
  • Psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Social sciences
  • Social structure
  • activism
  • moral obligation

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  • James Vela-McConnell

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