Community, Small Town, Social Cohesion, Gift Exchange, Local Identity
Community studies in social sciences tend to treat community as a given object with structural characteristics to be revealed. This approach is particularly adopted by researchers of local communities, including small towns. However, it is questionable whether all spatially localized social aggregates can be rightfully called communities.This paper argues that even though this approach has a long tradition in social sciences, it cannot deal adequately with the key issue of integration and disintegration of communities. The authors rely on classical sociological theory to suggest a strategy of analysis that pays attention to the dynamics of social cohesion and considers communities from the standpoint of unification processes. Building on empirical data gathered during ourstudies of Russian small towns, the authors indicate several mechanisms of consolidation that support the cohesion of communities. In Russian.