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The Microcommunity: Control of the Immediate Environment As was noted in the Introduction, there are two common definitions of community. One defines a community as a population carrying on a collective life through a common set of institutions. In this sense, the term can apply to a population aggregate of any size, and it is with community in this sense that we have been concerned in the preceding chapters, where the focus was on the metropolitan mac- rocommunity. The second definition of community is the traditional one, for which the village has been the model: a grouping of people who live close to one another and are united by common interests and mutual aid. The members of a community of this type are pre- sumed to be united by bonds of sentiment. It is with community in this sense that we are concerned in this chapter, which focuses on the neighborhood, or microcommunity. There has been a tendency to view the urban neighborhood as a weakened form of the village type of community. Metropolitaniza- tion has had important consequences for the microcommunity as it THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . 67

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is traditionally conceived. There is general agreement that as the range of urban opportunities has widened, the level and intensity of intra-neighborhood interpersonal transactions relative to extra- neighborhood transactions has declined. Shared sentiment is no longer a distinguishing feature of the microcommunity. In the following discussion, the available research has been drawn on to correct and amplify the traditional notion of community in an urban setting. The focus is on two related questions: What has happened to the microcommunity or neighborhood as a locus of interaction? What is the role of the microcommunity. as a means of control over the immediate environment? CHANGES IN THE MICROCOMMUNITY The changes that have occurred in the urban microcommunity may be viewed from two complementary perspectives. On the one hand, it is useful to focus on the dispersal of the relationships and destina- tions of neighborhood residents outward throughout the metropoli- tan region and beyond—on what has departed from the microcommunity. On the other hand, it is necessary to assess what functions the neighborhood may continue to serve and the kinds of interaction that remain—on what is left in the microcommunity. Whether one examines what is left or what has left, it is apparent that although there is more variation among neighborhoods, individ- ually they remain homogeneous. This situation arises because the settlement patterns of the diverse metropolitan population reflect such factors as socioeconomic class, the family life cycle, and ethnic background. As compared with traditional communities—certainly the small-town version—metropolitan microcommunities show a pronounced amount of interdependence. They both require and are the object of an increasing array of public and private services. And they experience in many ways the desirable and undesirable effects of life at the metropolitan level. Of course, not all the citizens of a metropolitan area have equal access to the varied metropolitan op- portunities, and this fact must be taken into account too in assessing the present significance of microcommunities. 68 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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Dispersal of Relationships and Destinations As the urban unit increases in size, the family and friends, functions and facilities of the residents of a particular microcommunity are likely to be dispersed over a widening area. Although the resident may still spend as much of his life in the limited network of immediate family, friends, and co-workers, the spatial dispersion of the network increases and the resident's destinations are more often found beyond the microcommunity. With the dispersal of relatives, there may be a reduction in the degree to which the family is called on to provide aid and other services, but relatives are still the major source of aid. When relatives are not available, formal urban institutions, rather than the mi- crocommunity, provide the alternative for supplying these needs. As family members have dispersed, the urban nuclear family has come to rely on specialists to perform many household functions. There are now day nurseries, wedding and party managers, marriage and fam- ily counseling agencies, juvenile courts, financial consultants, medi- cal specialists, and many others, and each of these may represent a potential outside destination for the microcommunity resident. Simi- larly, the diversity of the urban environment tends to reinforce the dispersion of friendships. People with special interests are more likely to find friends who share them in a metropolitan area, but who live beyond the confines of the neighborhood. Meanwhile, shopping centers, places of employment, and rec- reation areas increasingly are to be found outside the microcom- munity. Each represents a daily, weekly, or occasional destination for the microcommunity resident. As residential densities decline and household incomes rise, the automobile becomes the predominant form of transportation. To- gether with other forms of improved communication, it facilitates access to opportunities located throughout the metropolitan area. As this happens and as the interests and capacities of urban residents become more diverse, traditional neighborhood patterns of interac- tion are diminished. The microcommunity provides simply one of many opportunities for relationships and activity. THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . . 69

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The result of dispersion of interests and relationships is that neighbors no longer know one another as well and are less important to one another and that residents' attachment to the neighborhood decreases. While the metropolitan distribution of population may have increased the homogeneity of small areas, localized transac- tions and the significance of neighborhood life have declined. In- deed, urban people travel so frequently and so far that they have little time for neighborhood interaction. But the easy mobility of modern man has yet another impact on neighborhood life. It induces an indifference to environmental details. As the area of vehicular travels expands, the scope of pedestrian movement contracts. Hence, to- day's urban resident spends relatively little time in the prolonged association and close observation that familiarity with place de- mands, and, again, the significance of the neighborhood is dimin- ished. Microcommunities, of course, differ substantially in terms of the average incomes, educational levels, and ethnic compositions of their populations. These differences affect access to urban opportuni- ties and thus the level and intensity of transactions in the microcom- munity. For households in the upper reaches of the status scale, the place of residence may be simply that and nothing more. The trans- actions of a middle-class professional, for example, may take place over the whole of the metropolitan terrain and beyond. In working- class areas, too, the frequency of informal associations with occu- pants of adjacent residence units is not great. But in neighborhoods whose populations are poor, lack education, or are members of minority groups, the residents may be more neighborhood-oriented, because these conditions circumscribe access to urban opportunities and, in effect, compel turning inward to the microcommunity. Even so, the difference between these two is one of degree, not kind. Findings Lower residential densities, rising household incomes, increasing specialization, and a preponderant reliance on the automobile have contributed to the diminished importance of the more tradi- tional neighborhood, or microcommunity, pattern, 70 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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What Remains in the Microcommunity? Within the metropolitan environment, people sort themselves into residential areas. They choose places to live on the basis of what they can afford, the kind of people who live there, and the facilities and services available—in sum, by deciding whether the experience will suit them. Since the neighborhood no longer serves many of its traditional functions, the homogeneous settlement pattern is puz- zling. What are people seeking and how important is it? The microcommunity is no longer the arena in which people find most of their opportunities for friendship or voluntary activity, for leisure pursuits or political participation. The place of work and the place of residence are seldom both in the same neighborhood. As has been noted, families are usually dispersed in metropolitan areas, and the level of interaction among neighbors is relatively low. Then why do people choose a residential area with such apparent care? What functions do they expect the microcommunity to serve? One thing people do not seem to expect, if their subsequent behavior is any indication, is any great amount of intimate interaction with fellow residents. However homogeneous the microcommunity, the general rule seems to be that a little neighboring goes a long way. Although the rule may be violated in newly settled areas and in certain special circumstances, neighboring subsequently tends to decline to a normally low level. Yet the microcommunity, to the extent that it persists, must serve some purpose for its residents. The function must be important, but it must not be too demanding of time or attention, given the low level of neighborhood interaction. Ideally, perhaps, from the point of view of the residents, the microcommunity should be an instru- ment of environmental control requiring a rather low level of contact. In this sense, the microcommunity may serve as: 1. A community of presumed goodwill 2. A territorial subunit where residents can be mobilized, at least episodically 3. A place in which people may make significant investments, not only material but social THE MICROCOMMUNITY.. . 71

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The idea of residential groups as communities of presumed good-will derives directly from their spatial mutual interests. No matter how cheap transportation may become, people must still continue to live together in neighborhoods. These territorial groups are important insofar as their members are vulnerable to one an- other. People who share space are vulnerable to one another be- cause they are within striking distance as assailants, adulterers, noise makers, and so on. The behavior of neighbors may affect one's sense of security, comfort, or pride. However, if the residents have a measure of mutual trust and agreement on the uses of the shared features of the environment, the need for contact may be reduced. The microcommunity also may act as a territorial subunit whose residents can be mobilized, at least episodically. It is capable of mobilizing to defend itself against perceived threats to its interests, and in times of crisis or emergency it may act to some extent as a community of last resort for residents who have exhausted the assis- tance of family and friends. These responses generally involve few sustained contacts. Concerted action by territorial subunits when faced with large-scale authoritative decisions about land use or ser- vice delivery is an exception, however. Finally, the microcommunity may be the place where people have important investments, not only in terms of home ownership, but also in terms of their efforts to provide an environment that promotes the welfare of their children, the safety of their families, and their own social status. Again it is interesting to note that, with the relationships stemming fronj child raising excepted, only limited contacts may be required to protect these investments. Variations in the Microcommunity's Significance The significance of the microcommunity for a particular individual may change over time. In addition, the microcommunity may serve different purposes for different groups in society. Family Life Cycle During certain periods in the family life cycle, the microcommunity may be more significant and the level of interaction may increase. 72 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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The child-rearing stage is the primary example of such a period. Parental associations develop about the play patterns of children and last as long as childhood play requires supervision and guidance. Activities tend to center in the microcommunity during the child- rearing phase, disperse as children grow to maturity, and then con- tract again after retirement age is reached. Many adults' persistent nostalgia for the microcommunity derives from memories of early childhood, when the neighborhood was of necessity the basis of interpersonal relationships. Now the neighborhood may be a pre- dominant center of activity only for children too young to drive. Class and the Microcommunity Among middle and upper socioeconomic groups, neighborhood homogeneity is the result of choice, while among the lower socio- economic groups, it reflects resource constraints. The degree of choice or constraint is reflected in the purposes a neighborhood serves for its residents and in the extent of neighborhood interaction. For example, in middle-income suburban neighborhoods, a per- ceived threat to the value of residential properties or the physical well-being of the residents seems necessary to stimulate community mobilization, and this mobilization lasts only for the duration of the crisis. Homeowners' protective associations are notorious for their short life spans. Nevertheless, although the middle-income suburban neighborhood may possess few if any permanent mechanisms for community action, when armed with subdivision restrictions, build- ing codes, protective covenants, and other legalistic devices, it has served exclusion objectives rather effectively. Indeed, high-income residential areas now often have professionals to handle the control function for them. Residents may rarely find it necessary to see or associate with one another in order to maintain control over their residential environment. Among lower-income microcommunities, obtaining effective and responsive public services tends to be more important than excluding perceived threats to the neighborhood. On the whole, these microcommunities have not been very successful in obtaining better-quality schools or housing or in preventing the intrusion of THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . 73

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highways into residential areas. Nevertheless, the microcommunity may be especially important to the poor and minorities. For these groups, access to metropolitan opportunities and political institutions may be limited. Slight changes in the national economy may affect their livelihoods. In short, the microcommunity provides the only basis for extensive reciprocal trust. In fact, contrary to the usual description of the poor neighbor- hood as "disorganized," it serves as a much more effective basis for organized social life than the wealthier neighborhood does. Of ne- cessity, underprivileged groups cultivate patterns of behavior that enable them to survive in relatively inhospitable environments. The residential areas of the poor and the ethnically distinctive are often highly organized, but, as a long series of studies has shown, not in the middle-class pattern. Organization is evident in the presence of various peer groups and gangs equipped with explicit rules and pro- cedures, in ethnic churches, in communication networks, in clear understandings of who the neighborhood turf belongs to, and in the behavior considered proper relative to outsiders. Although these elements of organization may not be approved by the community at large, they provide a basis for regulating social life. In sum, interaction in poor neighborhoods may compensate to some degree for lack of access to opportunities potentially available in the larger environment. Interaction in these neighborhoods tends to focus on improved public services, while in upper-income neigh- borhoods what interaction exists is likely to be concerned with gen- eralized control of the immediate environment. At one end of the spectrum, the problem is to get out of the microcommunity; at the other end, the concern is likely to be keeping others out. But no- where do traditional notions of neighboring and solidarity appear to be reflected in a high level of human interaction. Findings In the metropolitan context, the local neighborhood, or microcom- munity, has become relatively less significant as a locus of interac- tion and a force in personality formation. It survives principally as 74 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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means of control over the immediate physical environment and in that respect tends to operate as a unit only when it is threatened. Poor and minority neighborhoods are somewhat of an exception. In these neighborhoods, social interaction is more intense and 'ommunity efforts are more concerned with obtaining responsive lic services than with the exclusion of threats to the comr ity* MICROCOMMUNITY BOUNDARIES nmu- Americans vary in their perceptions of their neighborhood bounda- ries, their loyalty to their microcommunities, the extent of their local participation, and in what they want out of the places in which they live. Residential areas vary as much or more in racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic composition; in life styles; in the physical features that can be used to create images and boundaries; and in claims to a distinct reputation or identity. If a localized residential population cannot point to territorial limits that separate it from other populations, then it does not really constitute a microcommunity, except perhaps as a contrived social entity. The corporate community has its legal boundaries to define it. A microcommunity may have no legal boundaries, but it must have some definition. Many people, however, define their neighbors by a much smaller spatial configuration than the microcommunity: neighbors are those whose property or apartments directly abut their own, who live on the same block, who are within walking distance of particular establishments, or who come out for sociability on the streets during the evening. For others, only a broadly defined neighborhood really reflects their sense of territorial placement, which includes large segments of the metropolitan community. Still others see themselves as members of tiered community areas that extend from the smallest area to progressively larger ones. People vary considerably in their movements and their choices of social affiliation. To make these choices, however, they seem to rely on a mapping of alternatives that, for most, ranges across a set of THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . 75

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territories with a common center—adjacent households, "my" block, the neighborhood, a sector of the city, the corporate city, and the entire metropolitan area. This list, however, only hints at the actual terms used and the multiple choices available to map the effective environment. There are, of course, many people who give little thought to the boundaries of these areas, and there are vast areas of any large city that are irrelevant to a particular resident. Microcommunities seldom have any official standing, they are not recognized by city governments, they are not data-gathering units for reports on social problems, and they do not have any officials assigned specifically to them. Although changes in the struc- ture of metropolitan government may ultimately be essential, some metropolitan problems might be mitigated if governments could be induced to be more systematic and sensitive in identifying and rein- forcing existing social groupings. One of the early attempts to pro- vide a rational basis for microcommunity decision-making processes by defining community areas in Chicago was that of E. W. Burgess (1923). The areas have remained relatively intact despite great change and movement within the city. Both he and H. W. Zorbaugh (1929) were active in trying to get the city of Chicago to adapt its administrative districts and political wards to coincide with commu- nity areas, but they met with little success. Their efforts, however, represent a challenge to others in the field to find some means of making metropolitan government more responsive. Recently, Suttles (1974) has suggested an interesting three-tiered approach to the problem of identifying and responding to urban microcommunities. The lowest tier would consist of the smallest "named" residential unit or "walking community." The second tier would be a combination of contiguous residential units and would maximize heterogeneity. The number of communities combined to form each second-level unit would be limited so that their leaders could gather easily for face-to-face negotiation. The third tier would contain a number of second level units. It should have a large enough population to support several public service agencies and to contain some prominent group (e.g., business or university elites) which provides leadership in the city or metropolitan area. 76 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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The object of the three-tier concept is to provide microcom- munities with effective leadership backed by large and organized constituencies. The leaders would have influence at the top of the metropolitan political hierarchy, because this representational struc- ture makes it possible to pyramid local preferences and unites small communities into a larger constituency. The three-tiered units would be outside the formal governmental structure of the city, but they could be recognized by officials as appropriate informal negotiating bodies. They might be particularly useful as a means of achieving more local control over the provision of public services without segmenting public service districts into uneconomical units. They also could serve as data-gathering units and thus provide reliable information for use in obtaining more equitable public services. And they could serve as superdistricts, in which administration of certain local public services and facilities (for example, schools, libraries) would be decentralized, thereby increasing the public service options of the residents of the units. However, there is a ques- tion whether or not enough qualified people could be induced to ac- cept leadership roles in these relatively small and informal political units. A central problem in microcommunity control of the environ- ment, then, is the absence of any authoritative way in which resi- dents can appeal to a single set of boundaries. It is remarkable that microcommunities exist at all in metropolitan areas, given the mobil- ity of the urban population and lack of support by supracommunity organizations. Despite the lack of recognition, these local areas are frequently, though episodically, the base for civic associations, vol- untary self-help groups, and community-action groups. Findings A central problem in microcommunity control of the environment is the absence of any authoritative way in which residents can appeal to a single set of boundaries. THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . . 77

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LIMITED MICROCOMMUNITY PARTICIPATION Americans, in the main, are not eager to participate in collective decision making regarding their numerous public services. Those who have spent some time "working for the community" know that it is a hard and relatively unrewarding task. The trend in the United States seems to be toward specialization in terms of who participates in this activity and an increasing use of professionals and formal organizations. In working-class communities, ghettos, and ethnic centers, in- formal meeting places (the tavern or drug store), street-corner gangs, church groups, and precinct politics supply the means for collective communal life. It has been difficult to recruit people in such neigh- borhoods into formal associations closely related to public agencies (PTA, YMCA, and the like). In recent years, there seems to have been an upsurge of protest groups in low-income areas, although these are often short-lived and sporadic in their activity. In middle-income areas, informal relations seem to be heavily shaped by the management of children—by such projects as babysit- ting pools, little league teams, splash parties. Formal organizations, however, are much more extensively developed than in lower- income areas. The PTA, recreational centers, community centers, civic associations, and voluntary associations find ample constituen- cies in these communities. Frequently, these groups are linked to national or regional structures that give residents some sense of being part of a larger social structure than their local community. Political groups manage to maintain a small cadre of activists that swells during elections. Recently, a new trend has occurred in these middle-income areas: the use of professionals to look after microcommunity affairs, especially recreation, counseling, and communication. A number of community groups have hired specialists in these areas, and it is likely that this type of reliance on professionals will continue if the budgets of these groups hold up. This trend may mean that the number of resident participants in community affairs will diminish. The profes- sionalization and specialization of microcommunity leadership may signal the passage of microcommunity responsibilities to a narrowing 78 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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circle of people chosen because they are apt to be effective and versatile in negotiations with supracommunity organizations. Certainly the problem of dealing with, let alone influencing, urban institutions has grown more complex. The specialization and multiplication of metropolitan agencies force microcommunity groups to deal with a large number of administrative units. Mi- crocommunities have no regularized relationship to the larger metro- politan community that surrounds them. The standardization of public services and the appeal of professionals to "objective" deci- sion rules make metropolitan institutions inflexible in the face of locality group desires. The number of people an urban public agency must serve reduces the likelihood of individualized treatment and client feedback. Public meetings on agency policies may not allow the people who will be affected much voice in the final decisions. The necessity to use militant tactics to gain even the attention of agency administrations is distasteful to most people and does not necessarily increase the service orientation of public administrators. Generally, local groups have been more effective in influencing elected representatives than in changing the behavior of administra- tors of public service agencies, even though these agencies may have a pervasive effect on the quality of life in microcommunities. Indeed, apart from the use of professionals, local organizations have been most effective simply by support of existing institutions with which their interests correspond. Whatever the personal attachments residents may have to the locality, urban microcommunities require some common objective as a basis for organization and action. Currently, microcommunity objectives tend to center on the residents' shared roles as (1) con- sumers of private and public goods and services, (2) citizens con- cerned with safety and security, (3) victims of environmental pollution, and (4) families seeking education and jobs that permit participation in the larger society. Despite the potentially broad range of common interests, and even when organizational structures are relatively abundant, participation is always rather limited. Activity in the typical microcommunity is not only voluntary but partial. Residents vary in their involvement. Although the importance of local voluntary associations as a response to issues broader than THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . , 79

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those which happen to have an immediate impact on some residents is acknowledged, only intermittent involvement for particular objec- tives is expected from neighbors. To illustrate, parent-teacher and civic associations may persist over long periods. At the same time, particular individuals maintain an interest in school or civic activities only so long as they have children or are socially ambitious. These associations, then, are communities of limited liability—communi- ties in which people invest their efforts and resources for achievable gains within the short term, expecting that they can "pull out" on short notice without losing much. Still, these communities represent areas of continuing common interest. Indeed, this type of "commu- nity" is probably the working ideal of most social planners and the mass media. Since the notion of a community of limited liability is so obvi- ously a construct, it has been regarded by some as nothing more than that. Such communities are real enough, however. They have official identities and boundaries that are incorporated into the scale models of local areas used by private and public organizations. With rare exceptions, cities are divided into a mosaic of separate and some- times competing communities of limited liability. Unlike the mi- crocommunity or neighborhood, in which people may pursue a number of shared objectives, these communities are defined by particular limited interests. In this perspective the people of a single neighborhood may function in more than one community of limited liability and have many different adversaries or partners as members of various communities. It is this mosaic of overlapping boundaries that probably gives the community of limited liability its most distinctive features. Since there are often competing communities of limited liability, an indi- vidual frequently finds that his interests are divided among adversar- ies or are different from those of his neighbors. Participation in the community of limited liability, then, is a voluntary choice among options rather than one prescribed on the basis of residence alone. Local community organizations, improvement associations, political interest groups, and the like attract only a portion of the local resi- dents. In turn, action on behalf of the community of limited liability becomes specialized and self-consciously oriented toward limited 80 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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issues. The residents' interests, therefore, are only partially captured by groups that are narrowly specialized. Findings Although residents of microcommunities often share similar life styles, participation in neighborhood affairs is usually limited. There is instead a tendency to rely on professionals and formal organiza- tions for the discharge of community responsibilities. Microcom- munity action is basically determined by communities of limited liability, that is, group activities in which people invest their efforts and resources for achievable gains with the expectation that they can "pull out" on short notice. ENHANCEMENT OF MICROCOMMUNITY INFLUENCE Since low-income neighborhoods have difficulty in obtaining effec- tive public services, a number of social reformers and social planners have been concerned with making local government more respon- sive to the needs of the immigrant and the working class, or, in today's terms, the poor and minorities. Although many of these efforts were in the interest of local communities, the reformers were primarily concerned with increasing access to the larger society rather than with enhancing the significance of the neighborhood. Settlement House Movement The efforts of Jane Addams are an early case in point. The settlement house movement, which she helped to found, stemmed partly from the view that middle-class young people like herself, having no outlet for their education, could be of value by becoming directly involved in the alleviation of social problems. The movement was concerned with the communal needs of working-class people and immigrants and with obtaining access to the wider urban environment for these THE MICROCOMMUNITY.. 81

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people. The settlement house was not primarily intended to change the structure of local communities but was to operate as a center around which residents could gather to develop consensus, partake in a self-defined form of social life, and mobilize either to serve their local community or negotiate with public and private bureaucracies. The movement was successful because it maintained a continu- ous association with leading thinkers, social innovators, and the pub- lic media and because it was willing to challenge established power by mobilizing local groups for political purposes (that is, for access to political influence). Over time, of course, the movement lost both its "sense of mission" and, as the composition of disadvantaged groups changed, its contacts with the people it was trying to serve. Alinsky's Efforts Perhaps the main inheritor of the settlement house idea was Saul Alinsky, who continued to see residential groups as potential sources of social solidarity that could counterbalance the growth of big busi- ness, big labor, and big bureaucracies. The Back of the Yards Council in Chicago has been generally regarded as an effective organizational effort. However, such militant community organizations seem to work best where there is a political machine, as in Chicago, that possesses the power to deliver more or different public services to a local community. The Woodlawn Organization, also created by Alinsky, has had great difficulty in negotiating with relatively autono- mous public agencies (for example, the Board of Education) or city employee unions (for example, the police). Relatively autonomous city bureaus—which Low! (1968) calls "the new machines"—are a growing phenomenon, while city political machines are a declining one. Perhaps neither Alinsky's work nor the settlement house move- ment is an appropriate model any more, simply because the political institutions which must be influenced have changed. Mobilization for Youth R.A. Cloward and L. Ohlin (1960) based this program on the hypoth- esis that there is a type of lower class microcommunity which is new, 82 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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ill-formed, and anonymous and whose residents spend most of their time fighting among themselves. They felt that outside advocates would be required to take the role of indigenous leaders. These advocates would arouse the disorganized lower class groups to settle upon their natural leaders, find a consensus among themselves, and use territorial unity as a basis for negotiating with city hall. Undertaken on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Mobilization for Youth was one of the largest programs ever initiated privately. It included a number of projects which were aimed at community self-help and mobilization to make increasing demands on the wider community at large. However, the program's contribution to improv- ing conditions on the Lower East Side remains uncertain. Its major impact may have been that its methods influenced the War on Poverty. The War on Poverty When the War on Poverty was initiated the federal government was being heavily influenced by advisers who stressed a "culture of poverty" interpretation of the nation's urban ills. The culture of pov- erty theory emphasized the continuity of values between generations among the urban poor and explained their predicament as self- inflicted. Outside assistance was needed to break up this "patholog- ical cycle" and arouse local residents for neighborhood improvement and self-help ventures. The Mobilization for Youth program introduced the idea that outside help also should promote agitation for improved public services and community control. When outsiders were funded by the federal government, locally elected officials and other interest groups objected to the unilateral change in the rules of the game and developed effective means of resistance. However, programs initiated by the War on Poverty have continued in areas in which they have developed local support. Subsequently, the Model Cities program combined local .involvement of citizens (especially minorities and the poor) with more coordinated city, county, and state agencies. It also stressed the need for governmental decentralization. To date, the results of the Model Cities program are mixed. THE MICROCOMMUNITY. . 83

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Findings Attempts to increase the influence of the microcommunity in the wider community frequently have floundered, because adversary relationships between microcommunity groups and public agen- cies have developed. In summary, an examination of the urban microcommunity fails to indicate that it is much more than an institution for control of the immediate environment. The neighborhood has become relatively less significant as a locus of interaction and a force in personality formation. Mobilization of residents is difficult and intermittent. The boundaries of activity are multiple and uncertain. Participation is voluntary and relatively restricted, and involvement is characterized by a sense of "limited liability." For the poor and minorities, mi- crocommunity activity may provide an avenue of access to the larger society. However, such activity is unlikely to result in sustained interaction within the microcommunity. In short, the microcom- munity survives principally as a means of control over the immediate physical or public service environment and in this respect tends to operate as a unit only when it is threatened. The traditional view of community is inappropriate when applied to urban neighborhoods. Their significance must be viewed in the context of the larger, multi- centered, metropolitan community. 84 TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF METROPOLITAN AMERICA

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