2 - Individuals, Conglomerates, Persons, and Communities

by Gertjan van Stam


Community, Conglomerates, Individualism, Normative epistemology, African customs


Literature seems to regard a community as a grouping of individuals united for a common purpose. In this paper, I augment the discrete constituents – the social units ‘individual’ and ‘group or community’ – to form a matrix with four categories in an attempt to better explain pluralistic realities witnessed in Africa. I show how individuals (which I define as human beings seen separately from their social connections) group together to form ‘conglomerates’ (grouping of individuals to achieve a common goal), while ‘communities’ consist of ‘persons’ (human beings in constant reflexivity to their social connections), not individuals. In building the argument, I categorise the social units, elaborate on categories and affiliated concepts from two main perspectives (non-Western and Western), and provide multi-focal nuances. The paper contributes a conceptual framing with the hope to move the discourse on how humans group as social beings, and how these groups can be called and recognised in practice.

Gertjan van Stam, Masvingo, Zimbabwe Email: gertjan@vanstam.net