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The Hinge

Civil Society, Group Cultures, and the Power of Local Commitments

The Hinge

Civil Society, Group Cultures, and the Power of Local Commitments

Most of the time, we believe our daily lives to be governed by structures determined from above: laws that dictate our behavior, companies that pay our wages, even climate patterns that determine what we eat or where we live. In contrast, social organization is often a feature of local organization. While those forces may seem beyond individual grasp, we often come together in small communities to change circumstances that would otherwise flatten us. Challenging traditional sociological models of powerful forces, in The Hinge, Gary Alan Fine emphasizes and describes those meso-level collectives, the organizations that bridge our individual interests and the larger structures that shape our lives. Focusing on “tiny publics,” he describes meso-level social collectives as “hinges”: groups that come together to pursue a shared social goal, bridging the individual and the broader society. Understanding these hinges, Fine argues, is crucial to explaining how societies function, creating links between the micro- and macro-orders of society. He draws on historical cases and fieldwork to illustrate how these hinges work and how to describe them. In The Hinge, Fine has given us powerful new theoretical tools for understanding an essential part of our social worlds.


"Fine’s new book… offers a theoretically informed research agenda for thinking about the local in a social media saturated global world. It is compelling [and] well written, and [it] opens up a range of new possibilities for research."

Symbolic Interactions

"The Hinge takes up an ambitious task and delivers a formidable response; it successfully situates the mesolevel at the center of the classic macro-micro puzzle of sociology. . . With The Hinge, Fine has equipped the platoon of small group scholars with a powerful set of tools that will serve them well as they continue to advance the front line."

Contemporary Sociology

"Gary Alan Fine’s The Hinge: Civil Society, Group Cultures, and the Power of Local Commitments develops a set of analytical tools for meso-level analysis of collective behavior. The work registers the constitutive nature of micro and macro phenomena via group dynamics—what he terms 'the hinge.' While not dismissing earlier approaches, Fine successfully substantiates the importance of the unique interactive processes that occur when individuals come together."


Table of Contents

Introduction: A Mesoworld

1. Coordination: The Dynamics of Collaboration and Commitment

2. Relations: Friendship and the Politics of Sociability

3. Association: Bonding, Banding, and Bridging

4. Place: Performance and Solidarity

5. Conflict: Scratching Consensus’s Veneer

6. Control: Patrolling Civil Society

7. Extensions: Tiny Publics and Distant Worlds

Conclusion: Circuits of Action

Afterword: The COVID Hinge

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