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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

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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