Examine the Argument That “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.”

9 September 2016

They will also assume a collective identity along with the occupants of other nearby dwellings as members of a neighbourhood community, and relational identities as each other’s neighbours. Their membership of the former may on occasion clash with their identity as members of the latter, particularly if there are cultural or racial differences involved, as members may share a sense of loyalty to their group identity as members of the family.

According to Erving Goffman, we need to look at small-scale social activity in order to understand society as a whole. (Taylor, 2009, p172), and therefore understanding how neighbours relate to each other can help us to understand how whole communities also relate to each other. Neighbours are expected to be friendly and approachable without intruding on each other’s private space or private business, as observed by both Wilmott (Byford, 2009, p253) and Crow et al (Byford, 2009, p254).

Examine the Argument That “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.” Essay Example

In fact, the entire concept of being a “good neighbour” seems to revolve around knowing where the boundaries are between “just enough contact” and “too much contact”, with most disputes between neighbours being caused by excessive intrusion, either in the form of too much noise, taking up too much space (boundary disputes, parking disputes), the “reverse intrusion” of forcing one’s neighbours to be a party to one’s private life by making excessive sexual noise or marital arguments, or by pursuing too much contact and not respecting privacy.

The best neighbours, it seems, are a paradox – friendly, helpful, but so quiet and unobtrusive that one would hardly know they were there at all. As observed by Kate Fox, (Byford, 2009, p256), “A person busy in his or her front garden is regarded as socially ‘available’”, whereas – as Jovan Byford points out – the front door is seen as an unspoken boundary, with neighbours who knock on one’s front door often apologising straight away for the intrusion before explaining the reason for it. Byford, 2009, p257). Thus, neighbouring is an “occasioned activity” (Laurier et al, cited in Byford, 2009, p256) – under the unwritten rules of neighbouring, it should not take place too often and there should be a good reason for it, in most cases, with most neighbours choosing not to socialise with each other as they would with their friends.

As observed by Harold Garfinkel, social life is constantly being made and repaired by the never-ending flow of social interaction (Taylor, 2009, p173), and most of us instinctively play our parts in society by knowing the correct course of action to repair social order if that order is broken, whether by ourselves or another party, despite the fact that there if no official “rule book” of neighbouring. However, sometimes the unspoken rules of interaction can be unclear, and disputes can arise between neighbours.

In these cases, both parties in most cases realise that they must somehow work together to repair the situation, either by discussing the matter among themselves and arriving at a mutually agreeable resolution, or – in more serious cases – by using a trained local government-funded mediator to help them come to an agreement. People may also use “distancing mechanisms” to resolve any issues before they get to the stage of becoming an actual dispute, for example by moving their marital bed away from the party wall to avoid “embarrassing noises” being overheard (Joanna Bourke, cited in Byford, 2009, p266).

Regardless of the method used to resolve or avoid disputes, there is an interesting tendency for the complainants to stress their own “playing by the rules”, despite having been inconvenienced, as with the extract from the mediation session (Byford, 2009 p264) where the complainants, despite having been subjected to some unpleasant language and obtrusive sexual noise, were anxious to be seen to be good neighbours by not ignoring the noisy neighbour when they encountered each other and by speaking of her in polite terms, and stressing that they had attempted to cope with the situation by themselves by withdrawing, until it became unbearable.

Returning to Goffman’s observations, the complainants were “behaving in a way will tell others who they are, what they’re doing and what they expect and want to happen”, and expect the other party to play their part in return. The tendency so far has seemed to show that good fences – i. e. separate spaces – do indeed make good neighbours. But Professor Margaret Wetherall makes an interesting point to the contrary when talking about the Catholic/Protestant situation in Northern Ireland. In segregated – i. . , heavily “fenced”communities, whereas “segregated neighbourhoods…had a much stronger sense of community”, the level of prejudice against the other group was much higher, leading to further conflict. (“Making social lives: Studying identities”, CDA5998, Track 1). Fences are, therefore, not necessarily a good thing, and returning to Garfinkel for a moment, it could be argued that these communities are, in a sense, stagnant, and therefore not in constant motion and therefore unhealthy.

In conclusion, whereas good fences in the sense of respecting the personal space and privacy of one’s neighbours may make for a better relationship with them, in a community-wide sense it can be shown that fences may lead to deeper division and unrest if too rigid, and in a street-level sense, to conflict if they are unclear. References Taylor S. (2009)”Who do we think we are? Identities in everyday life” in Taylor, S. Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. and Bromley, S (eds), Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Byford J. (2009)”Living together, living apart: the social life of the neighbourhood” in Taylor, S. , Hinchliffe, S. , Clarke, J. and Bromley, S (eds), Making Social Lives, Milton Keynes, The Open University. “Making Social Lives: Studying Identities”, CDA5998, 2009, Open University.

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