Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 139–164 | Cite as

People Like Me: Shared Belief, False Consensus, and the Experience of Community

  • Melissa Fletcher PirkeyEmail author


Contemporary theory on community suggests that disagreement or conflict over foundational beliefs and values greatly decreases the chance that a successful, sustainable community experience will develop. My findings suggest, however, that feelings of community can develop despite incongruous ideologies through the perception of shared beliefs and values. Using an ethnographic case of a voluntary non-profit organization, I demonstrate how three types of mechanisms operate jointly to maintain a community without shared beliefs: environmental mechanisms related to the division of labor, relational mechanisms associated with selective recruitment and homophily, and a cognitive mechanism that produces the feeling of consensus in the absence of objectively shared beliefs. These mechanisms combine to allow a powerful experience of community to flourish in a context where we might expect, based on previous research, no community experience at all. Implications for the study of community, sociology of organizations, and social psychology are discussed.


Community False consensus Organizational ethnography Voluntary organization Pooled interdependence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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