The significance of the common bond in credit unions
Thet hesis seeks to reveal and explain the nature of the affective relations encapsulated within the 'common bond' definition of historical and contemporary examples of credit unions. In doing so, it is argued that a credit union is best understood as an 'elective association'. The reality-congruence of 'elective association' as a distinct sociological concept is explored,in relation to: i) the ambiguity surrounding the concept of 'community' in contemporary sociology; and ii) the concept's usefulness in enabling researchers to account for different forms of elective association and, crucially, the affective motivations within them. The substantive analysis takes the form of 3 historical and contemporary case studies into the formation and development of credit unions. The first examines the Raiffeisen credit union movement of South-Western Germany in the late nineteenth century, the second explores the origins of the US credit union movement with particular reference to the formation of credit unions in Manhattan from 1914; and the third analyses the significance of, and prospects for, the common bond among credit unions in contemporary English society. The theoretical core of the thesis rests upon Elias's concept of a figuration and, specifically, the problem of human interdependencies and affective bonds. In arguing that credit unions are elective associations, Schmalenbach's 'Bund'concept is employed in tandem with Elias's insights and Shils's extension of the concept, and is argued to help transcend the conceptual dichotomy locked within the GemeinschaftlGesellschaft concept. In the analysis of English credit union formations and development, Bauman's 'consumer society' thesis is considered, as are Giddens's arguments concerning the bases of personal trust and the influence of 'expert systems' in 'reflexive modernity'. Lash's critique of Giddens is also examined and is argued to be largely commensurate with the general tenor of Schmalenbach's insights.