A theoretical and operational definition of community: the case of Kwun Tong


Ambrose Yeo-chi King

Chan, Ying Keung

TitleA theoretical and operational definition of community: the case of Kwun Tong
PublisherSocial Research Center, the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Publication DateJuly, 1972

Kwun Tong



Abstract/ Concluding Remarks:

In this paper, we have first tried to give an analytically more precise and methodologically operational definition of community, a community is not characterized by self-sufficiency; it is part of the larger whole. However, a community has a relative separateness from the larger whole in physical and socio-psychological aspects: it has a recognizable geographical area, an internal network of social communications and a sense of identity. This definition is operationalized by employing the transactional approach in studying the ratio of inter-/intra social communication flows and the input-output exchange of various institutional systems.

Using this definition, we have examined Kwun Tong to see whether or not and in what sense it is a community. Our method is primarily a quantitative one, while some qualitative analyses have been used whenever statistical data are incomplete or lacking.


According to our finding, the intra-Kwun Tong social communication flows; such as telephone traffic, interchange of working population, and transportation flow by land and sea, are not as frequent or important as the social communication flows between Kwun Tong and other parts of the Colony. Furthermore, the input-output transactional analysis all of major institutional systems shows fairly consistently that almost all of the m are heavily dependent upon, as seen from the input side, the outside for supply of personnel, financial resources or raw materials. What these data indicates is that Kwun Tong as a geographical area has no marked discontinuities of social communication flows and Institutional transactions from outside, thus marking no relative separateness or boundaries between Kwun Tong and other parts of Hong Kong. Moreover, people who move to Kwun Tong as a place to live are primarily provoked by push factors rather than factor out of their own choice. Statistics show a low identification of residents of Kwun Tong with the place they live. Roughly speaking, Kwun Tong has no clear socio-psychological boundaries of its own. It is rather a functioning part of the Hong Kong metropolitan city than a community.


Admittedly, our study is far froam being an exhaustive one: we have not been able to get data on mail flow; on input-output transactions of other institutional systems, e.g., recreational system, commercial system and others. In addition, data on psychological boundary are also very limited and incomplete. Despite these limitations, however, the data do allow us to state with a significant amount of certainty that Kwun Tong has a high degree of interdependence with other parts of the Colony in economic (industrial), political and other institutional fields. More specifically, Kwun Tong as a whole is a dependent system subordinating to the larger Hong Kong system.


What we have said in the preceding pages is an approximate picture of Kwun Tong as it stands. But, what was Kwun Tong in the past and what will Kwun Tong be in the future? In other words, what is the trend over time? Is Kwun Tong moving toward more integration with the Hong Kong metropolitan city or is it moving more toward a community marked with increasingly clear-cut boundaries? We do not have comparable data of Kwun Tong in the past; nor are we able to make a predictable statement on its figure in rigid, probabilistic terms. However, if we can make a comparable study five or ten years later, then, we will be able to tell the trend of Kwun Tong with a higher degree of certainty. AS for now, we may venture to say that it is primarily due to its physical separateness that Kwun Tong strikes people as a community; it is connected with other parts of the Colony by one, and only one land route. If in the years to come other land routes are to be built or the subway is constructed, Kwun Tong will be moving toward more integration with the Hong Kong metropolitan city. But it must be reminded that in our findings there are some opposing signs which show that Kwun Tong is a living place with which abour one-third of the population identify, and in some institutional aspects it has become fairly autonomous, especially on the output side. Furthermore, as based upon our limited empirical data and impression, Kwun Tong itself is quite heterogeneous; the intra-variations of Kwun Tong and sub-districts are very great. Some subdistricts have more important and frequent mutual transactions between residents and outsiders than the intra-Kwun Tong flows of social communication. A further study on intra-variations of sub-districts is called for. After all, Kwun Tong is a fairly new district. The basic patterns of social life have not been institutionalized yet; there is ample room for new social forces to operate in determining the modus Vivendi and nature of Kwun Tong.

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