Who Is My Neighbor?

Social Affinity in a Modern World

By James A. Vela-McConnell

Subjects: Social Psychology
Series: SUNY series in the Sociology of Culture
Paperback : 9780791443125, 328 pages, September 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443118, 328 pages, September 1999

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Table of contents

List of Figures

List of Tables



1. A Society of Strangers

2. Roots of Social Affinity

3. The Construction of Social Issues, Part I: Compartmentalizing the Self and Society

4. The Construction of Social Issues, Part II: Breaking the Boundaries Between Self and Other

5. The "Other Side of Silence": The Construction of Social Consciousness

6. A "Sentimenal Journey": Emotions, Role-taking, and Empathy

7. A Call to Action: Social Activism and Social Affinity

8. From "Compartmentalizing" to "Breaking the Boundaries": Moving Along the Continuum of Social Affinity

9. Becoming "Fully Human": Social Affinity in a Modern World

Appendix A: The Empirical Approach to Social Affinity

Appendix B. Transcript of a Commercial for the Christian Children's Fund

Appendix C. Social Issues Frames




Points the way toward a world in which we might feel more connected to and responsible for each other.


In a world which often is labeled a "global village," who exactly is our neighbor? Who is My Neighbor? explores the emergence of what is called "social affinity," a concept bridging classical notions of social cohesion with contemporary social psychology. The ideas underlying social affinity focus on the sentiment of moral obligation which holds society together.

In order to understand how a sense of social affinity emerges within individuals, the author breaks down the concept into three dimensions—social consciousness, sentiment, and action—and their constitutive elements. These dimensions are then brought together in a single model demonstrating how social affinity and the meaning our values have for us are shaped by our social location and the self-interest which permeates our culture.

James A. Vela-McConnell is Associate Professor of Sociology at Augsburg College. He is one of the authors of What's Left? Radical Politics in the Postcommunist Era.


"Bold in conception, breathtaking because of the range of writing it draws together, scrupulously careful in execution, and elegantly parsimonious in its explanation, Professor Vela-McConnell has written a book that is at once deeply satisfying intellectually and hugely valuable to anyone interested in linking theory to public policy. All whose political and moral sensibilities lie in the direction of maximizing a sense of neighborliness— in the immediate social context of our lives, within the boundaries of the United States, and in our increasingly global village— should read this book. — from the Foreword by David Karp