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Boundary Management

 

Explanations > Groups > Boundary Management

Description | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Within groups, a particular process that is often undertaken is that of managing the boundaries of the group's territory.

Boundaries may be physical, such as when a church has a distinct parish area. It may also be conceptual or ideological, for example where a political party defines its natural socio-economic voting public.

The principle of boundary management is to defensively stop others encroaching on group territory and to manage comings and goings to ensure the group stays safe.

Boundary management is often taken on as a role by individuals who play the role of border guards. Their stern outlook and vigilance warns entrants to behave well and dissuades others nearby from invading.

Discussion

Boundaries are important for defining any 'thing'. A shape without a boundary is not a complete shape. When you have a boundary you have a thing. And when you have a thing, you can name it. It hence gains identity and meaning.

The same is true of social groups, which makes their boundaries important. With a weak boundary, others can enter at will, pollute the culture, subvert the purpose and challenge the leadership.

Paradoxically strong a boundary means the interior can be relaxed and friendly towards well-screened visitors. A strong boundary is also a useful step towards expansion, pushing back the boundaries of other groups or providing shelter for raiding parties.

In social groups all this is seldom quite as aggressive, although it can be surprising how strongly boundaries are defended and intruders punished or ejected.

If you want to enter a group, then it is often a good idea to ask rather than just push your way in. When in the group, avoid any action that appears to threaten the coherence of the group and persuade them with great care.

See also

Theories about groups

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