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Merthyr Vale History and Development

Communities developed within the post-colonial era, and the purpose of making different communities was to build a good relationship between the communities of people and the Government. This was done in two different ways; the first way was to increase the capacity of the community to represent themselves as their own voice. The second way was to increase the capacity of the Government to manage the demands that were voiced by the communities (Somerville, 2016). A community can be seen and understood as being together and being involved and connecting with people in some ways such as living together or working together (Somerville, 2016). A community can also be a group of people who have something in common with one and other such as their geographical surroundings, political or social similarities (Slack, 1998).

In terms of the history, the community of Merthyr Vale had most likely grown due to the coal mining industry. Through the nineteenth century industrialisation was the responsibility for dislocating people from their strong and powerful communities which were
self-sustaining and tied by moral and emotional bonds. This may reflect a move from gemeinschaft to gesellschaft communities (Bauman, 2001). However, industrialisation has shaped today’s society to a certain extent. There were three main factors to this which were increased population, development of manufacturing factories and the growth of communities (Midwinter, 1994). Having this happened Merthyr Vale has grown into its own community where unemployment and crimes have become normal features of today’s society (Midwinter, 1994).

Merthyr vale would be an example of a gemeinschaft community where people live in close proximity with one and other and the community work together for the same purposes. The village as a whole would seen to have held life together on a physical level and people develop intimate acquaintances. The sense of community in Merthyr vale can still continue even when people are absent from it (Tonnies et al. 2001). It can be understood that Merthyr Vale is a homogeneous community as there are members of this village that share certain traits and views as one and other such as living in the same area and maybe being in the same social class. People who live in Merthyr Vale may have shared perceptions on how society is structured and other issues as this would have been accepted by all people (Somerville, 2016).

An increase of people to areas like Merthyr Vale called for new buildings; families who had an interest in working for the Merthyr Vale Colliery responded by building homes for the newly arriving workforce. Merthyr Vale’s terrace houses, which are still standing, suggests that the concept of community is still important, despite the impact of industrialisation there were schools, churches and other basic social amenities built alongside these houses (Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, 2015). As the population grew and families started to settle in Merthyr Vale, there were shared attachments to the area. This was a result of living, working and learning together which influenced cohesion to the extent to which a community was developed and maintained. These attachments can lead people to embrace similar actions and behaviours as others (Somerville, 2016).

According to Grenfell (2014) Bourdieu’s theory of ‘Habitus’ is shaped by interactions within a community and it is individuals who share the same social space and the same conditions of work and life and these social spaces shapes people’s experiences and life chances. Merthyr Vale is known to be a working-class community, a lot of the residents would be sharing the same social space and conditions of work. People who share these attributes would create a sense of interpersonal proximity encourage different types of group formations. People in Merthyr Vale who are living in these proximities are likely to socialise and live in the same areas and are likely to group together in neighbourhoods. They are also likely to develop similar outlooks and a sense of their place in the world or class unconsciousness which is class habitus (Grenfell, 2014).

Schools are known to be the most formal community-based agency and they are an important feature within some communities like Merthyr Vale, and they are also an example of hegemony as there is a form of leadership. Schooling reaches into the being of young people to strengthen ideas of superiority through the process of success or failure (Grenfell, 2014). Learning can be a part of Bourdieu’s theory of habitus there is a big difference between institutional learning (in schools and universities) and community learning (learning within or across different communities) this is a distinction between Bourdieu’s theory of habitus and field. Learning in institutional settings like schools in Merthyr Vale such as Ynysowen Community Primary School represents a field. This is where people are assigned roles within the setting (Somerville, 2016). However, community learning is linked with habitus and it relates to a group of people that are learning within a community and their way of being the in world (Somerville, 2016).

As Merthyr Vale is a largely working-class community, there is a lot of the residents that are unemployed or have never worked, a small minority of the residents are educated above level 4 or employed in a professional occupation (UK Census Data, 2011). According to Bourdieu’s theory this majority of working class and out of work residents will impact on the form of the social and cultural capital available to Merthyr Vale’s community (Grenfell, 2014). According to Bourdieu’s theory, a community with the majority of working class or out of work people will impact the form of social and cultural capital to Merthyr Vale (Grenfell, 2014).

Low levels of education can result in marginalisation which is because of a reduced link to mainstream society. Using census data that details the educational achievement of Merthyr Vale’s residents is a good measurement of human capital which is linked to social capital (Keely, 2007). Social capital is based on the networks, norms, values and understandings of a community, this could be harder to measure as it is based on non-quantifiable data. If we link it to the educational achievements, then it is possible to assess Merthyr Vale’s resource base. People in the community visiting their friends can be a possible measurement of social capital (Keeley, 2007). However, it could not be possible to reflect on this without detailed surveys on the residents’ social behaviours. The level of wealth in Merthyr Vale could possibly be a method of calculating Merthyr Vale’s resource base. According to Rightmove (2019) the average house price in Merthyr Vale is £65,577 for a terraced house and the average price for a terraced house in South Wales is £132,671 (Rightmove, 2018). Comparing these two figures it is possible to calculate that Merthyr Vale’s residents have fewer financial assets than the average home owner in South Wales. This could conclude that Merthyr Vale may have a limited financial resource base.

In order to form a stable community, the surrounding environment needs to be maintained and facilitate for social interaction (Harris, 2006). In Merthyr Vale, the environment allows the opportunity to experience other residents, footpaths and the public spaces such as playing fields are maintained and used for sporting events with schools. There are some cul-de-sac neighbourhoods within Merthyr Vale which gives residents a sense of belonging and the layout of these neighbourhoods lack busy traffic making encounters with other neighbours possible. However, this environment can also exclude as residents become unsure of people who pass through the community with no obvious purpose as they do not ‘belong’. Cul-de-sac neighbourhoods can add unity to a homogenous community, but this may not encourage heterogeneous or more diverse communities (Harris, 2006).

Merthyr Vale is identified as the one of the most deprived (top 10%) areas within the Merthyr Tydfil Local Authority (Welsh Government, 2019). Not everyone in Merthyr Vale is deprived and not all people who are deprived live in these areas. However, low levels of deprivation are not an indicator of individual wealth (Public Health Wales, 2017). Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (Labour Run) invites people from different areas of the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough to shape communities by giving people the opportunity to say what services they want and need through a review of services. This will give the people an opportunity to point out the ‘gaps’ in provision and influence the development of services to meet the needs of their community within a certain criterion (Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, 2017). This could empower and give a voice to residents of Merthyr Vale as a community and they are required to provide their opinions on where the state has failed (Bauman, 2001).

Overall, to conclude after the analysis and the application of relevant theories, it is clear to understand how the structure of a community influences the people who are living within it. In Merthyr Vale, there is access to good facilities and schools that influences the experience of the people that are living in the community as well as the level of social capital.

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