The origin of the word "community" comes from the Latin munus, which means the gift, and cum, which means together, among each other. So community literally means to give among each other. Therefore I define my community as a group of people who welcome and honor my gifts, and from whom I can reasonably expect to receive gifts in return.
--Bernard Lietaer in Beyond Greed & Scarcity
Society is what happens between people. Basically, we give things to each other. As a society, that's all we actually do.
He gives her a flower, she gives him a smile. We give him a push to start his engine. The farmers give their crops to producers, they give their products to stores, they give us our daily goods, as we give our time to the company, the boss, whatever.
We are community insofar as we are engaged in giving to each other -- the community is the whole made of the parts through their interaction. An ant colony isn't just a bunch of ants, it's what they are doing together.
We give things to each other for many different reasons. Sometimes as a pure gift -- sometimes as a form of tribute or obligation, sometimes after persuasion or under coercion.
Persistence depends on the continuing viability of the process. What allows and/or causes it to continue?
Gift exchanges persist because, on balance, each person in the network finds their self interest better served by continuing than withdrawing. They desist when those who are most giving find it isn't working for them. And no one gets if no one gives
If those who are giving are in consequence recognized or acknowledged or credited in such a way that they might expect to receive gifts in turn, then their persistence is encouraged.
In our present socio-economic world, the most common form of such recognition is money.
Money, in one form or another, is the thing that keeps most people doing what they are doing, serving whom they serve.
Back home -- on to money