Although community is something widely valued, the term is used in different ways - with different emphases across the political spectrum. On one hand, community is something often portrayed as more highly valued by liberal and progressive individuals - who are often the ones saying things like "it takes a village to raise a child."
By contrast, a conservative emphasis on the family as the fundamental unit of society can translate into a de-emphasis on the centrality of broader collective connections - e.g., “it doesn’t take a village to raise a child - it takes a mother and father.” That being said, intellectual conservatives (from Burke to Bork) have typically been strongly pro-community - especially seeing church community as a local community anchor. For instance, religious conservatives see 1960s Supreme Court decisions over-riding local community norms, e.g. regarding pornography, as profoundly destructive of community and thus partially responsible for the explosion in harmful behaviors such as substance abuse and teen pregnancy.
On the other hand are the “community building” activists (more likely to identify as liberals) who see consumerism and large systems as having undermined traditional mutual support roles within communities, and urge people to reclaim their efficacy: “Right in our neighborhood we have the capacity to address our human needs in ways that systems, which see us only as interchangeable units, as problems to be solved, never can.” Peter Block and John McKnight, Abundant Community.
QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:
- When you think of “community” in respect to how you live your life, what/who do you think of? What “communities” do you feel you’re part of? Are they important to you and if so, why? What does it mean to you to be a “community member”?
- How connected do you feel to other people who live in your town/neighborhood/subdivision/apartment or condo building/other description of the “place” where you live? Do you feel your life would be enhanced by greater connection? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
Michael Strong, Mary Jacksteit
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