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The Future of Community: Reports of a Death Greatly Exaggerated [Paperback]

Dave Clements , Alastair Donald , Martin Earnshaw , Austin Williams
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

20 Oct 2008
'The Future of Community is a much need challenge to the complacent and flabby orthodoxies currently dominating the debate. It asks all the right questions. ... Suggesting compelling answers, this book will lift the communities debate to another level.' Julian Baggini, philosopher and author of 'Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind'

We are constantly being told that communities are under threat, that we are losing a ‘sense of community’. This book finds that the notion of community in Britain is actually threatened by the very thing intended to protect it; relentless government and third party interventions bent on imposing their own forms of social cohesion on the population.

There is no doubt that modern societies, underpinned by a ruthlessly competitive and individualistic economic system, have undermined ties of family, solidarity and commonality. However, when an idea of community is articulated it is almost invariably along conservative and reactionary lines - with unelected spokespersons unquestionably accepted as 'community leaders', and with formal contractual relationships taking the place of 'traditional' social order. The short, punchy articles in this book criticise attempts by the state and other agencies to correct the so-called collapse of communities.

This book is for students and citizens looking to get beyond the hysterical rhetoric of the government and media to find out about the real communities of the 21st century.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Pluto Press (20 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745328164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745328164
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 434,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


[This book] is a much-needed challenge to the complacent and flabby orthodoxies currently dominating the debate. It asks all the right questions: What are communities? What's so great about them? How do they really thrive? How much can politics, architecture, technology or voluntary work destroy or help sustain them? ... This book will lift the communities debate to another level. (Julian Baggini, author of Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind)

This powerful book is an alternative to the tradition of swansongs to lost communities. It shows that official and semi-official 'community creators' can only construct fragile pretend communities that often reveal their deep distrust of citizens. It argues that ... the possibilities of human co-operation and the building of new communities are greater than ever. (Professor Dennis Hayes, Oxford Brookes University, co-author of Basildon: The Mood of the Nation)

About the Author

Dave Clements writes on social policy, and works as a policy adviser in children's social care. He has written widely for publications including Guardian Unlimited, spiked-online and Community Care Magazine.

Alastair Donald is researching Urban Systems and Metropolitan Design at the Martin Centre for Architectural and Urban Studies, University of Cambridge. He is co-editor of The Future of Community (Pluto, 2009).

Martin Earnshaw was a convenor of the 2006 Future of Community conference, held at Central St Martins.

Austin Williams is author of The Enemies of Progress (2008) and co-editor of The Future of Community (Pluto, 2009). He is the founder of ManTownHuman, director of the Future Cities Project and convenor of the infamous 'Bookshop Barnies' book discussions.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read 15 July 2011
This book is of general interest as well as being useful and informative reading for researchers interested in this field. Although published 3 years ago, it touches on very topical issues - that of David Cameron's "Big Society" and Boris Johnson's "Team London".

The book sets out to challenge current perceptions of community, the loss of a sense of community and the idea that community is inherently a good thing.

The book is made up of 4 Chapters each containing a selection of short essays from different contributors. Contributors to the book come from a diverse range of backgrounds and their work derives from their interest in the Future of Community Festival organised by the Future Cities Project.

The barely disguised cynicism and humour of the Introduction to the book gets the reader interested. The book is well structured. Each of the 4 chapters has a specific focus around separate notions of community: In Search of Community, Constructing Communities, Communities in Flux, Undermining Communities. The short essays within each chapter are easy to read and digest and in most cases illustrate their points very clearly. Each essay critiques the way in which various political interventions and/or manipulation and policies, in their effort to promote community are, in their view, actually undermining communities and individuals within them.

After reading this book, the reader is left with an overriding sense of "Big Brother" .
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book provides a much-needed critique of top-down political strategies to "heel our broken Britain", at the same questioning the extent to which a sense of community has actually broken down. There are undoubtedly problems, most clearly illustrated for me in the reluctance of adults to discipline young people in public (or to back me up on the bus when I've tried to discipline them). The government response to both real and perceived problems ranges from repressive legislation such as ASBOs to strategies to "engage" communities through volunteering, and heeling our "vulnerable" selves (and in the process shifting the blame from the social to the individual), or re-designing public space. However, as is argued, while the desire to engage communities seems sensible, the strategies on offer are often limited and patronising. Distrustful of grassroots community associations, the authorities only want us to engage on their terms. But devoid of a political vision of the good society they want to engage us in, this either ends up as engagement for its own sake, or, as some writers' point out, more to cohere the elite themselves. And no matter how innocuous state engagement strategies can seem, there's also often a level of coercion involved, as the desire to improve "wellbeing" inevitably leads to the politics of behaviour. However, all is not doom and gloom, as the positive experience of Brazilian immigration into the small Galway town of Gort shows, despite elite fears of the inability of people to interact normally left to their own devices; and as people's reaction after the 7/7 London Bombings shows "the capacity of individuals to take responsibility for themselves and to make common cause with others ... remains, and often asserts itself even under the most difficult circumstances. Read more ›
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