The following post is one of three that will focus on alternative perspectives on community. They are not new, but, as far as I know, they are little discussed. I present them with the intention to begin a dialogue among Regina Urban Ecology blog followers. If these post rub you the wrong way, or you have thoughts to add please let me hear it. It’s my hope that these posts will be the beginning of a more substantial article. For now though, I am curious to hear what people think.
Jean-Luc Nancy (1991) says, “as an individual, I am closed off from all community.” This statement got me thinking. Foremost, it complicates the foundation of community development. Typically, community builders think the key to creating strong healthy communities is to awaken a sense of community within the individual. This “if only we could get back to the way things used to be” sentiment permeates thinking regarding community development. In this vein, community is a project that has been lost.
But here’s the problem, and one that Nancy discusses at length. To be an individual is to be indivisible, self-contained, and unto one’s self. And to be indivisible is to be unable to break parts of yourself off and share your being with others – the crux of healthy, well-functioning communities, sharing yourself with your other, or so we’ve been told. Community, in this sense, relies on divisibility.
So when Nancy says that individuals are closed off from community, he leaves us with a predicament – do we attempt to rethink the individual to fit with community or do we adapt our conception of the community to fit with the individual? As individuals, I don’t think the way that we perceive ourselves is changing. Therefore, the community must flex. Rather than awaken a sense of community within the individual, we may have to, perhaps, ignite a sense of the individual within community.