By Kevin Loughran.
The very title of this book proclaims a willingness to address the largest themes but for this author it is a bite too big to chew. He tackles topics including community care, therapeutic communities and urban regeneration and then takes a philosophic turn around questions such as whether human nature is individualist or social and whether the idea of community is possible within our economic system.
As he goes along he weighs up the “good” and “bad” meanings of community, a debate already well aired in the literature. At the end of his labours, he offers a short and insipid balance sheet.
Interspersed are excursions into highly contested areas such as genetics, language acquisition and the social construction of self among other subjects. All are treated briefly and are reliant on quotes from one or two (not always the most recent) sources. In this welter of topics it is sometimes difficult to follow the author’s thread or to feel we have learned much.
For those coming to the topic of community for the first time it will prompt much reflective thinking. For those familiar with even a little of the vast literature on “community”, it will elicit that old sense of deja vu once again.
John Pierson is senior lecturer, Institute of Social Work and Applied Social Studies, Staffordshire University.