Community and identification

CFS Lecture by Bernard Yack, Lerman Neubauer Professor of Democracy and Public Policy, Brandeis University, USA.


In the first lecture I argue that we need to free our concept of community from its association with the concept of identity.  Community, I suggest, is best understood as a kind of social relationship that bridges – rather than erases or transcends – individual difference.  As such, it represents part of the fabric of our everyday lives, rather than a special expression of unity that demands, for good or ill, some kind of social harmony.  I further argue that the ordinariness of community, as well as the sentiments of mutual concern and loyalty that it inspires, have been obscured by our obsessive focus on the nature and value of distinctly modern societies, with their relatively individualistic forms of association.  That focus makes community seem foreign to our own lives, as if it belongs to either the world we have lost or the future we are trying to bring into being – or avoid.