Commenting on the article I linked below, blogger Daniel Larison has the following to say:
This [survey on increased isolation] is a significant confirmation that the constant mobility, upheaval, rootlessness and individualism of modern American life have come together to cut off millions of people from anything resembling real social, much less community, life. As the article notes, the people surveyed may have a horde of online contacts and numerous acquaintances with whom they correspond, but the depth of these relationships scarcely extends beyond the surface.
With trends like this, it is doubtful that appeals to a life centered around local community will have any meaning for people who have no idea what that community might resemble. These people might be hungry for real community, but might not even know how to go about finding it. Not only are these people lacking in koinonia, but they seem to be bereft, at a fundamental, intimate level, of even the most basic human affinities outside of the now increasingly unstable institution of marriage. I defy the libertarians out there to tell us that this trend towards isolation is a good development; I defy them to tell us that it is not a product of the very social and political individualism they champion, or that an even greater emphasis on the self would benefit all concerned.
In the comments on my prior post at ITA, Josh and I discussed whether or not a “discipline of place” would be an appropriate conservative virtue to promote as a solution to the problem of personal isolation. By “discipline of place” I am referring to being bound to one’s local community by devotion and discipline regardless of what comes around. I am optimistic that if more people decided to value their local community and look to it for guidance and assistance in times of trouble, over big corporate or governmental bureaucracies, social capital would rebound. Though perhaps it might take serious local trauma plus a critical mass of people doing it for such a rediscovery to take place. Larison is more pessimistic, arguing that many people don’t even know what authentic communities look like any more.
I’m envisioning my next few posts will be loosely tied together around the ideas of social isolation, the search for authentic community, and the discipline of place. I hope Josh and I aren’t the only ones interested in these topics.