Years ago, while in the graduate school of Social Work, we spent a lot of time exploring the importance of community. The thesis in this study was that there is an ongoing tension between our individual identity, and our roles in the communities around us. The notion was that a successful life required a balance between these 2 poles (Individualism vs Communitarism).
Over the many years since this academic time, I have tried to stay sensitive to this balance, recognizing the need to nurture both sides of this framework. As time marches on, however, it seems that the notion of individualism has become more dominant in this balance in the world around us. People have seemed to retreat more into their individual world, at the expense of their communities.
Even our politics in the US have skewed to the individual side of this equation. There is constant rhetoric that we need more individual responsibility and less dependence on government (the collective). That our taxes are too high, and if only people would do more for themselves, there would be less need for government. This debate plays out in many other ways.
I was drawn back into this debate when a friend in Canada sent me a new book by Paul Born, a thought leader on community titled, "Deepening Community." The book is an excellent overview of this issue, filled with many thought-provoking concepts. One is the notion of identity. There is much attention paid to our development of an individual identity. That is, the kind of person that you want others to think of you.
But what about our community identity? How do we see ourselves in collection with other people? These are good questions to ponder because in the end, it is our balance between individuality and community that leads to a successful life.
So, where do you fall on this scale? What is your community Identity?