Thursday, July 15, 2010

Abundant Mantra

"We have been discussing a way for families and neighbors together to create that part of life that systems can never provide. And this life is created from abundance of our gifts, the expansion of our associations, and our willingness to extend an invitation to those we have not known."

Peter Block and John McKnight,The Abundant Community

In some ways I wish this book had started with this premise, elaborated it a bit, and then gone on to show how families and neighbors have translated these ideas and apsirations into action. Instead, most of the book is about deficits, the realities of living today in the US, and the evils of consumer society and systems. We don't get much history or an analysis of the pros and cons of progress -- and what lies ahead.

The Abundant Community reads much like an ideological script, a self-help mantra, a denunciation of sin. At its core, it's a stump speech that can be (and probably has been) been given over and over again -- and always remains sort of fresh. What's surprising to me is that after twenty or so years of promosting these ideas, publishing the big green book, etc., we don't have a better set of examples about where this approach has worked in some significant way. Has it made a difference?

All that said, the asset-based approach remains a powerful critique of the way we think about people and communities, not necessarily the economy. And its promotion of gifts, associations, and hospitality is a simple, common sense, compelling approach for building community in a time when our social fabric is frayed. Showing how this approach is relevant in our new, emerging world would have been a better target for the book.

No comments: