The decline of community is a theme taken up by many today both on the right and the left. The solitary bowler, a memorable image from Robert Putman’s book Bowling Alone, represents the loss that many feel and confirms the intuition that, despite the many advantages the modern world provides, something has indeed been lost. But what exactly is a community? Does any group of individuals living in close proximity to each other constitute a community? Does a healthy community exist more easily in an urban, suburban, or rural environment? Although he does not argue that a good life is only possible on the farm, Wendell Berry writes out of the agrarian tradition, and his vision of community is articulated in a rural context centered around a small town. Berry’s work is useful in developing a sense of the various ingredients necessary for a viable community. However, it is necessary to ask if and how this vision of community, if indeed it is compelling, can be translated into urban and sub-urban contexts.
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