Community and Its Counterfeits
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 A collection of academic articles--several more than ten years old--arguing that many social services have actually weakened communities. ``Our essential problem,'' declares McKnight (Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research/Northwestern Univ.), ``is weak communities, made ever more impotent by our strong service systems.'' That sentiment has been aired increasingly in recent years, but this book is weakened by the fact that much of its material is redundant, dated, or incomplete. A veteran of work in low-income urban neighborhoods, McKnight offers only a few useful tales from the inside, notably an analysis of health in a West Side Chicago community, where his team studied hospital records and found that most hospital visits stemmed from problems (auto accidents, attacks, alcoholism) that had more to do with social disorder than disease. McKnight's criticism of the commodification of medicine and the hegemony of professionals would be stronger, however, had this 1978 article addressed today's debates. Similarly, in ``Thinking About Crime, Sacrifice, and Community'' he argues thoughtfully that ``working communities'' will do more to prevent crime than any sort of rehabilitation, but he doesn't update this 1986 essay to address current sentiments. Conceptual contributions hold up better. The author suggests that the ``oldness industry'' is dependent on viewing the elderly as incapacitated; similarly, the enemies of the common people are not poverty and disease but interests and institutions (both private and public) that benefit from their dependence. McKnight argues that community services do not deserve the name unless they actually involve people in community relationships, and suggests that community organizers should focus on influencing the flow of public spending, developing local enterprises, and finding ways ``to reroot business.'' Less than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1995
ISBN: 0-465-09125-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995