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Amid all the hand-wringing about the loss of community in America these days, here is a book that celebrates the ability of neighborhoods to heal themselves from within. John McKnight shows how competent communities have been invaded and colonized by professionalized services--often with devastating results. Overwhelmed by these social services, the spirit of community falters: families collapse, schools fail, violence spreads, and medical systems spiral out of control. Instead of more or better services, the basis for resolving many of America's social problems is the community capacity of the local citizens.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465091263
ISBN-10: 0465091261
Format: Paperback
(203mm x 135mm x 15mm)
Pages: 208
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 12-Mar-1996
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » 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. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - John McKnight

John McKnight is the coauthor of a guide for community development entitled Community Building from the Inside Out. He is the director of the Community Studies Program at the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University, where he also teaches. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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