Me, Me, Me? – nostalgic for community? Think again

Selina Todd in The Guardian:

Remember when everyone left doors unlocked and borrowed cups of sugar? No? Then this richly researched history of community may well appeal. Jon Lawrence uncovers the reality behind romantic cliches of our postwar past. He convincingly suggests that the real history of community is one in which people have combined solidarity with self-reliance and privacy.

This isn’t a new conclusion, as Lawrence acknowledges – his copious notes are a valuable guide for anyone interested in the social histories he draws on. But Me, Me, Me? takes an intriguing route to explore how the myth of community was constructed, and how it might be dismantled. The book revisits several social investigations – ranging from an inner-city area designated for slum clearance to a former mining village – conducted between the 1950s and the 2000s. One of Lawrence’s most vital points is that policymakers and journalists derive their nostalgic notions of “community” from a partial understanding of these studies. A closer reading reveals discontent with overcrowded conditions, frustration at prying neighbours and the hopelessness of poverty. Ambitions were real, people were active and many welcomed the chance to move to spacious housing in the suburbs.

More here.