The Careless Society: Community And Its Counterfeits by John Mcknight
Here are some of my favourite excerpts…
The discussions point out that our problem is not ineffective service-producing institutions. In fact, our institutions are too powerful, authoritative, and strong. Our problem is weak communities, made ever more impotent by our strong service systems.
As citizens have seen the professionalized service commodity invade their communities, they have grown doubtful of their common capacity to care, and so it is that we have become a careless society, populated by impotent citizens and ineffectual communities dependent on the counterfeit of care called human services.
Four counterfeiting aspects of society are analyzed: professionalism, medicine, human service systems, and the criminal justice system.
The section on professionalism involves an examination of those societal agents who announce to citizens and their conl-
munitics, “You will be better because we know better.” In a single statement they destroy the sense of community competence by capturing and commodifying the citizens’ capacity to solve problems and to care.
Revolutions begin when people who are defined as problems achieve the power to redefine the problem.
The politics for a new definition of legitimate work in America may grow from the confluence of citizens angered by the professional invasion of pcrsonhood and young professionals disillusioned by lives wasted in the manufacture of need. The possibility for this politics requires an economy that can provide legitimate work for all those people who do not want to make a living by creating deficiencies in their neighbors.
\Vhat is legitimate work? \Vhat is worth doing? What is good work for America’s people?
The answer to these questions takes us beyond the idea of profession. Our possibilities are hopeful if we can envision a society with good work to be done that does not waste our people in the proliferation of profession.
Just as General Motors needs steel, a service economy ;ieedc “deficiency,” “hu111an problems,” and “needs” if it i’s to grow. It is this economic need that creates a dilemma for Old Grandma, because it demands that we redefine her condition into a problem. This economic need for need creates a demand for redefining conditions as deficiencies.
More and more conditions of human beings are being converted into problems in order to provide jobs for people who are forced to derive their income by purporting to deliver a service. This relentless need for income through caring has resulted in a massive new breakthrough (luring the last half of
the twentieth century. During that era we made a great “advance” by redefining two conditions as problems: childhood and aging-the young and the old.
We cannot afford the oldhood industry because it disables Old Grandma. Instead, we need a genuinely anti-age policy. Policies that use age to separate people into the three categories of youth, middle age, and old in order to meet the heeds of a growth-oriented caring economy should he systematically dismantled. The age-oriented service industries break families, neighborhoods, and community and decimate the caring capacities of human beings.
Why are we putting so much resource into medicine while it is not improving our health?
Why are we putting so much resource into education and our children seem to be learning less?
Why are we putting so much resource into criminal justice systems and society seems less just and less secure?
Why are we putting so much more resource into mental health systems and we seem to have more mental illness?