The Careless Society: Community And Its Counterfeits

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?


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