I am communal

By Mathias Maurer, December 2012

Dear Reader,

A child would be lost without community. An adult less so – or are we deluding ourselves? While the former is obvious, all adult individuals appear to want to realise themselves and their interests in life to the maximum. To that end, they use the more immediate and the wider community. Or do they need it for more?

We know from childhood studies: every child can only mature to become an individual in and through the community. And what about adults? Is their development complete? By no means. The self only recognises itself in the other and is reflected in the community.

What, then, is the self? A reflex of the community? A conglomerate of individual, piecemeal convictions and views of others? And does the community take on the task of reconciling interests such as in legal disputes or business contracts?

If, on the one hand, it is inconceivable that a self can exist without the community, a community cannot, on the other hand, do without “selfs” – and be it in the form of chiefs, bosses or other leading personalities. Yet this form of community building is coming to its historical end. The increasing individualisation of human beings means that community must be actively wanted and created by people – permanently. Community no longer arises simply because one person wants it; several people must want it – or at least two.

New social movements such as the common welfare economy, ethical banking or sustainable agriculture require the self-determined self which voluntarily keeps the social horizon in mind and then joins with others of its own free will. If in earlier times it was the social compact and sanctions which kept individual egoism within civilised limits, the social element is today something which fulfils a need of the self.

One does not have to be a do-gooder to recognise that in view of the global interconnectedness of humanity the social response to our anti-social behaviour will, sooner or later, inevitably arrive back at home – or vice versa.

But forward-looking impulses and initiatives can only originate in a self – not in the status quo of a community. The self-development of the individual cannot, therefore, be separated from modern, sustainable community development – large or small.

Mathias Maurer


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