Gar Alperovitz: The question of culture is posed, for me anyway, in several different ways, but how we as individuals understand ourselves in community. Do we see ourselves as extreme individualists pursuing our own goals only? Or do we see ourselves as partners, friends, members of a community of common interest and common work? That last phrase is very complicated, because how deep the common work is, how deep the community is, is really a critical question. It can be very light. I’m from Racine, Wisconsin. We had a community, but it was not much of a community. I have been in smaller cultural communities, and I think many others have as well, and there are different depths. I once visited an Israeli kibbutz many, many years ago. And I found in that particular one I visited a deep community; many of them don’t have the same kind of community.
But ultimately, to me, community means: how do we see our relationship one to another? Are we together, one and one, in some kind of common enterprise? Or are we only all in it for me, me, me, me? Obviously, the former is what we’re after. A couple of things I’d like to introduce into this discussion: what are the economic institutions that can nurture community? The most obvious one in our culture is maybe, and I say this carefully, is the cooperative. Because it’s something in common. But in fact, cooperatives have been very, very tiny in their growth. One of our researchers has studied that they have not produced much of that cultural feeling. Are there other institutions that might be built that say we’re all in it together? Can we build that?
This article originally appeared in the Nonprofit Quarterly. See the original article here.