theme has been engaging with smart critics of liberalism (see, e.g. here
). A common thread in their critiques is that liberalism’s celebration of the individual has destroyed community and led to disastrous social outcomes
(I often think of the finding, discussed here
, that identifying as Christian but not attending church was one of the strongest predictors of voting Trump in 2016). So if you wanted to rebuild a sense of community in a de-unionised, secular society, how would you do it?
This short paper
by two academics at Harvard Divinity School profiles ten contemporary organisations - from Soul Cycle
to Juniper Path
- that are building communities that fulfil some of the traditional social and cultural roles of organised religion (Thanks Sarah Drinkwater
for the link). The authors note the echoes of traditional religious practice - ritual, pilgrimage, confession - in many of these examples.
I’m sympathetic to the idea that the West has undervalued community over the last forty years (if not to the broader anti-liberal critique). The approaches in this paper, though, seem to have limited scalability. Soul Cycle et al, however successful, are unlikely candidates for creating a cross-cutting national identity. If anything, they risk exacerbating the metropole / hinterland divide we’ve discussed before
. We need more innovation in this space, though, so experiments like these are worth keeping an eye on.