I love how Alastair McIntosh writes, and Rekindling Community is no exception. If you have access to Small is Beautiful, however, I would recommend you read this first as Rekindling Community is rooted in Schumacher's ideas. Given there are only a hundred pages, this book packs a fair punch. Not only does Alastair McIntosh present a theoretical model of 'the psychospiritual underpinnings of community' but the theory is supported by summaries of research undertaken by colleagues into different aspects of the spirituality of community regeneration. I found the diagrams particularly useful, and the metaphor of fire-building works well in explaining how the same elements can work together in creating community – or not – depending on how they are combined.
In his discussion of the 'metaphysical disease' he argues that essentialism ('philo-sopher-talk for spirituality') needs to be reclaimed and concludes: 'Here, then is the Great Work of our times: to know and to strengthen existence as spiritual interconnectedness'. Community depends on our connection between nature (soil), with the divine (soul) and with each other (society). As matters stand, these connections are damaged, so community regeneration needs to create the conditions whereby we can reconnect with these three inter-weaving strands.
The 'dynamics of community'
In my own experience of working in community development, it has always been what he calls 'shadowstrike' – the projection onto others of unresolved inner conflicts – that has been our downfall. So whilst he mentions it and recognises that – 'to work deeply with the dynamics of community, we must build the skills necessary to recognise and process conflict and violence' – there is no discussion of what these skills are and this important aspect of community regeneration was inadequately covered.
The arguments presented are clear and cogent but it is the discussion of the research papers that intersperse the book that I found inspiring. This isn't just another academic argument presented clearly, these are ideas that have a practical application and here are some of the ways in which they have been applied. The research is diverse and the theory comes alive in application. A 'meaty' book, thought-provoking and challenging. Well worth reading.
Dearbhaile Bradley is an eco-poet and facilitator of the Work that Reconnects