Among all the writing about community impoverishment in the United States today, here is a book that highlights the ability of local communities to heal from within. Neglectful Society shows how competent communities have been invaded, captured and colonized by professional services.

And now, a bit of advertising, since I also translated this excellent book...


Among all the writing about community impoverishment in the United States today, here is a book that highlights the ability of local communities to heal from within.

Neglectful Society shows how capable communities have been invaded, captured, and colonized by professional services - with devastating results. Disrupted by these social services, community spirit falters: families collapse, schools fail, violence spreads, medical systems grow out of control. "The enemy is not poverty or disease," the author writes. "The enemy is a set of interests that need our dependence under a mask of service."

John McKnight tells us how the best efforts of experts to rebuild and revitalize the community are actually destroying it. McKnight focuses on four "counterfeit" aspects of society: professionalism, medicine, human service systems, and the criminal justice system. With the ideological roots of most human services stemming from a religious ideal, the book concludes with a reflection on the notion of Christian service and how it has turned into neglect.

Reforming our human service institutions will not work, McKnight warns. These systems overdo it, intervene where they are ineffective, and attempt to substitute irreplaceable human qualities with services. Rather than increasing the number or quality of services, this book demonstrates that the solution to most of America's social problems lies in the power of local communities of citizens.

JOHN McKnight has worked with communities throughout the United States and Canada. He is co-author of Community Building from the Inside Out, a manual for community organizers. He is director of the Community Research Program at the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University, and also teaches at the School of Language and the School of Education and Social Policy.

And some testimonials:

"McKnight is a storyteller, a political philosopher, a prophet, and an activist. In this compellingly wise book, democratic communities come alive through relationships forged on the anvil of attention and consent. To act in community, he insists, is to undertake a concrete task, not a sentimental journey. It is work for citizens, neighborhoods, families and friends." - Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Ethics, University of Chicago, and author of Democracy on Trial and Woman and War.

"McKnight's ideas have caught on in the United States. His assertion that 'care is the mask of love' has changed my attitude and that of many others. Most professionals recognize that they have tasted this material, but have not yet swallowed it. Now that the federal budget - not just people's health - depends on accepting McKnight's common-sense ideas, it's worth a national debate." Ivan Illich

"John McKnight's Neglectful Society is a breakthrough, both in its critique of professional practices and in its deep understanding of the role of the community as an agent of care. McKnight provides a brilliant analysis of the criminal justice system and offers a rich and constructive worldview. His chapter on the post-Alinsky agenda is particularly thought-provoking." Frank Riessman, Director, Nationalé Self-Help Clearinghouse, Editor-in-Chief, Social Policy magazine.

"Finally, the voice of reason rings out above the technological din that has characterized the nmational debate on health care, public assistance, and crime. John McKnight's analysis will confuse the Left and confound the Right. The Neglectful Society should be required reading for every lawyer, doctor, social worker, probation officer, child care worker, and police officer in the country." Jerome G. Miller, D.S.W., L.C.S.W., President, National Center on Institutions and Alternatives.

"In The Neglectful Society, John McKnight goes far deeper than traditional discussions of welfare reform, and identifies the core of the current system's failure...His exploration of the problem and the solutions he proposes are insightful, and sparkle with images that reverberate his message long after the book is finished. In a time of critical turmoil, the analysis in The Neglectful Society will leave its mark on all future considerations of welfare reform and community revitalization." Robert Woodson SR, President and founder of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.

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