Community is dead, and thank goodness for that. Nothing unites us, and therefore nothing divides us as it once did.

There is space now for alternatives – sexualities, lifestyles, subcultures, religions – now that the immense weight of society has lifted, leaving behind just people who live in the suburbs of big cities, cities full of strangers, but also home to our small individual sets of friends and family.

The conventional narrative of community is riddled with doom. A common response to the shift away from the many to the few is one of hand-wringing. It kicked off in earnest in 1995 when American political scientist Robert Putnam wrote an article, Bowling Alone, exposing the widespread decline of interest in American mass organisations, such as churches, unions and political parties. Putnam’s article triggered a widespread Western moral panic over the erosion of what he dubbed social capital. But eroding social capital – as measured by group membership – is the wrong way to picture what’s happening.

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