The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block – book review

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by Edith Cody-Rice

The Abundant Community

The Abundant Community is a book that addresses our current societal malaise. John McKnight, who visited Mississippi Mills, Brockville and Carleton Place a week ago, sponsored by the Mills Community Support Corporation, argues in this book that family and neighbours have outsourced their lives  to institutions and that, in the process, we have become consumers, rather than citizens. We outsource our health care, child care, recreation, safety, and, therefore our satisfaction in life. The function of the consumer society is to make us feel that we do not have enought, that we need more. when, in fact, there is abundance of goods, talents and gifts in each of our families and neighbourhoods; enough to provide a satisfying life.

The authors look at the origins of our consumer society and issue practical suggestions to bring a neighbourhood together in association and to release the gifts of even the most marginal.

McKnight and Block tell us that an 'abundant community" has

five tenets:

  1. what we have is enough,
  2. we have the capacity to provide what we need in the face of the human condition
  3. we organize our world in the context of cooperation and satisfaction
  4. we are responsible for each other
  5. we live with the reality of the human condition

three properties:  

  1. it focuses on the gifts of its members,
  2. nurtures associational life and
  3. offers hospitality to strangers  

and six capactities

  1. kindness
  2. generosity
  3. forgiveness
  4. acceptance of failibility  
  5. mystery

McKnight and Block set out to explain these tenets, properties and capacities and provide practical advice on applying them in our community. 

This book contains an important philosophy and ideas for any community organizer, indeed anyone interested in creating a vital, satisfying community. It requires a shift in thinking and policy to facilitate change but the steps themselves are human and simple. 

Did McKnight know that the Mills is a living example of his philosophy and that was he aspires to create exists right here in Mississippi Mills?