What We\’re Reading

Of the ideas that were to fashion the twentieth century in ways for the most part disastrous, one that stands out above the others, so far-reaching and indeed immense were its consequences, is the idea of the good community, where relationships between individuals are strong and a powerful solidarity is founded on common feeling. Nazi Germany was the most drastic manifestation of this idea, Soviet Russia the most long-lived and territorially vast. And the world is still full of those who will champion this idea. Why is the phenomenon so tenacious? On what does it depend? First and most crucially, as is ever the way, on a desire: many still feel that a community, any community, in the sense of a group—be it the merest criminal association—where much is held in common and where ties between individuals are meaningful, is the ideal place to live. So intense is their desire to live in such a community that the reasons for and nature of those ties hardly seem important. What matters is that they be strong and close-knit. And this when all the evidence before us should at least prompt us to inquire: might there not be something pernicious in the very idea of community, at least when it manifests itself, as has frequently been the case, in a world where technology has extended its grip over the whole planet? This is the crux of the matter: are community and technology somehow incompatible? Not in the sense that community cannot be established in a technology-driven world—we know all too well that it can—but in the sense that once established, such a community can only lead to results that are radically different from those originally intended.

– Roberto Calasso, Literature and the Gods

What We're Reading

Something to say...?