Everyday Interactions Foster Debate, Compromise and Healthier Communities

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The amount of casual interactions we have with acquaintances, for instance a delivery person, has dropped over the past 50 years The amount of casual interactions we have with acquaintances, for instance a delivery person, has dropped over the past 50 years (Tyler Olson/Shutterstock)

Routines that once put doctors and lawyers in touch with grocers and plumbers—casual, everyday interactions that encouraged debate and compromise—have changed dramatically over the last 50 years. Marc J. Dunkelman argues that the disappearance of these community interactions are to blame America's economic troubles and political gridlock. Social media and technology make it seem like we’re more connected than ever, but they’re no substitute for human connections within our neighborhoods and communities. In his book The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community Dunkelman looks at this shift in American life, and shows how incidental interactions have built local communities and fostered healthy debate for centuries.


Marc J. Dunkelman

Comments [6]

Thomas from NYC

Greetings fellow Lopate listeners! I run a Meetup discussion group dedicated to various WNYC programs. I'm hosting an event tomorrow based on this very segment:

Join us for an afternoon of fun, intellectual, and friendly discussions!

Aug. 15 2014 10:59 AM
tom LI

Also - immigration is a huge factor. The trend of the immigrants conforming to their new American homeland has been flipped. Where now the immigrants - especially of the Asia's - desire to force their new homeland to bend to their cultural norms.

Aug. 07 2014 12:48 PM
Tony from Canarsie

If I were grading the originality of what your guest has to say on a scale from one to ten (ten being excellent), I'd have to give him a one. Practically everything he has to impart has been said a million times by a million others since at least the 1950's.

Aug. 07 2014 12:32 PM
tom LI

The sudden and high speed growth of the post WW2 neighborhoods, built by people who had once been crammed into tenements, created an anamoly of neighborliness that only lasted till those new 'hoods became old ones and strangers moved in. Observe a new community being populated and you see the old trend take place and then it wanes, as the natural selfishness of the family take over, and people move out and strangers move in.

Add the way in which the New Wave of immigrants from the Asia's, and their very unmistakable isolationist and non assimilation attitudes of their elders, into these older mostly white Xtian neighborhoods - and you see yet another means to help the disconnect expand and deepen.

Aug. 07 2014 12:32 PM

Note to author: it is 4.5% more efficient and 100% less annoying to listeners not to start so many sentences with the noun clause "What we find," "What you see," "What this means," "What I think," ad nauseam.

Aug. 07 2014 12:19 PM
Patricia from Westchester

But what about the QUALITY of those relationships? People who know you deeply enough to show up when you need help? I may know a lot of people through Facebook and such but the face to face relationships are so different AND relationships within your community matter in a different way than those on-line....and people with different perspectives...we need to interact with them.

Aug. 07 2014 12:13 PM

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