Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Counterfeit" communties and the commodification of community

The adverts appear everywhere. Developers adverting their ritzy housing estates claiming that they don't build houses, they build communities. And property developers employ community development specialists to create "communities" in order to sell more houses at higher prices.

And then there are the Government departments and NGO's who describe their top down efforts to impose solutions on people to achieve already defined outcomes  as "community development".

Frankly it is all an illusion.

It is as Australian blogger and writer Bruce Watson rightly points out the commodification of community-  the turning of a complex human and social institution into a commodity that can be exploited for profit and political gain. Watson reminds us that most of what takes place under the banner of "community" has become clouded and easily manipulated for commodification and marketing.

John Freie and  Bruce Watson call it "counterfeit communities" and it is a good description. In counterfeit communities it is less important that communities exist in reality. It is the appearance of community that is important. People are encouraged to see the manifestations and spirit of community without accepting the complex interactions that must occur for it to be realized. As Wilson writes:
"Community has regrettably become a product to be advertised, marketed and sold. It makes no difference whether genuine community exists or not. As long as it appears to exist. Consequently, we are subjected to planned communities that are advertised as “truly a special place”, “we’ve made the dream a reality” and “the tasteful community you deserve” with a “neighbourhood bar and grill” (in the multi-story shopping centre complex)"
As Watson points counterfeit communities, despite all the glossy brochures, promises and hyperbole, are inherently hollow and exploitative. They are never fully satisfying.

And Wilson gets to the nub of counterfeit community:
"Counterfeit community extends the power and expands the wealth of those who create it".

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