"A nation of organisers: What David Brooks could learn from Saul Alinsky and John Wesley" By Luke Bretherton
David Brooks's article "A Nation of Weavers" points to social isolation as the root cause of the social crisis America faces and the personal suffering many endure. His constructive response is to reweave the social fabric from the ground up. Brooks is right on both counts, but important lessons must be learned from how previous generations addressed the same problem.
Brooks sees "hyperindividualism" and a fragilised social fabric as new phenomenon. They are not. They are a constitutive feature of the modern world that commentators have lamented since the eighteenth century. For example, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, shared Brooks's concerns.
As did socialists and conservative reformers through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some pointed to capitalism as the cause, with its demand that each puts their self-interest above that of the common good. Others to an emphasis on individual autonomy that sees throwing off social obligations as the basis of freedom and, in doing so, refuses the reality that each of us is constituted through our relations with others.