Members’ Report #4/2005 Betweem individualisation and community
Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies Instituttet for Fremtidsforskning
Content - Part I:
Introduction .................................................................................................................... 4
What is individualisation? ................................................................................................ 5
Manifestations of individualisation ................................................................................... 7
Six examples of the manifestations of individualisation towards 2016
1. Me and my lifestyle ................................................................................................... 15
2. My personal genome ................................................................................................ 19
3. Me and my God ....................................................................................................... 23
4. I am a Yeppie............................................................................................................ 27
5. Me and the conflict ................................................................................................... 31
6. Me and freedom ....................................................................................................... 35
Content - Part II:
Introduction .................................................................................................................... 4
What is community? ....................................................................................................... 5
how modern communities manifest themselves ............................................................. 7
Six examples of the manifestations of communities towards 2016
1. We meet in the e-communities ................................................................................. 15
2. We want to be good. ................................................................................................ 19
3. Consumer communities ............................................................................................ 23
4. the communities of experience ................................................................................ 27
5. the clubs and me ..................................................................................................... 31
6. We are networking.................................................................................................... 35
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On the one hand we have plenty of examples of how we’re all becoming more diverse and indivi-
dual. On the other hand there is no doubt that modern communities thrive. Individualisation and
modern communities exist side by side.
Individualisation – an important development trend
It’s mentioned over and over again. It has generated countless headlines in recent years. It is con-
stantly used to explain why this or that phenomenon has turned out the way it has. We all refer to it
when we claim the right to make things just the way we want them. It’s called individualisation. We
have all become individualists; we have all become the axis on which the world turns. We make our
own choices. We choose our friends, our clothes, our furniture, and who we want to play with. We
create our own identity, we decide on the meaning of life, and we take the consequences.
That is individualism taken to its ultimate conclusion; an exaggeration or perhaps a caricature,
but nonetheless an unequivocal depiction of the modern concept of individuality. It has already
become the standard we’ve come to measure ourselves against and it may be even more so in the fu-
ture. I am myself, and the world around me perceives me as a unique entity; therefore the boundary
between me and the world around me is important. It’s important who I am, how I look, what sym-
bols I surround myself with, and how I act. My job, my house, and my husband are all part of my
brand, a part of my personal identity, which is why all of it must be chosen with care.
Individualisation is here to stay, and it may have permanently displaced tradition, heritage, and
religion as the most valid cause. Everywhere in society we see individualisation manifest itself in
purer and purer form: To some extent we create our own identity by picking and choosing from
life’s great buffet. In a few years we’ll all be equipped with personal genetic profiles that allow us
to fine-tune our health status. More and more we live single lives and carry that lifestyle into family
life. Through our consumption we adorn ourselves with icons that extend our personal brand and
express our individuality. Individualisation is changing age-old habits and norms in fundamental
ways and much will never be the same again.
Are you aware of the individualisation trend, and do you know the consequences it will have for
yourself, your neighbour, your customers, your business, and society in general?
Despite individualisation, we will remain social creatures who enjoy being together and want
acceptance; hence modern communities still thrive. Some may even say that individualisation has
provided better conditions for communities. Individualisation and modern communities exist side
by side, and it’s the relationship between the two that this members’ report explores. What will hap-
pen to people, society, lifestyles, consumption, and the political reality when individualisation takes
over and the conditions for communities change?
Birthe Lindal Hansen, project manager
Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, December 2005
what is Individualisation?
According to the dictionary, individualism is: a view that champions the rights and freedom of
the individual in society. To individualise: To adapt something to the special circumstances that
apply to the individual. An individualist: An adherent of individualism who has his own opinions
and walks his own ways. Individuality: The sum total of an individual’s distinctive character and
peculiarities. Individualisation is thus defined as a condition where society as a whole increasingly
adapts to the circumstances, preferences, and needs of each individual while acknowledging the
individual’s right to this and encourages it to use it.
a historical perspective
We have many historical examples of different societies, but almost all of them have one thing in
common: The individual subordinated itself to the group as represented by a chieftain, a noble-
man, a king, a president, a religion, a state, a party, a business, or an ideology – usually a combi-
nation of several of these. The reasons for this were many, e.g. survival in the face of nature and
enemies, but also religious or political dogma. Yet, there are many signs today of the community
being superseded in favour of the individual. The happiness of the individual – its fulfilment and
self-actualisation – is increasingly becoming the purpose of community. This is truly the Age of the
Individual – where society pays more and more attention to the individual.
During the Age of Antiquity there was little room for the individual, as society and the state
were considered above the needs of the individual. The progress of Christianity did not change
this for the first many centuries. Not until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century was the
faithful released from his subordination to the Catholic Church, turning his relationship with God
into a much more personal matter. The German sociologist Max Weber is renowned for having
pointed out how the growth of Capitalism is linked to Protestantism. Protestantism made it not only
permissible to accumulate worldly goods, but actually virtuous to do so, in accordance with the Pro-
testant doctrine of earning salvation in this world. To grasp and hoard for personal benefit had for a
millennium been a sinful and egoistical act detrimental to the community, but now the productive
family and work life came to be seen as respectable. The individual became valued as an important
economic resource, although still subordinated to the state and the church of the feudal society.
The validation of daily life brought by the Reformation was followed by, among others, Adam
Smith, the Father of Liberalism, who in the late 18th Century became famous for his theory about
every man working to better his own condition. Even the poorest soldier was able to take care of his
own life and be personally responsible for his own happiness. It was time to challenge the interfe-
rence, monopolies, and prerogatives of the state, because without the drive of individuals, church
and state were just colossuses with feet of clay. Where social initiatives in the feudal society had
been aimed at groups that already had a traditional place in the hierarchy, from the early 19th Cen-
tury social organisation was more aimed at individuals who needed to be disciplined, enlightened,
motivated, and educated in order for society to advance. The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel
Kant wrote in 1784 that the individual needed to step out of its self-imposed supervision – needed to
break free of authority and trust in its own rational mind. To live a life of rational self-control thus
becomes an ideal, while at the same time more and more of society’s institutions become geared to-
wards promoting rational self-control in individuals. Inner urges must be rationalised and the outer
norms must be internalised. Each individual must act rationally and deliberately and must be in pos-
session of an inner censor whose voice is that of guilt and shame. During the 18th Century the concept
of psychology develops. Individualism and personality are no longer the reflection of God’s writing on
each soul, but rather the internalisation of social norms in each person. Rational self-control was the
cause of a tremendous advance in productivity during the emergence of the industrial society.
There is, however, an alternative to deliberate reason. Romanticism, which has its roots in the
Enlightenment, primarily explores the emotional aspects of human self-expression. Here the complex
inner being is in focus. But this inner being is also turned towards the surrounding society. The
underlying philosophy is that each individual has a unique potential and destiny that must find their
particular expression through a life-long growth process. In the early 20th Century Sigmund Freud
turned this internalisation of character development into a science through his invention of psycho-
analysis. To begin with, in the Industrial society, as a potential that had to be restrained, later, in the
Knowledge society, as a driving force that should be released.
The systematic exploration of the depth of the psyche, personality facets, and exceptional capacities
and interests was not an accepted goal during Antiquity, the Dark Ages, or any other earlier culture. It
is accepted today because the most important resources of today and tomorrow – knowledge, creati-
vity, and innovation – flourishes best without too many restraints. We are thus not just individuals for
our own sake, but also for the sake of the community. Self-actualisation, i.e. actualisation of existence,
whether expressed outwardly (extreme sports, adventure vacations), inwardly (meditation, religion), or
as the tools of character development (love, creative work, life-long learning), has become the engine
that drives society and, until further notice, the latest chapter in the history of individualisation.
“The historically and geografically limited occurence of free individualism was dif-
ficult to register and understand from within a discourse that was enclosed in a simi-
larly limited world of experience. Today we have all the prerequisites for understand-
ing how difficult it was, for we can’t really imagine a ‘non-individual’ person, a person
that doesn’t choose freely and isn’t engaged in establishing his own identity nor his
own welfare. He has no resonance in our own life experiences. he is a monstrosity,
an indescribable creature.
“Nonetheless, historical and anthropological studies constantly supply us with
new evidence to the end that our ‘naturally’ free individual is a rather rare bird and a
local phenomenon. A particular combination of circumstances was required to make
him come to life, and he can only survive as long as these circumstances prevail.
rather than being an embodiment of humanity’s basic condition, the free individual is
a historical and societal construct.”
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”
Human Declaration of Human Rights
manifestations of individualisation
me and the others
“Others should not do as I do. That’s the whole point” – author and big game hunter in Africa Natasha
Illum Berg. The quote comes from a recent full-page ad campaign in the Danish newspaper Børsen;
in a campaign designed to get some of their unfaithful readers back. We don’t know if the campaign
made more people read newspapers, but it doesn’t matter. The interesting part is the simple, clear,
and extremely dramatic message about the serious impact individualisation is having on our society.
“Others should not do as I do. That’s the whole point”. Today we can’t be like everyone else. Oh, no,
we have to be special. We have to be unique individuals, different from others, and entirely oursel-
ves. Individuality conveys status. Those who haven’t understood the impact of individualisation, and
those who cannot master the art of being individual, are not part of the future.
Individualisation is an unavoidable aspect of the future, a latent part of modern society and of
modernity; it is thus of immense interest, especially when looking through the spectacles of tomor-
row. There’s no doubt that individualisation will play an even bigger part in the future. But in what
way will individualisation affect modern society and the life of modern man?
the modern interpretation of individualisation
It’s not really possible to define the concept of individualisation precisely or explain exactly what it
means. Debate about the individual versus the community, freedom of choice versus determinism,
freedom versus security has gone on ever since the ancient Greeks began pondering the great questi-
ons of life, and the philosophers and sociologists of today still haven’t reached any final conclusions.
These questions often become the basis for heated discussion across the dinner table. Do welfare
recipients choose whether they want to work or not? Can anyone break the social heritage if he wants
to? Should we feel sorry for criminals because they really can’t help themselves? How much should
the state be allowed to decide? Why do some people ’choose’ to be ugly when others don’t? How
much of our ‘destiny’ do we choose ourselves? How much freedom of choice does the individual
really have? Interesting discussions, all concerning basic and fundamental questions for which no
clear, unambiguous answers exist. And we will not attempt to answer them in this report, but we will
try to suggest how individualisation might be perceived and interpreted today, as we approach the
year 2006. Theoretically it is an impossible task, so this is just one interpretation among many, with a
lot of reservations and limitations.
In this report we will view individualisation as the increased opportunities of the individual to
influence its own life and make its own choices. Individualisation gives the modern man far greater
opportunity to choose his own life and shape the world around him. Where once we followed tradi-
tion, family, religion, and culture, today we now make far more choices for ourselves. At the same
time, contemporary society and norms encourage ever-increasing individuality, freedom of choice,
and personal responsibility. It is no longer a given that I should be a Social Democrat like my father,
or take gymnastics like my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.
I can choose for myself if I want to have an operation in the local hospital or at the country’s leading
hospital, and which school to send my children to. I can choose my own fashion style, Burberry or
H&M. I choose my own education, work, and career, and through that I choose large parts of my
personality, identity, lifestyle, and the way I want others to see me.
Determining exactly what we choose and what is chosen for us by other people and the environment is
of course not easy to determine, but the main thesis of this report is that although there is a large number
of times where we have a choice, there are also a number of factors that limit what we can choose. We
know, for instance, that each of us has unique genetic codes that give us different susceptibilities to vari-
ous diseases. Likewise we know that children who were born and raised in households where the parents
were well educated are much more likely to get advanced educations themselves than children from other
homes. And we know many other examples of limiting factors that constrain freedom of choice.
Although the basic thesis of this report is that the individual does not have full freedom of
choice, it should be noted that individualisation often is portrayed in the public debate like the
individual has almost complete freedom of choice and far more options than is actually the case.
“Everything is optional” is the watchword. “We can choose what we like.” Since this report is an at-
tempt to provide a picture of a current trend, it will inevitably reflect this contemporary and rather
uncritical interpretation of individualisation to some degree. But we must point out once more that
in this report we interpret individual freedom of choice as limited. The popular interpretation of free
choice is nevertheless important to study, because it highlights the part the illusion about freedom of
choice plays in our perception of life, opportunities, our fellow men, and not least individualisation.
At the same time it must be remembered that it is usually the young, the beautiful, the successful
who are the trendsetters and that therefore it is usually their ways of life and their conceptualisations
that become the norm for their age. “Everybody can choose”, it is said, despite the fact that many
scientific studies show that they can’t, and leave little doubt that the better the economic, physical,
social, emotional, and cultural conditions of someone’s upbringing, the greater freedom of action he
has. Everything else being equal it is easier for a CEO to become a taxi driver than the reverse, and
that’s also the reason why the myth of freedom of choice is alive and well. There are many who have
a vested interest in this particular interpretation, and so it is cheerfully perpetuated.
the downside to individualisation
Individualisation is often charged with being the cause of many of modern society’s negative aspects.
More lonely people, greater focus on depressions, too many divorces, the need for various forms of coun-
selling, and a growing indifference among people are some of the examples. It is very likely that there is a
connection, but individualisation is not the sole cause of these miseries. And although these phenomena
can be viewed in a negative light, they also have advantages. They can fulfil a desire for something diffe-
rent, something better, and something that makes us happier. We desire more freedom, and we’re willing
to pay for it with reduced security. For security usually requires that we give up some of our freedom.
When we talk about individualisation, it is important to distinguish between individualisation and
egoism. It’s perfectly possible to be an individualist and show compassion, devotion, and consideration
for others, without basing these actions on a duty towards a community.
Today individualisation has its grip on most generations. It is most pervasive among those who were
born after 1970, but the younger people are, the more individualized they have become. Today’s
youths were born and raised in a society, a culture, a home, and a social space where it was okay to
think of yourself first. They were taught to have their own opinions, which were just as valuable as
anyone else’s. They were likewise taught to examine their feelings, to examine them thoroughly, and
not to do anything they didn’t feel like. You might say – for someone called April born on the first
day of the fourth month– that it used to be April the first, but now it is April first. The individual
has replaced the traditions – in this case a birthday. Not that our youths are the only individualists
– individualisation has been around for quite a while. What’s new is that individualisation has gone
from being an elitist phenomenon to being a mass phenomenon.
It should also be mentioned that individualisation is quantifiable; you can be more or less individua-
listic. Individualisation also gives the individual an ability to make informed assessments, to be a well-
informed citizen or consumer who acts on the basis of independent reasoning, rather than just follow
tradition or other people. To put it a little provocatively: individualism rejects the herd mentality.
Important elements of individualisation
Individualisation does not appear out of the blue. Individualisation is a result of ‘many things’, just as
‘many things’ may be the results of individualisation. The importance that individualisation has today
is the result of several factors: the growth of economic independence, reflection becoming the rule
rather than the exception, the creation of our own identities, and choices becoming a basic condition.
We have to choose. We have to choose almost everything. Tomorrow’s society, state, culture, and
norms constantly tell us to make decisions, independent decisions. We absolutely have to make the
difference for ourselves and for others.
Individualisation is a precondition of reflection. Reflection means contemplation and deliberation.
Reflection is a result of enlightenment. Through enlightenment more and more people have learned
to take a stand and deal independently and critically with the world around them. Through enlighten-
ment we became able to see the world with new eyes and choose something other than what we might
have been destined for. We became able to choose and change our own life and the world around us.
In Denmark we have a high level of education for the masses. Denmark has a tradition for
education and critical thinking, but even though Danes have a high level of reflection (compared to
most of the world), there’s still plenty of room for improvement. In other words, we not only can, but
we have an obligation to become wiser and more insightful and to broaden our horizons. The need
to raise the level of reflection through education continues unabated into the future. Society wants a
well-educated population that is ready for more individualisation, independence, innovation, differen-
tiation, and creativity with all the concomitant economic growth. Modern man must manage his own
self-actualisation. Increased education is not just education for its own sake. Education is also a source
of edification. Edification that hopefully will help make people better able to take care of themselves
economically, socially, and physically. Fat people must learn to become slim, and knowledgeable
people how to convert their knowledge into cool cash.
More individuality, personal responsibility, and reflection loom large on society’s and not least
the political agenda: Greater focus on personal responsibility, more assessment of individual perfor-
mances, expanded consumer influence, more individual choice, more evaluations, personal coaching,
upgrades, and quid pro quo are just some of the examples. And in the service of individualisation,
this reflection, education, and independence must be passed along to many foreigners who often hail
from different cultures than those of the West – cultures with far less tradition for personal identity,
independent action, individual reflection, and freedom of choice than we are used to.
Individualisation is in a strong position in Denmark. Not in the sense that Danes are a highly
diverse people – Denmark is indeed a relatively homogenous country – but in the sense that Denmark,
and to some degree all of Scandinavia, boasts a high level of education among the general public, and
traditionally has put a high value on critical analysis in education, thus fostering reflection and indivi-
duality in large parts of the population. Denmark also has free access to practically any kind of education
for everyone with the necessary qualification. This is extremely important and exceedingly vital to the
entire individualisation process, just as increased economic freedom is. Few countries have an individua-
lisation process as advanced as that of Denmark, and this is to a great degree due to the welfare state.
The ever-increasing wealth and the constantly growing amount of available spending money are
also necessary for individualisation. If you have just enough to survive, it’s difficult to stand out, be
unique, and be a lifestyle consumer. The economic boom is expected to continue, and will result in
more economic freedom and even more individual conduct in the future. The greater economic free-
dom you have, the greater your opportunities are for living an independent life, a life where you can
devote most of your efforts to yourself and your personal interests. Money is also a key to individuality.
The more money, the more education, leisure, dresses, wine, shoes, mobile phones, club memberships,
cocktails, vacations, experiences, houses, and mistresses can be acquired. And no, it’s not just rich
people who can afford such luxuries; today most of us have the financial means for more individual
action. We have become able to leave the husband if he is boring, lazy, or violent. We can slam the door
to the manager’s office and walk away if he becomes insufferable. We can buy a new set of breasts or a
smart suit if we need to be spruced up. We can move out into the countryside and live in an idyllic cot-
tage if our inner artist requires it, or we just really need to go OFF. We can take courses and get smarter.
Or we can flee to a tropical beach halfway around the world if we’ve had it up to here and everyone else
has become a nuisance. In short, our fat salaries and secure welfare state optimise, entail, and contri-
bute considerably to our opportunities for a more independent life where we don’t have to put up with
nearly as much trouble as our ancestors did.
‘Freedom of choice’
Closely linked to individualisation is the concept of freedom of choice. A ‘free choice’ that may be an
illusion, but nevertheless an illusion that is very much alive. We make ourselves and others believe that
we make the choices and thus are able to choose between success and failure. Every one of us recogni-
ses these conversations.
We like to remind the neighbour of his mistakes and attribute his successes to luck and blind
chance, whereas our own successes are entirely due to making the right choices. Choice and the ability
to choose is a fundamental part of life today, and it will be even more so in 2016; the future presents us
with many choices. In the future we won’t just choose husband, wife, or lover from the student dorm,
the city, the classrooms, or the circle of friends. In the future the big cyberspace catalogues will present
far better selections. When it comes to vacations, the choices are infinite, depending mostly on the crite-
ria we use to select: experiences, relaxation, warm weather, fun, or price – we sort through the options
and it is hard to gain a clear perspective of them all. Everything is optional and if we don’t choose, we
lose. Many young people today, for instance, have trouble selecting an education. It’s hard to have to
choose something that will be so fundamental to the formation of one’s identity and adult life. It’s hard
to know if one is making the right choice. When and how can you know that you’ve made the right
choice? The big problem with the notion of the free choice is that it is an unremitting source of stress.
You can’t really choose everything on your own, and it may not even be smart to do so. If, for instance,
you have a legitimate complaint about your wife, the clever listener will immediately remind you that
you chose her yourself, and that you are free to make a new choice. Choice is the freedom to choose: the
more choices, the more opportunities, but on the other hand, the more choices, the more mistakes you
can make. With more choices comes far greater responsibility.
Identity shaping is a natural consequence of individualisation. The definition of identity is: The inner
core of the individual – assuming such a thing exists. Identity can also be thought of as the “I”, a person’s
conscious knowledge of himself, his existence, and his character. In recent years, however, the concept
has come to also encompass the life and the outer symbols that are extensions of the inner being. The
modern man is thus more involved in forming, or at least influencing, his own identity. There is consi-
derable disagreement about the extent to which an individual can form his own identity. The popular
notion is that you can choose your own identity more or less the way you choose your coffee, with or
without sugar. More informed conceptualisations consider the identity to be a person’s inner core/perso-
nality, and thus not quite as much subject to choice. But this inner core influences choice of lifestyle etc.
– the things that many today regard as identity. In this article we will use a broad interpretation of the
“...living in a free country means you are reponsible for your own acts. You are free to follow
(and if lucky, reach) your own goals; but you are also free to fail.”
concept of identity, and include those factors that are extensions of the individual’s ‘I’ – in other words,
the exterior, such as clothes, experiences, work, symbols, etc. When talking about identity formation,
it is important to distinguish between your identity and the role you play in a certain context; the two
concepts are not identical. Roles are far more superficial and changeable than identity.
To form your own identity and to play with identities is part of modern youth culture. Young
people ‘play’ with identities and put their identities at risk in order to figure out who they are and
what identity aspects fit them best. This game of identity begins earlier and earlier. Today’s children
define for themselves who they are and what they need, and they seek through play, social interac-
tion, style of clothes, and interests to present to their surroundings an image of who they are and who
they are not. Parents and society tend to encourage such identity testing, and the children play along.
Children like to emulate adults, and children see adults change lifestyle, symbols, attitudes, and va-
lues, and also see adults constantly redefining themselves and their boundaries to their surroundings.
“I choose to spend time with nature,” “I don’t want stress in my life,” I am not like others,” “we don’t
allow candy in our house,” “I prefer good quality clothes”... Children absorb the words and the signals,
and they catch on at an earlier and earlier age to the multitude of lifestyle codes, social interaction
patterns, and symbols that concern identity and its boundaries. But children merely play with identi-
ties, and they do it fairly unreflexively. But sooner than ever, children become teenagers, with a very
different attitude. Teenagers constantly test, absorb images, analyse, discuss, emulate, outline, and
caricaturise identities, hoping to find the outward show that best expresses their “self” and best cor-
respond to their inner core. Identity forming is a process that probably never ends, but in time it does
establish an increasing number of identity facets.
An important basis for being able to talk about identity formation is the many choices we must
make. There are many options to choose between, many things to try out or do differently or in
different places, and through those choices our personality becomes more and more distinguishable
from that of anyone else. Even today it is difficult to find people with whom one has a great deal in
common, and it will become even more difficult in the future. Very few people choose the same route
through life as you do; hence it makes sense to speak of identity shaping. Our choices are not, of
course, entirely free, but despite that the possibilities are abundant. Work, education, mentality, prio-
rities, values, leisure time, activities, friends, and acquaintances are some of the more basic choices we
have to make according to the available possibilities. Such choices are fundamental and crucial; they
provide identity, material for personality, and spice for character. In addition to these fundamental
choices are other, more superficial choices that often are dictated by the fundamental ones. Choice of
address, interior decoration, clothing style, vacation preferences, lifestyle magazines, music, and sym-
bols contribute to show our personal brand of self and personality to the world around us. Shaped by
our identity we choose, just as our choices shape our identity.
Individualisation towards 2016
In the future we will be joined by more generations that have been raised to believe in individuality,
while the old, more community-oriented generations will fade away. In the future the collective and the
community must stage a constant election campaign, in a world where individualisation have made
choice an aspect of social activity. We might as well get used to it: “Everything is optional”, and there
will be a lot more choices in the future – and a lot more communities. Freedom of choice means that we
have to learn to take responsibility for our own lives. And freedom of choice will give us the opportu-
nity to plan our lives so that it best matches our personal genome, needs, desires, environment, habitus,
and potential. It thus has the potential to give people the best possible personally satisfying life.
“You’re every bit as much a brand as Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop. To start
thinking like your own favourite brand manager, ask yourself the same question the brand
managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi, or the Body Shop ask themselves: What is it that my brand or
service does that makes it different? Give yourself the traditional 15-words-or-less contest chal-
lenge. Take the time to write your answer. And then take the time to read it. Several times.”
In 2016 we will choose our own life, or to put it in slightly less absolute terms, we will have considera-
bly greater influence on our own life than ever before. We have much greater influence on whether or
not we want to be happy, beautiful, well educated, decent, youthful, good parents, and, not the least,
healthy. According to the World Health Organisation, 70 percent of all diseases in 2015 will be lifestyle
diseases, i.e. diseases that could be prevented by choosing another lifestyle. 70 percent means that
seven times out of ten when you call in sick at work, it’s your own fault! It’s no longer any secret that
cardiovascular problems, overweight, the common cold, sports injuries, and other everyday ailments
are avoidable. You’re the one who chose to smoke; you don’t have to. And if you can’t give up smoking
on your own, you can get help. The government or some organisation is always ready to offer free
guidance and support to everyone. They can make the choice easy for you, while you make the choice
freely. Even the common cold? Sure, there’s always the risk of infection, but carrots, a good night’s
sleep, lack of stress, and cool bedrooms full of fresh air will reduce the risk significantly. “Didn’t you
know? If you’re fit, the contagion can’t get a grip on you.” When, in the future, you can almost choose
your own health, then the ability to choose correctly and to use self-discipline becomes even more
important for your career. For if you’re not in control and if you can’t master your ‘flaws’, defects, bad
habits, or perhaps even a substance abuse problem, how can we be sure that you can manage anything
else? If you can’t cut down on your 15 daily cups of coffee or go to bed at a decent hour, then you lack
resolve and self-control! What you choose is what people see in you. The more we have to choose, the
more the ability to choose wisely becomes a success criterion.
With more individual responsibility and ‘shaping your own destiny’, things will be quite different
in the future. When we get greater influence on our state of health and greater responsibility for it, we
will live healthier lives – probably much healthier. Calorie tables, herbal tea, vegetables, ecological pro-
ducts, and medication will contribute to this, just as information, support, and demanding consumers
will. But given all this responsibility we like to call in experts. We want coaching, support, information,
advise, or even a miracle; but might have to settle with what the people in our lives can give us.
Self-reflection is a ‘necessary evil’
In 2016 it’s not just a health coach we need, because we need a lot of coaching: career coach, sports
coach, education coach, lifestyle coach, or anything-at-all coach. The need for help goes beyond the
superficial matters. With the individual being the primary centre of rotation, we’re far more vulnerable
than we used to be. Orson Welles said that we’re born alone, we live alone, and we die alone. ‘Being
alone’ is a condition that we’re being forced to accept, and even more so in the future. When we’re
alone, we also bear the responsibility alone, which can lead to a crisis. The modern crisis does not hit us
as a group but as individuals, and because it concerns me and me alone, it is more difficult to deal with
and process. Crises have become a normal part of modern life; we all have our own crises. The modern
crisis and the right to have one is one of the reasons why third-generation antidepressants are such
a success. By 2016 we may all have crisis days allotted at our place of work because we all know that
there’s a good chance that one will hit us sooner or later. A crisis comes when we make a wrong choice
or don’t live up to our own – or other people’s – expectations of abilities and potentials. A crisis strikes
when the meaning disappears. Of course a crisis can also be caused by external events, but by far the
most personality crises today come from within. In an age where ‘I’ am so important to my personal
life, and other people matters less, it is to be expected that the self is more fragile. The “I” is also my
key to interaction with other people, so handling that aspect of the “I” have also become much more
important. In the future there will be even more focus on the individual, the self and the “I”, with a
consequential greater need for self-awareness. More and more people want to better themselves, not
just on the physical and intellectual levels, but also on the psychological. The market for psychothera-
pists, psychiatrics, psychologists, self-improvement books, life-coaching seminars, and everything else
that can help an individual achieve greater personal understanding and self-acceptance is a market in
constant growth. It’s a market that won’t just be visited by those with a real need, but by all of us. The
man of the future needs greater insight and a strong, reflective self-worth.
Individualisation’s new products
Individualisation also offers many new solid and material changes, needs, products, and possibili-
ties during the next 10, 20, 30 years. It won’t be many years before credit cards, access codes, and
keys can be replaced by eye scanners or fingerprint readers, thus utilizing our bodies as an active
and secure tool in tomorrow’s society. In the future we’ll go to a tailor and have our clothes made to
measure. Or we go to the showrooms of the fashion houses and select model, fabric, adornments, and
icons adapted to our bodily measurements and personal lifestyle: the finished product is delivered
by messenger a week later. We’ll hire architects to draw our house; we want it to be personal to us,
special, hinting at our happy outlook on life. We will appreciate one-off products and spend golden
Euros on our private dining service, paintings, cars, or luxury boats. We’ll hire authors to write our
autobiography and painters to immortalise our complex personality. The biochemist, politically active
woman with strong interests in design, perfumes and sports needs to be entertained, updated, and
challenged right now. We’ll hire private tutors and appreciate personal skills. In the future, being able
to do something will be cool, awesome, inspiring, essential, and grant a huge amount of status. Pre-
ferably being able to do something the others can’t. Porcelain painter, milliner, door handle designer,
seafood gastronomist, apricot farmer, night diver, Shakespeare authority, tool maker, lithographic
artist specialising in labels for homemade preserve jars, poet for hire... anything is possible! And with
the numerous and precise measuring techniques, decoders, environmental monitoring instruments,
and genetic profiles, it will be easy to find our very best talent before we select an art form, a craft,
or the dream of becoming a self-taught Renaissance man. Hence we can really become very good.
The Christmas bazaars of the future will be substantially different from those we know today. In the
future talents will be used to the full.
Finally, let’s not forget what may be the most important message of this report: There are times
when we simply can’t stand any more individuality and any more choices. Or maybe don’t have the
money for it. So we’ll choose package solutions, mainstream, mass-produced, simple, easy, and maybe
even cheap. There will be a huge need for simple solutions, pre-made choices, and ways to reduce
complexity in the future.
Six more examples
On the following pages are six more examples of how individualisation will manifest itself towards
1. Me and my lifestyle 2. My personal genome 3. Me and my God
4. I am a Yeppie 5. Me and conflict 6. Me and freedom
me and my lifestyle
“I hate your herd mentality, Today lifestyles may be thought of as genres. Just as movie directors can
your way/of shopping, the choose among the comedy, the love story, the thriller, or the horror movie,
things you say when you oh we – the directors of our own lives – can choose among a large selection of
so coincidentally meet/on
lifestyles. Through this choice we create the framework for our self and our
the street after the latest
christening (...) What you conduct, but tear it down again when it no longer support the story about us.
fear, is not having enough (...) If we examine ordinary daily life, consumption, and lifestyles, it is
not enough loos, not enough evident that this is becoming an important part of identity formation.
cars, not enough prestige/ Media, specialist shops, and department stores stand ready with a string
not enough ads, not enough of products, finished and unfinished brands that we can piece together to
silicone tits (...) I prefer become our very own story about our identity. When we no longer have
prison to living like you. /You
the traditional communities to rely on, we ourselves have to define who
went back to church, but
you don’t really believe/ (...) we are. The method is called consumption, and the selection is vast. From
You gather to celebrate, with clothes, music, politics, and daily goods to the places you go, the subjects
nothing to say to each other. you interest yourself in, education, or the place you live. There is ‘freedom
/I will not emulate you on a of choice’ on all shelves. The important thing is that the products we
Sunday. /I will just write one choose reflect the ‘real me’.
hard-boiled poem/for the ‘Lifestyle through consumption’ may sound a bit hollow, because it
silence you filled with your
commonly is associated with shallow ‘use-and-discard’ culture, but it’s
lifestyle/I never shall hear of
again from the ads that you really far more fundamental. Today consumption is no longer just a que-
fund. stion of staying warm and getting enough to eat. It is an identity marker,
a system of ethics – a reflexive way of living life that demonstrates the
Anti livsstil (Anti lifestyle) – from Thomas
Boberg’s collection of poems Livsstil difference between me and everybody else. At the same time, choice of
(Lifestyle) – 2005 lifestyle is a way to guide us through the many choices that existence pre-
sents us with. A specific lifestyle makes it easier to choose, because certain
kinds of choices fall outside the limits of that lifestyle.
Coffee isn’t just coffee
“A difference to be felt” it says on the Max Havelaar coffee bag. Hence,
if you choose to buy Max Havelaar coffee instead of the cheaper and less
‘politically correct’ coffee, it’s a conscious act that reflects awareness of
consumer patterns and their consequences for people in other countries.
To do something significant is Modern Man’s dream. “I make my own
choices”; the responsibility is mine: hence to be successful I must make
a difference. And since we can’t all be globally comitted experts on social
equality, the decision to buy Max Havelaar also expresses confidence in
expert knowledge about the conditions of Colombian coffee farmers.
As we get more and more involved with the product we buy, we also
buy an extra dimension – something beyond the purely material. It’s no
longer just about coffee and what enjoyment it gives you; it’s about who
you are: A conscientious human being with enough spare energy to think
about the world. Global social inequality has acquired a taste. And on
top of that you may have bought it in a specialty shop instead of at the “A lifestyle can be defined
supermarket, the very symbol of mass culture and unreflective consumer as a more or less integrated
mentality. You don’t just shop; you shop individually, reflectively, and set of practices which an
individual embraces, not only
locally, because you need to send that message. And last, but not least,
because such practices fulfil
obviously you put the bag out on the table when your friends come over utalitarian needs, but be-
for coffee, so that you can receive due recognition. cause they give material form
to a particular narrative of
self-identity.... Lifestyles are
a smoke is not just a smoke
routined practices, the rou-
A good cup of coffee deserves a good smoke – right? “Smoking is harmful tines incorporated into habits
to you and your surroundings.” The reflexive Max Havelaar customer of dress, eating, modes of
knows that. It’s politically incorrect to smoke. Being politically incor- acting and favoured milieux
rect is another way of self-staging. After all, political correctness implies for encountering others; but
someone preaching on behalf of others, and that doesn’t really fit well the routines followed are
with the notion of individual freedom, does it? And you might say that reflexively open to change in
the light of the mobile nature
smoking is the ultimate individual choice, since you’re really choosing to
say: “Okay, I know that smoking kills, but it’s my life!”
Anthony Giddens: Modernity and Self-
identity – 1991
It’s also possible to adapt the role to the situation. The college professor
acts different when dealing with his students, talking to his colleagues,
visiting his dear old mother out in the countryside, and meeting the guys
at soccer. That way you’re not restricted to a single role, but are able to
encompass multiple roles in one and the same identity. The trick is to
play the role and not let the role play you. To know and realise that there
are other possibilities, but that you have chosen to play this role in this
situation. Good acting is when the actor and the role becomes one. And
it’s even better when the actor is capable of doing it with an array of
different roles and genres. Consumption is already the primary identity
marker and is becoming the foundation for the self, and this trend will
continue to grow even stronger in the future. Identity – or at least what
we perceive as identity – has become an aspect of consumption or maybe
just a by-product of consumption.
You consume in order to express your identity, or possibly to
express the identity you wish for. Like consumer goods, identities are
acquired and owned, only to be consumed and vanish again. We are
under constant development. As part of this trend we hear slogans like
“You become what you eat” and “You are what you listen to” and watch
the television show “The Sixth Sense”, where lifestyle experts guess the
identity of a person based on such things as what everyday products, like
coffee and cigarettes, they use. But how individual are you, if you are so
predictable? Then again, it might be argued that you combine a number
of different roles into a coherent story, which is constantly changed and
adapted. For it is important to remember that you’re always free to say no
and do something else. You smoke cigarettes today; chew gum tomorrow
– or drink coffee today, tea tomorrow. You point the horse in another di-
rection and saddle up again. Like Lucky Luke of the cartoons, a lonesome
cowboy, completely his own master, and faster than his own shadow.
my personal genome
“In Denmark, genetic re- Individualisation by genetic engineering is right around the corner. With
search may not be done on the mapping of the entire human DNA, scientists predict that the instruc-
embryos or human gametes, tion manual to your personal genetic profile will be available within a
and the Ethical Council is
decade or two. Once the scientists have an easy and fast method to map
sharply against ‘designer ba-
bies’. As yet there is no law every human being’s personal genetic profile (genome), we’ll experience a
against expressional gene revolution in our daily life, in society, and in what we perceive as “a human
therapy.” being”. The combating of disease, nutritional advice, choice of education,
crime prevention issues, the insurance business, and not the least our
?content=http://www.ku.dk/satsning/bio- choice of partners - all this will very likely work according to quite different
principles in the future. After all, if we know the answers at birth, we’ll
choose the easiest and most favourable solution, won’t we?
Further acceleration of individualisation
When everybody receives his or her personal genetic profile attached to a
social security card, which by 2016 is called a ‘health information key’, our
healthcare and disease treatment regimen will change dramatically. If we
know from birth (or even before) what ailments we are predisposed for,
and what health-related precautions we ought to incorporate in our daily
life, we’ll obviously learn new habits. If we know that we are particularly
susceptible to breast cancer, we can avoid everything that science believes
may cause breast cancer, just like following any other personal advice about
disease prevention. When we know our genetic profile and can identify
risks of obesity, depression, or narcolepsy we can organise our eating and
exercise habits, indeed our entire way of life, in accordance. So when Kim
and Karen look for love in one of the popular dating sites of the age, their
genetic profiles are included in the match-making routine.
With genetic matchmaking you can perform a ‘safe’ selection and make
sure the couple does not have incompatible DNA profiles. This is important,
particularly in connection with reproduction. After all, the loving couple
should be able to have the children they want with each other, and while
they’re ensuring this, they may as well make sure that the interaction of
their genetic codes doesn’t increase the risk of heritable defects or other
‘unfortunate features’. Darwinism extended. When stored in large database
systems, the authorities can use our DNA profiles. With advanced programs
they can monitor the database, and if a dangerous virus with the potential
to infect certain individuals or cause allergic reactions in some people ap-
pear, they can be individually notified. Likewise a database of our profiles
will be very useful for research purposes, and there will be a lot more
research done in the decades to come.
Self-invention and the ‘natural’ human being “Serious professional
The personal genetic profile will also shift all former boundaries for ‘inven- athletes cannot do their job
ting oneself’. After we find our personal genetic code, gene manipulation is without extensive physiologi-
cal and medical supervision.
the obvious next step. You might, for instance, insert a gene that produces
To practice a sport at the top
a growth hormone in certain parts of your body, making muscles grow, level for any length of time
thus improving your personal athletic abilities, or getting the firm buttocks without being medicated
or great upper arm muscles you desire. In the future it will also be possible is actually harmful to the
to strengthen your immune system, we will be able to do cosmetic surgery sportsman”.
without weeks of pain and risks of complication, and to improve intellect
Weekendavisen, July 29th 2005,
and concentration without suffering the side effects of coffee and medicine. Section 1, page 10
The personal genetic profile will also do away with ‘natural’ in the sense
of ‘average’. What is ‘natural’ for an individual will depend on the genetic
disposition. The personal genetic profile will thus necessitate a re-evaluation
of the current ethical guidelines, born of the principles of not altering what
is natural and only do what is necessary to help those below average.
my own private medicine
In the future, the personal genetic profile will also lead to individually
tailored drugs. More individually tailored medicine will make it easier to
ensure correct dosages and avoid substances that provoke allergic reactions
and other unfortunate side effects. In the future each individual customer
will be able to get exactly the skin lotion they need, without ingredient X to
which they are allergic, but with added ingredient Y, which adds the extra
moisture that is important to them.
Personal risk assessment
The procedure for taking out insurance will also change in the future. Today
some insurance companies in the US force you to take a gene scan if you
want to take out a life insurance with a high payoff. This is not legal in Den-
mark, but it is probably only a matter of time before it becomes legal here
too. Even today most insurance companies ask about hereditary diseases in
the family. The answers to such questions can affect insurance premiums,
but gene scans would provide more exact information and possibly save
some people some money. For instance, statistically only one out of a four
siblings would inherit cystic fibrosis. But without a gene test you don’t know
who the unlucky siblings are. Gene scans enable us to identify diseases even
before the sick person is born. Furthermore, a CV of the future might in-
clude information about genetic potential in various abilities and thus what
jobs we will be good at. Gene data of employees and potential employees can
also extend the scope for socioeconomic calculations of profit and loss. This
will raise questions about the individual’s right to know or not to know, and
about the right to know the genetic profile of other people.
me and my god
“I have chosen divorce, since It has already been a long time since Marx proclaimed religion to be the
marriage did not make me opium of the people and Nietzsche pronounced God dead. The Modern
happy.” “My boss did not World saw the light of day, and since then religion has been under constant
notice my real potential, so pressure in the West. Today the dominant role of religion is played out
I chose to get a job from his
– but individualisation has made a new role available.
The individualised person is not basically of a religious disposition, and
it is difficult to find any resemblance between the religious people of tradi-
tion – rule-bound, self-effacing, orientated towards the transcendent – and
the individualised person – a free, self-actualising loner. For religion is
traditionally a group endeavour. Indeed, the community is central to many
religions, including the two big ones: Christianity and Islam. This applies
both to their historical development and their perception of man. The reli-
gious person is part of a ‘we’, and the most important function of this ‘we’
is to make sure that God’s – or some other higher purpose’s – plan is carried
out. There’s a reason for living according to certain precepts, refraining
from eating at certain times, and performing certain deeds, and that reason
transcends the individual.
To base your whole life on a goal or a truth espoused by the community
is not something an individualist would favour, which is why many people
today pass up religion.
I still find religion meaningful in 2006
Religious people still exist in our Age of Individualisation. But religion isn’t
dead. It’s just that you’re religious in your own, individual way. Despite
the increased individualisation in the world today, there are still religious
spaces, precepts, deeds, and communities, but they’ve changed, and the
individual use them in a more free and self-assured way – creating his own
personal version. If I want to be a Christian who believes in reincarnation,
then that’s what I’ll be.
Like every other individual in this modern era, the religious individual
wants to stand out, and hence religion is practiced and performed in a
multitude of different ways. You meet on the internet instead of in church,
you have your personal holy places, you don’t have rigid rituals. You turn
to religion when you need it and when it fits into your schedule; there is no
obligation. Religion has a new role: It helps satisfy our personal emotional
needs, and has become one among many things to choose from when we
create our own lives. Whatever happens in the individualist’s life must be a
result of his own choices. How he made the choice is less important.
The phrase “I have decided to...” has become a common prelude to state-
ments that would work perfectly well without it. People want to emphasise
that they are individuals who act according to personal choices. It is crucial
that the individual is personally involved in everything he does, because he Ethos: The epitome of a
is motivated by a cognitive image of a joyful life, achieved by making the human being’s collected
right choices. Just what choices are the right ones is a personal matter. In a experience, situational
awareness, empathy, and
way the individual has become his own god. When the ‘I’ is the hub around
magnanimity, that it is his
which all choices revolve, and the individual is defining his own reality and duty to develop throughout
meaning - and is only responsible to himself – the comparison is not unwar- his life by constantly de-
ranted. At the risk of confusing individualism with egoism and rituals with ciding what is good.”
staging, one might even say that the individualised person worships himself
as an individual and directs all actions towards fulfilling the potential of the
self; much like worshipping a deity.
The difference is, of course, that it is the deity, which adds something
to the life of the worshipper – a ‘meaning of life’. The devout person is
guided by ethics that someone else provides and which bids him think and
act on the basis of something other than himself. This means that when the
individual becomes his own god, he find himself lacking direction. Using
himself as his guiding light, it is the equivalent of using a compass without
a needle. The individualised person is his own navigator and must hence be
prepared to create his own ethos; ultimately all individuals will have their
own ethical system and perception of society.
The individual has to furnish the world with meaning himself. Basically
the world is without meaning until a choice is made, and in principle that
makes any initial choice as good as any other. The choice of summer school
and outdoor kitchen could be just as important as the choice of life partner or
education, since they all open up possible paths to success as an individual.
To push it to extremes, the choices made by the modern individual are
poetic strategies (supplied in bulk by the media-created reality) rather than
cultural or moral choices based on deep convictions. Seen in that light, the
individual appears as someone who – in a desperate search for meaning
– makes more and more choices without realising that it is the too many
choices that make his life meaningless. One common response among indi-
vidualists who have gotten fed up with choices is to pull out the plug and
move away, but the ultimate result of individualisation may well be a return
to community values and the Universal Story, leading to a renaissance of
I am a yeppie
The Peter Pan Syndrome Today we consume lovers, wives, husbands, friends, education, work, and
is a pop psychology term lifestyle. There is talk of ‘the Yeppie generation’.
first seen in connection In the industrial society the citizen was perceived as a producer. You
with the psychologist Dan
earned your place in the economic and social structure by creating wealth.
Kiley’s book The Peter Pan
Syndrome: Men who have You contributed to the creation of wealth by producing tangible products.
never grown up from 1983. In today’s knowledge and dream society things are different: Today we’re
The syndrome obviously all consumers. Whenever there’s the slightest economic crisis, we’re told to
refers to J.M. Barrie’s clas- consume more. It’s our patriotic duty to spend more money. More money
sic novel from 1904, Peter is needed to create more jobs – to keep the wheels turning. However, it’s no
Pan, subtitled The boy who longer just a question of eating more and better, having the shiniest BO
refused to grow up. It tells
sound system, or having a BMW in the garage. Money equals happiness
the story of the boy Peter
Pan who teaches Wendy and – that was the creed of the Yuppies. But when money is not enough, you
her brothers to fly and takes must work towards happiness all the time, which is why consumption has
them to the magical fantasy penetrated practically every sphere of social life.
realm of Neverland (a name Young Experimenting Perfection Seekers (Yeppies) is the term for the
also chosen by Michael generation that has made consumption a way of life. They shop for lovers,
Jackson for his private work, accommodation, and friends in the quest for the perfect life, and they
amusement park) where The
defer all the big life decisions, like marriage, children, and steady work,
Lost Boys, Tiger Lily, and the
evil Captain Hook await. until they’ve exhausted every possibility; their lives absolutely must be per-
fect. Instead of one predictable life story with the risk that it may turn out
to be a failure, why not hedge your bets? If your life has several stories, the
failure of a single story doesn’t matter much. And there are lots of stories
to choose from. The possibilities inherent in the internet dating scene posi-
tively encourages serial monogamy, and the opportunities to stage yourself
through your consumption are countless. As the sociologist Zygmunt Bau-
man ironically remarks, today it has become a bad thing to be satisfied with
what you already have and thus settle for less than what you can get. Life is
a contest, and whoever winds up having the most experiences, acquaintan-
ces, lovers, jobs, and objects has won.
the Peter Pan Syndrome is upon us
The Peter Pan Syndrome is a psychoanalytical term for men who are
afraid of commitment, and they were prevalent in the Yuppie culture of
the 1980s. The main concern of the Yuppies was to amass money, because
money translated into Lacoste, BMW etc. – in short, into status. Anything
that stood in the way of accumulating yet more money was neglected,
which often meant that family, children, and friends came second. Today
we’ve reached a level of affluence, which ensures that most of us can keep
up regardless. If not, then a loan is the answer. The credit card is mightier
than the piggybank. This means that money no longer has the same status
as experiences, so we amass experiences instead of money in our quest
for happiness. But when do you know that you’ve hit the jackpot – that it “Under postmodern condi-
can’t get any better? The answer is: never. We can never know if the grass tions, where the uplifting
is greener on the other side, so we just have to peek. We defer the big de- experience of unending
new needs, rather than the
cisions and collect another experience, for what if this isn’t the real thing?
satisfaction of the current
Even though most people wants tings like a wife or husband, children, and ones, becomes the primary
a house in the countryside, they don’t do anything about it because they goal for a happy life (and
don’t know when it’s the right time. And a big decision like that would where the production of new
mean that whey must give up their childlike life of searching and explo- temptations becomes the
ring. Several studies show that it is no longer the traditional 18 or 21 years main driving force for social
of age that marks the transition to adulthood, but 30. Childhood must be integration and peaceful co-
exsistence), the nanny state,
extended as far as possible. Try everything, constantly renew yourself and
which is geared to define
look at the world with fresh eyes. And we’re constantly being exhorted to and rewrite the needs of its
do so by the media, lifestyle magazines, advertisements, and in assorted citizens, can’t compete with
reality shows, where we watch stories about people who change partners, the systems governed by the
friends, family, noses, breasts, and even their sex. You’re free, so make a consumer market.”
choice – if you don’t, you’ll be voted out of a society where the myth about
Peter Pan is part of the greatest story being told in modern marketing: the
dream about everlasting youth – or eternal life. When one of the greatest
pop icons of our age loses his nose in the attempt to hang on to his youth
and beauty, then the icon is neither man nor boy, but a universal picture of
how bad the search for eternal youth can turn out. Lifestyle shopping is no
different from ordinary shopping: Getting a bargain requires deliberation,
reflection, preparation, and comparison of products and prices; otherwise
you end up a slave to fashion rather than the other way around. You have
to realise that before you turn 40, and find out that you are not Peter Pan.
the dream about Scrooge mcduck
Scrooge McDuck – from the Donald Duck comic books – who comes to the
city of Duckburg, and builds a business empire, is still around, but he has
become unfashionable. His is the story about stable well-known society,
strength of character, order, method, and the establishment and its depen-
dable antagonist. The world may not be quite what it should be, but it can
be fixed with enough industry, honesty, steadiness, loyalty, even-handed-
ness, objectivity, and precision. This is probably what the Yeppies dream
about, but until they achieve it, they are just hard-working consumers. This
is the paradox of the society where the citizen has become a consumer: To
always be on the way is not just a characteristic of the modern world; it
has become a standard for normality and is becoming the norm: If you’re
not heading somewhere, then you’re on your way down; you are experi-
encing a crisis. And you can only get over this crisis by consuming even
more. It’s not about what you can do for your country or for other people,
but what you can do for your own salvation. You must also stay young,
because being young means under development, and still moving. Unfortu-
nately, the goal of reaching perfection is impossible. As artist Salvador Dali
put it: “Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.” Yeppie, you have
me and conflict
Conflict resolution is a hot topic. Individualists must be able to function in
we used to be an army, now we’re an orchestra
One possible arena for conflict is the workplace. Today’s work life has
become individualised, with some work done at home, flexible working
hours, specialisation, and freelance work. In this environment, conflicts
between the individual and the community are more likely to occur. Un-
like the industrial society, where many workers had to perform identical
manual tasks, the modern ‘individualised’ company requires that diffe-
rent employees with different competences work together with a mutual
understanding of goal, values, and strategies. We used to be an army, now
we’re an orchestra. But the greater level of specialisation and individuali-
sation also means that co-workers often perceive the world differently and
have different methods, wants, and needs. Individualisation of employees
and tasks must hence be planned right down to the core of the company’s
organisation, lest the company waste resources, and time is lost in internal
division, strife, and factionalism.
In 2006, and even more so in 2016, people no longer go to work just
to make money. Self-actualisation, education, and the development of
personal identity and competences are also important features of work life.
Hence there are many personal interests at stake in the modern workplace.
Individualists who must work together will always be a volatile mixture,
and sooner or later that will lead to conflict. And although the individua-
lised employee has become an important part of the company’s strategy,
it is still only part of the overall strategy. The goods must be delivered, the
joint effort has to work out, the budget must be kept, and the profit must be
earned, regardless of how individualised the employees think they are.
Conflicts are often about different interpretations and views of the indivi-
dual and the society. The modern worker interprets, analyses, and reflects
individually, and that can easily lead to disagreement, for who made the
best interpretation or analysis? The modern company no longer has hierar-
chies, rules, and dictatorial managers who make the decisions and dictate
the solution. Today’s modern companies have flat structures and very spe-
cialised and independent employees. Conflict resolution should hence also
be democratised and management should be aware of what understanding,
opinions, experiences, and interpretations the employees have concerning
the conflict in question. Today conflict resolution is a democratic process
where almost every opinion is valid. That’s why everybody – including you
– has some responsibility for resolving any conflict.
go for the ball, not the man “My goal, as a personal
Modern work life is a large part of people’s personal identities. Hence it can coach, is to help you be fully
be difficult to separate work conflicts from personal conflicts. The crux of a Who You Are. I use capital
letters for “Who You Are,”
disagreement or conflict can easily change into something quite different.
because I believe each and
A conflict with other people, be it private or work-related, can be difficult to every one of us has more
deal with, because it easily becomes personal, and because we mostly define to offer than we are aware
our identity through our relationships with other people. We shape our of. As a “create-your-life”
identity not just by cooperation, but also by competition and conflict. If the coach, my job is to act as a
role we play in an ongoing conflict becomes part of our identity, we lose the catalyst, offering new, more
ability to deal with the conflict objectively, and it becomes very personal. self-expanding perspectives,
supporting you to take ap-
To achieve optimal conflict resolution, it is important to provide space for
propriate but powerful new
everybody to express his or her position, frustrations, and visions. Everyone actions and help you stay
can then make their own conclusions based on facts rather than assump- accountable to your Best
tions. By expressing your own thoughts and emotions, and not what you Self and to your Best Life.”
think about your opponent, you are able to open up a dialogue. Reproach,
Introductory text from the home page
purely subjective interpretations, interruptions, and leading questions simp- Personal coach – www.personalbest.org
ly escalate the conflict. The more personal the conflict appears, the more it
acquires overtones of loss of honour, identity, and social position.
The ability to resolve conflicts is a desirable qualification to have in
tomorrow’s society, but it’s not all that is required to solve conflicts. Conflict
resolution requires ground rules for the conflict solving process that eve-
ryone knows and is comfortable with. Such rules can include anything from
smoking policy to the handling of confidential information.
dialogue may help resolve conflicts
One of the best tools for conflict resolution we have today is language. Lan-
guage enables us to reflect on our own attitudes and acknowledge those of
others, without necessarily accepting them. In a conflict resolution process
you use dialogue to explore ideas that makes sense to those involved in
the conflict, and focus on those that all parties can agree on. It is through
dialogue that entrenched positions in a conflict may be softened up. It is
hence important to take the ‘detour’ around dialogue instead of proceeding
directly to a solution. Prejudices and sayings like “the chemistry is wrong”,
“we don’t speak the same language”, or “men are from Mars and women are
from Venus” portray our relationships with other people as something unal-
terable, almost as governed by invariable physical laws. But it doesn’t have
to be that way. It’s perfectly feasible to resolve conflicts and quite possible
to foster understanding between people. The most important ingredient is
the will to resolve the conflict. Conflicts should not be perceived as all bad.
The dialogue and discussion about the conflict contribute to the shared
history – the shared values. Individual differences, perceptions, and talking
about them are important to community development. The process of culti-
vating individual diversity begins with acceptance. Conflict resolution is not
a question of getting people to obey orders and toe the line. It’s a question
of demonstrating trust, approval, and acceptance of the different needs that
the participants in the conflict may have.
me and freedom
“I was brought up in an I like to be left alone every once in a while. I get tired of justifying all my
old-fashioned way: I’m half actions. I appreciate time for reflection, and away from the abundance of
a person when I’m alone, modern society. Please allow me to be ugly, imperfect, and sing noisily if
and whole when we are two.
I feel like it. I don’t want to show any more consideration. Why do I have
I think that many people are
like that, even today.” to get inside, if it’s cooler and more challenging to be outside? I’m tired
of consensus. Unsatisfying compromises and saying what people want to
Magrethe II of Denmark hear. I don’t want “plain” white walls when I can have them painted blue.
Why do we always have to agree? Let me experience the freedom of going
out into the world alone, without directions and goal, not knowing who
I’m going to meet there.
alone and happy
The collective has always been considered an ideal form of commu-
nity, and still is. Even in an age of individualisation the community is
constantly being romanticised. It’s good to have friends, family, good col-
leagues, to show solidarity, to go to parties and to have discussions. But no
matter how many advantages the community has, the alternative is there,
too. And, truth be told, just how happy are many of those communities
around us really? Husbands and wives fighting, children bullying other
children, power struggles, lack of loyalty, repression, and prejudice are
always latent in the ‘idyllic community’. And who says that the alterna-
tive can’t be preferable to the community - for some people, or maybe for
some people some of the time? And there is an alternative. An alternative
that individualisation and a complex and stressful world don’t make any
less attractive. Thankfully individualisation also makes it easier to be
individual, independent, and different and do things alone. Do things that
others might not think of.
Today our interests frequently differ from those of our lover, family,
or friends, which mean that we might have to go alone to lectures, opera,
or kickboxing. The individualised modern man is also far more complex
than he was last year. The increased level of education, the constant flow
of information, and the individual paths our life journeys take makes
us all more distinctive, an enriching distinctiveness, though it requires
strength. In order for someone to realise his potential, he must have
the strength and the will to dare – dare in spite of difficulties. More and
more people have the will and more and more people dare, and hence the
future will present us with more destinies, characters, furies, bon vivants,
bohemians, eccentrics, and other unusual types. Strong personalities who
win and lose, brave perils and risk all, because although their strong indi-
vidual choices makes them more exposed, it also gives them a chance to
win the jackpot. It is by no means all of us who will live the life of a loner.
Most people will not, but there will be more unusual people in the future. “Many women marry be-
The individualist will not be alone in having a greater need for time cause they’re tired of being
to be alone in the future. We will all have more need for peace and con- alone. And many women get
divorced because they’re
templation - for time to be completely ourselves. There has to be space
tired of being alone.”
and opportunity for me to be alone and reach my limits.
Singles – an alluring lifestyle
Individualisation has turned the spotlight on the single life. It has suddenly “Solitude has the great
become popular. People living alone or engaging in solitary pursuits used advantage that you can stop
to cause a certain amount of disapproval and concern, but today is seen as running from yourself.”
a perfectly normal way of living. Is has become acceptable to be single, to
enjoy being single and to stay single, if that is what is best for you.
Today single life is something that must be tried out, a part of
growing up. Living alone and taking care of everything yourself, gives
strength of character and insight. Those young people who’ve never tried
to ‘stand on their own two feet’ are subjects of pity. Is it even possible
to truly be an individual; is it possible to know your inner self, if you’ve
never tried to be on your own? Today it is considered healthy if you can
be alone with yourself. The single life has hence become a part of youth
culture, something you have to experience in order to be ready for the nu-
clear family, that nuclear family that still – despite the allure of the single
life – is the ideal for most people.
But being alone can be an ideal too, and in the future it will most li-
kely become an ideal for more people. Not necessarily as an alternative to
being in a community, but in conjunction with it. The more alone we are,
and the more individual our lives become, the more likely it will be that
people will get together to engage in ‘solitude’ and get the best of both
worlds. In the future we’ll occasionally go to the movies alone, because
we each have our own special taste in movies. We might have to go on
vacation alone, if we want adventure rather than security. We’ll have our
own personal office where we can work in peace. We’ll have individual
friendships rather than groups of friends. We’ll go for solitary walks to
enjoy the silence. We’ll have relationships with people who are our total
opposite. We’ll have separate economy, phone, and last will, because we
don’t want to be owned by anyone. And we choose love, friendship and
community because it holds value for us, not because we are afraid to be
alone. But if your values are total self-actualisation, space, silence, and
freedom, you might not need other people in your daily life.
Members’ Report #4/2005 Between individualisation and community
Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies Instituttet for Fremtidsforskning
One the one hand there’s no shortage of examples of modern communities that flourish. On the
other hand there’s no doubt that we’re all becoming more distinct and individual. Modern communi-
ties and individualisation exist side by side.
Modern communities exist – and they’re proliferating
We need communities in 2006, and we will still need them in 2016. Modern man desires association,
recognition, affection, and conversation with other people. We only exist in the relation to our fellow
men, and hence modern communities thrive in their new form.
Modern individualists are perfectly happy to belong to communities, but they want to choose
for themselves which communities they become part of and contribute to. Being able to choose our
communities for ourselves is radically different from conditions in earlier times, and communities
will hence have a different nature in the future; they will be more short-lived but more intense while
they last. People choose the communities that give them meaning. When a community stops giving
meaning to them, they leave again. Future communities will frequently be more focused on the
activity that defines them. We’ll be creating something together.
There are many examples of flourishing modern communities. Many people haven’t noticed, but
they are there. You might think that solidarity, concern for your fellow man, and community belong
to an earlier century, but that is not true. There are many modern communities, and new kinds of
communities appear all the time. Cyberspace provides amazing opportunities for communication
and community. Modern men are dependent on e-mail, and they go to meetings in a huge number of
virtual communities. SMS is an enormous success, and you grow addicted to the sound of the chime
that reminds you that someone wants to get in contact with you.
The euphoria of togetherness and the communities of consumption
Today’s business network is essential: no career without a network. The importance of networking
is growing drastically right now, and the scope of these communities are constantly being expanded;
they’re assiduously maintained by people with big personal interests at stake, or in the anticipation
that a group can achieve more than individuals. The modern experience industry offers many new
happenings and events that feature the euphoria of community and togetherness.
Philanthropy is also doing well; charity is a rapidly growing lifestyle icon. We use our money
to help alleviate suffering across the world. In the name of solidarity we bedeck ourselves with
symbols, armlets, ribbons, and other icons that prove that despite our wealth, consumption, and
individualisation we’re still ready to help others. We have a need to show that we’re good people. We
consume as never before, and we communicate and express ourselves in consumer communities. We
let ourselves be linked by symbols, brands, and communication into various communities that shape
our identity. In short: communities are alive and well.
Birthe Lindal Hansen, project manager
Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, December 2005
What is a community?
According to Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary, one definition of community is ‘a so-
cial group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct
in some respect from the larger society within which it exists’. The corresponding Danish word
originally had connotations of creating or acquiring something in cooperation with other people.
One way of putting it would be that a community is about creating something together.
It’s almost impossible to give a full definition of what a community is, but we’re still going to
suggest one possible definition; we acknowledge that it can only be one suggestion among others.
We assume that people have some objective qualities in common. This could be our activities,
our ethnicity, our religion, or our nationality. There may not be complete agreement about these
objective qualities, but the community is based on some sort of uniformity. These common objec-
tive qualities provide some limits and boundaries for who we are, just as they separates us from
members of other communities.
Some communities are characterised by more or less formal contracts; e.g. marriage, hiring some-
one, joining a political party. Other communities rely solely on activity, trust, tradition, loyalty, etc.
It can be hard to define the boundaries of a community precisely. When is something a
community? When is somebody a member of a community? Related to this is the question of
solidarity and loyalty. Does a community always entail the existence of solidarity and loyalty, and is
a community the better for it if it does?
Communities do not exist in isolation from the changes wrought by time. Community is a
dynamic concept, and the boundaries of a community must constantly be maintained, created, and
renegotiated by the individuals who are its parts.
The community in historical perspective
If we study the concept of community in a historical perspective, we find that frequently the
concept of community is romanticised. When talking about community, it was almost always
something positive – something that used to be more plentiful in the past – something we ought to
have more of in the future. This romanticised and oft-used concept of community refers to a pre-
modern definition of the term that can be traced back to late 19th Century thinking and the birth of
sociology. The classic sociologists Weber, Durkheim, and Tönnies regarded the emerging modern
society with its industrialism and the associated urbanisation as a threat to the community and its
cohesiveness. They each had theories about the importance of community in which you can sense
the tendency to romanticise the pre-modern community. And this tendency is alive and well today.
The pre-modern concept of community is rooted in the feudal society of medieval Europe,
when the majority of the population lived in small self-sufficient communities. The sociologist
Ferdinand Tönnies was one of these concerned sociologists, and in his theory from 1887 ‘commu-
nity’ – the good community – must have these three features: common locality, common activity,
and common mentality. The community of the feudal society had all three of these features: The
peasants lived where they worked, and their thoughts were much alike. Tönnies’ concern about
the modern communities arose from the fact that more and more of them no longer possessed all
three features; he therefore concluded that modern communities would be weaker than pre-mo-
dern communities. Tönnies saw the communities of the future as more rational, calculating, and
emotionless than the old ones that were rooted in kinship, loyalty, and solidarity. It’s been 120 years
since Tönnies wrote his famous treatise on community, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft; a classic
piece, which praises the old pre-modern community, and it’s undeniable that the modern community
doesn’t conform to his definition of a ‘true’ community. Today’s communities rarely have all three of
the community features that he describes – common locality, activity, and mentality – but whether
that makes them weaker or inferior is difficult to say.
The modern community is markedly different from the pre-modern one. There aren’t many
communities today where the members share both locality, activity, and mentality, but often one or
two of these features are present. Today’s human and social relations are frequently complex in con-
tent and in structure. A modern community is to a much greater degree something that you choose
for yourself. Something you join and leave depending on where you are on your journey through life.
The greater personal freedom and greater economic latitude has provided far better opportunities to
choose for yourself. Unfortunately, when people do their own choosing, there will always be some
who are rejected. There exist many kinds of communities today, and individuals participate in many
of these communities with varying degrees of commitment. Most modern communities are limited
in time; there are few lifelong communities left.
“Enjoying the privilege of ‘being a part of the community’ has its price, and
this price is insignificant; even invisible, as long as the community remains
a dream. The price is paid in the currency of freedom, called ‘autonomy’,
‘the right to self-promotion’, ‘the right to be yourself’. No matter what you
choose, you gain something and lose something else. Missing out on the
community means losing security; if you are successful in joining a commu-
nity, you will soon lose your freedom.”
How modern communities manifest themselves
The community ideal
Community is commonly viewed as good, cohesive, and just – something to strive for. This is not
always true. Communities can be horrible, evil, and inhuman. Yet despite this tendency to repress
and other flaws, it is almost always the positive interpretation and romanticised notion of the
concept ‘community’ that show up in general discussions about communities. Community is worth
striving for: “We want more of this, can’t live without it”. Or in the simple language of advertising
“we are happiest, when we are together”. A number of serious studies confirm this: People who live
in families are happier than solitary people.
Of course, the romanticised notion of community does hold quite a few elements of truth, but
it’s also the well-known story of ‘the Good Old Days’. Everything was better in the old days, back
when we stood together and helped each other in good times and in bad.
In current debates the community is often held responsible for – or hailed as the answer to
– the things that more and more people miss about modern existence: togetherness, solidarity,
and being there for each other. Or perhaps it is just the dream of having the responsibility taken
away from us by stronger and more capable people. Sociologist Raymond Williams describes how
the community is romanticised in these words: “The community is that which always once was…
Today the community is another word for the lost Paradise – but a Paradise we ardently hope to
return to, wherefore we frantically seek for ways that will lead us to it”. (Bauman 2001).
One story about the development of modern society is that we don’t get together in small
communities anymore because of individualisation and egoism. It is a classic story that is still
being told and debated. But the ongoing debate has made us realise that there is more to this story.
Is a community always a good thing, and how should it be structured? Is modern man really any
more selfish and does he really have less regard for his fellow man than pre-modern man did? Are
there really fewer communities today than there used to be? Is being part of a community really
worth the bother? At the end of the day, isn’t it easier just to be yourself? These questions are not
easy to answer. The discussion has two sides: We have two diametrically opposite views, but also a
merging of the two views, and it’s this dichotomy that this twin report attempts to delineate.
Whether we really were in “community heaven” in the past, and whether community always
entails solidarity, is debatable. But it is a fundamental human trait to romanticise that which has
become scarce. City dwellers that live far from nature buy organic products and support envi-
ronmental causes, while we pursue the lean body in an age where most people are more or less
overweight. Community is a similar case. Modern people who are busy with career and personal
self-actualisation may suddenly discover that they’ve lost all sense of purpose, when their lives
become more and more fragmented. Just as less modern people may suddenly discover that they’re
no longer automatically part of the community. Many modern communities require that you earn
the right to be part of them somehow. ‘We have a free choice’, or we have an almost free choice of
what communities we want to belong to. Some of us have a large selection to choose from, others
not so many, and the most unfortunate among us, almost none. Most people still choose to partici-
pate in community activities; we all want to experience fellowship in some form or another. Who
doesn’t want to, as the noted sociologist Zygmunt Bauman writes: “...live among friendly, compas-
sionate people whom you can trust and whose words and actions you can rely on?” (Bauman, 2001)
The fact that the community so often is romanticised in a very unreflective way, as compared to a
decent analysis of human and social interaction in modern life, may seem just thoughtless. But it
can also be perceived as a human aspiration to better conditions and greater happiness. Despite the
growing individualisation, modern man still wants communities. Current and future communities
just differ from the old kind of communities.
Individualisation is often the key to modern communities
Individualisation has caused all of us to become more different from each other than we used to
be. But there are still limits to how different we want to be. Sure, it’s cool to be unique, but we still
prefer to be unique within acceptable limits. We don’t want to be too aberrant. We want to always be
sure of a welcome from the community, want to be recognised by the ‘tribe’, want to belong. So we
conform, obey the rules, and play the game. We need acceptance. We desire acceptance very much,
and the desire does not grow less in an age where you’re only something if you make something of
yourself. We have an alarming need for normality.
But at the same time individualisation is supposed to provide us with bigger scope than ever
before! Constantly we hear about how different we all are and will become, yet we’re still amazingly
similar. Not that we don’t have plenty of options here in 2006, and we won’t have any fewer in 2016.
Life is like shopping! The option to choose the abnormal is definitely there, yet when the push comes
to the shove there’s precious little abnormality to be seen. It’s difficult to spot much really decisive
alternative lifestyle, and why might that be? “I don’t want to do the same as everybody else” is an
almost cliché expression that we all constantly use. Maybe we say it without proper reflection, but
we certainly say it, and we mean it too. We earnestly desire to act differently from the others; we’d
much rather do something that makes us stand out. At the very least we don’t want to do the same as
the neighbour does. “I prefer my own path, a personal route far from the highway.”
But although the possibilities are many, in the end we very often wind up just like the neighbour.
The individualistic modern people of the year 2006 all buy white kitchens, grey sofas, and foreign
beer for their guests. We visit the same big cities, wear the same clothes, and mock the same social
misfits. We fall in line and strive for consensus. Even though we boast in the names of individuali-
sation and reflection of our multiplicity, creativity, and spaciousness, we nevertheless set strangely
narrow limits for tolerance of the different, the strange, and the extraordinary. On the one hand we
claim to be individualists and strive for more independent conduct and reflection, while on the other
hand we will not or dare not deviate to anywhere near the degree that modern life would actually
allow us. There are, in other words, limits to just how individualised we are. In spite of everything,
most of us still try to conform and follow the herd. We still want to be part of the community. We
want to be on the inside. We dare not risk too much.
To sum up: We may try to be completely our own selves and stand out in the crowd and take ad-
vantage of the opportunity for more individualised conduct, but the point is that we do so in order to
be part of the community. Among the general public in the year 2006 the motive for individualisati-
on lies in the fact that standing out to a carefully measured degree is the key to the community. Let’s
repeat that: The key to the modern community is a carefully measured and tailored personal identity
that is a little different from anyone else’s, but not so much that it falls outside the acceptable norm.
If you’re not a tiny bit individualised and exceptional, you’re lost – just an old-fashioned nonentity.
Hence you have to think about your personal manifestation and be just a little bit different. It’s a
question of standing out in just the right manner. That is, enough to make you different from anyone
else, but not so much that you can’t be recognised. It’s quite all right for you to choose any picture
you like, as long as you hang it over the sofa, keep it in blue-green colours, and stay within the
bounds of good taste.
Modern communities in 2006
There are many claims about the conditions for communities in today’s society getting worse, and
about people in general showing less solidarity. It’s hard to say how valid this claim is; much de-
pends on perspective. However, there can hardly be any doubt that today’s communities are subject
to changing conditions, and therefore have changed, and must be perceived in a different way.
One example of this debate can be found in Generation fucked up, a discussion between the
authors Rasmus Hylleberg and Morten Albæk. Albæk has this to say about the community spirit of
young people: “It is a group of individuals who think that they don’t need other people, and expects
the community to give them much more than what the community can expect to get from them”.
Hylleberg replies: “But the problem is not that young people let the communities down; it is that
some of the communities lets the young people down. All too often the organisation and rituals are
part of a bygone age. And there’s no interest in changes. That’s why so many turn their back on the
classic democratic institutions, and communities like political parties, societies, folk high schools,
and unions” (Albæk Hylleberg, 2005)
Today, in 2006, communities are fundamentally different from pre-modern communities. Not
many of today’s communities feature all three of the elements that, according to Tönnies, are fun-
damental to communities: Common locality, activity, and mentality. Strictly speaking then, most
of today’s “communities” are not real communities, but in this report we’ve chosen to call them
communities anyway, based on the view that when a group of people has something in common,
we could call it a community. The community may, however, be more or less cohesive. A closer
examination of today’s communities provides many examples.
As a general rule when talking about modern communities, we rarely find any community
where people share all of locality, activity, and mentality. There are, of course, still some ‘true’
communities, the kind where all three elements are present. One can still find the farmer couple in
West Jutland who live on the farm, work on the farm, walk side by side to and from the farm, and
share the same liberal convictions. But there’s no denying that they’re a dying breed. The modern
farmer’s wife has her own job and her own opinions.
Traditionally the nuclear family is likewise a strong community, and it is probably the modern
community that is closest to the classic ‘true community’. On paper there is commonality of
locality, activity, and mentality, and hence the family is one of the modern age’s hottest and most
sought-after community models, because most people dream of the ideal community. We long for
comradeship and harmony. We long for family happiness, a crowd all around the Christmas tree,
the discussions at the dining table, the personal gifts, attention, love, and loyalty, even when we
have to pay something in return. The only question is how much. But even though the modern fa-
mily still lives in the same house, it is rare that mum and dad and little Anne and her older brother
Gustav also share activities and mentalities.
Modern adults frequently have separate jobs and the members of the family often have dif-
ferent leisure interests. The adults also read different books and in the name of tolerance put up
with the partner’s different political beliefs. It will undoubtedly also be more usual in the future
that a family doesn’t live together in the ‘normal’ way. An increased need for time and space to ‘be
oneself’ together with a greater reliance on commuting will lead to many alternative housing soluti-
ons. We already know how a divorce changes how people organise their lives. The trend is easy to
discern: The modern family is still a community, but different from a traditional community – and,
according to Tönnies’ definition, a weaker community. Weak, according to a classic interpretation,
but not necessarily according to a newer and different interpretation.
Few other modern communities encompass all three elements. We may, for instance, live in
a village or a housing community without having anything in common with the neighbours other
than the address. We may be members of a society or study group where the sole purpose is to
agree on beliefs and to have our attitudes and way of thinking validated. At work we solve tasks
together and at the kayak club we row kayaks – the main reason, and maybe the only reason, being
the joint activity. Communities with only one element are plentiful, and it’s this kind of community
that is easiest to join and to leave. Things are different with the communities with more than one
element; such communities are frequently stronger and hence more difficult to join and to leave.
We may work together on a project for the company, but in addition we may be friends who share
compatible values and beliefs. We may celebrate New Year together and may have done so for
twenty years. We may work at a company where a large part of the population in the nearby town is
employees, who thus share both activity and locality. Or the friends from the old study group might
all have bought houses on the same suburban street and share the same locality now. Or the group
of environmentalists who share the same beliefs, and thus fight for the same cause, may talk about it
in cyberspace or meet for discussion or demonstrations in the real world. These are all examples of
modern communities, as we know them from daily life. Communities that people could have chosen
not to join, but which nevertheless exist, thrive, endure, and are cherished.
Are these modern communities better or worse than the so oft-mentioned classic communities?
The answer is: Not necessarily; modern communities are just different. Modern communities have
a lot more to do with choices, so it happens more frequently that we choose for ourselves what
communities we want to belong to. We choose on the basis of reflection and personal interests: a free
choice that hopefully will lead to greater happiness and satisfaction, precisely because we chose it
ourselves. It’s quite possible, in fact rather likely, that a modern community turns out to be a much
better community than the ones that are more or less compulsory. We should be able to expect a
more positive dynamic when we ourselves have chosen what communities to become part of. This
positive dynamic might include greater engagement, visions, solidarity, and loyalty. So there’s no rea-
son why modern communities can’t be stronger, indeed even better, than the old ones. In the future,
the reduced number of enforced and life-long communities may also cause people to be more consci-
ous of the communities they choose. When you can no longer take community for granted, you will
have to seek it out, nurse it, and invest in it. That’s why, in the future, we will choose to participate
in a community because we have become conscious of our fundamental need for other people. The
community is not just what we are when we are together; it is something we want it to be.
Communities that aren’t for everybody
As the communities of the future become more a matter of conscious choice, the mechanisms for
inclusion and exclusion become more obvious. The corollary to free choice is the right to say, “We
don’t want you as a member of our community: it’s only for people who wear green stockings”. It’s
nothing new that some communities aren’t for everybody; what’s new is that there are fewer commu-
nities around that people can take for granted that they will be allowed to be part of. For this reason
modern communities are not nearly as attractive to the weakest members of society as they are to the
members of the upper and middle classes, who have the resources to join, participate in, and leave
whatever selection of communities they fancy.
In the future we will see many more gated communities – communities with very strict bounda-
ries and admission requirements. There will be residential neighbourhoods that are shielded from the
rest of the world and protected by guards. There will be more VIP clubs and gold memberships for
those have something to bargain with: money, connections, status, and prestige. There will be more
private schools with unconventional ideologies, waiting lists, and particular admission requirements.
There will be more consumer communities where people share lifestyles, codes, and symbols, and
thus also values, attitudes, etc. The ‘advantage’ of gated communities is that the boundaries are fully
marked and hence easy to make up your mind about. It’s a lot more difficult with all those commu-
nities where the boundaries are invisible and harder to recognise. Many modern communities have
unseen boundaries and unspoken rules that most of those on the inside understand, but may not be
able to explain in words. Such unseen boundaries and unspoken rules can be impossible to compre-
hend if you are not a member of that community.
Today most of us choose different paths through life. That makes the journeys each of us make
through life different from everybody else’s. Along the route we constantly call at new ports – new
stations. Neither my neighbour, my ex-husband, my tennis partner, nor my friends from school
are going the same way as I, so our paths must part. Perhaps forever, perhaps only for a while;
who can say? There’s a chance that we may meet on a station later in life, but the likelihood is
low. When the old friends move on we need new ones, and so we are constantly on the lookout
for new travelling companions. The times are not suited for too many lifelong communities; they
are too cumbersome, inflexible, and dominating to go well with modern life. Modern communities
are different, their purpose and structure limited in time. School, the study group, the manage-
ment group, the yoga class, the ski team, and the Lamaze class are all communities with limited
durations. Most people are comfortable with the fact that a community is limited, and that maybe
it never got really warm and intense – but it was never the intention that it should be. People are
frequently about to move on anyway, and don’t have the time and the mental surplus to invest.
There’s a limit to the number of friends you can have at the same time – but of course you always
have some friends, who are good matches for you at the particular point in life you’ve reached, and
can both back you up and tell you when you are wrong.
Community in spite of differences
In spite of increasing differences and many different life paths, there will also be communities in
the society of the future, and these communities will probably be characterized by a greater diver-
sity and tolerance than before. The modern communities will be of a more limited and transient
nature. In the old days, when people lived in the traditional agricultural society, life was often
limited to one location. The cradle and the grave served as the beginning and the end of the same
story, which took place in the village of Hornsherred from start to finish. At that time one knew
the same people all through life. They were people who were connected by generations of love and
hate, the local place, the labour and the thoughts. It is different today, where very few people die
the same place they were born, and no one lives a life exactly like his neighbours. There is always
a difference; a journey, a career with a famous football team, an education, a greater income, a dif-
ferent mother or a lottery prize, which makes identities different.
The modern man is always on the move – and also on the move to become a little different
from the rest. They move around, train, study, make friends, get married and may get divorced.
They live in the country or in the cities, several places at once. There is the man on the shop floor,
the wise man, the craftsman, the manager, the symbol analyst, the free agent, the ones on welfare
and all the rest. They change their views, attitudes and values. Some get wiser - some get dumber.
They travel around the world, on vacation or as part of their job. They speak different languages
and read different books. They have experiences all the time – experiencing more and from a
wider selection than any previous generation. The modern men of today have had many more
diverse experiences than was common just a few decades ago. This fact becomes obvious if for
example you compare the generation born after 1980 with the generations born before 1940. We
have all become more different, though we still look alike. The likeness is the degree of common
difference. The youths of today all go on the same journey of formation, but with different desti-
nations. The individual life paths have a common pattern – a shared framework, but the content
becomes increasingly distinct and thereby increases the complexity, which creates a need for
further individualisation in society. The differences between us are increasing, and because of that
the inherent understanding among equals is disappearing. It can be viewed as a threat to society,
that taking the understanding among people for granted becomes more difficult, but it doesn’t
have to be. For with individualisation comes reflection, and with that hopefully some tolerance. A
tolerance that probably opens for another kind of understanding, more forbearance and accep-
tance than was previously the case.
So it is by the many choices people make that they become more different. That is the reason why it
on the one hand becomes more difficult to segment people and judge them by first impression, while
on the other hand it opens up for a lot a freedom. For since it has become harder to classify people,
it also has become easier to act without restraint from any such classification. New possibilities
opens up. Joining communities with no previous tradition for letting people like me in may become
a possibility. Today we agree not to share everything with members of our communities and that
the community is limited that way. Our colleagues may have other values than ours. “None of my
business”. We enjoy the community of the workplace and the technical discussions and overlook
extreme political views. We play soccer in the local village, because it is a homely place just around
the corner. We don’t play because of friendship or because we share all views and values. No, we do
it because we want soccer and a village community and only that – a conscious choice. A choice with
limitations we knew in advance.
Being more individual and autonomous than before doesn’t mean we become less dependent on one
another. Paradoxically it can be claimed that the dependence is increasing. In the past – in the classic
village community – it was the family, the neighbour, the landowner, the Lord, and good weather
that people were dependent on, unlike today. Today we all become more and more dependent on
other people and other systems – more or less hidden people and systems, that is. The local as well as
the global labour division have never been greater and this trend will be reinforced in the future. We
are unbelievably dependent on one another, and it takes only a few human errors to make my day
break down completely. Just think of any recent major power failure.
We are all connected to a gigantic network of independencies, from which we can’t disconnect.
Let’s call this great global community the global world market. We are all consumers whether we
want to or not. The possibility to move far out into the forests and live a quit independent life is no
longer there. In the year 2006, and even more in 2016, the human interdependencies are staggering.
Just think about five important things in your daily life that you don’t have any influence on. The
heat in the radiator: The oil is bought in Kuwait. The food in the local supermarket: The shrimps
are from Greenland, the banana from Columbia and the milk from another part of the country.
Your salary: Is paid by the multinational company you work for. You heart medicine: Made from a
substance imported from Central Asia. Your mother’s care on the old people’s home: Depends on the
help and loyalty of others. The examples are endless. In ten years, can you even be sure that the milk
and the heat in the radiator is coming from your own country? If not, then you have just become
Even more community towards 2016
In the year 2016 we still want to be together, solve shared tasks, be loyal, belong, get together with
people we know, be remembered, get presents, have visitors, be a good friend, take on responsi-
bility and commitment, make a difference and help the less able. Solidarity is not dead, and the
communities are alive.
The trend is clear; we join ever more communities, seek out new ones and reflect upon the ones
we have already joined. In some we stay for decades – others maybe for life, but in most we stay for
a limited time, a week maybe. Communities can be good, supporting and fruitful even though they
don’t last all life, and even if they are not made so that people share loyalty, activity, and mentality.
The advantage of the many new and short-lived communities is that they are much less crucial for
the future life of the individual. In the past you were a member of a few life-lasting communities and
you were always “the same” and was perceived as that throughout your life, compared to the modern
community where you are perceived as what you are at the moment. You are allowed to be who you
are today, not who you were yesterday. In that way the childhood experiences and the mistakes, suc-
cesses and fiascos of the past will be of less importance. Exactly like the modern constantly develo-
ping identity will get the optimum conditions for stimuli, mutual relations, fruitful interactions,
challenges and time together with equals. The many activities of modern communities also have
the advantage of facilitating meetings between like-minded people about what interests them.
Luckily we no longer have to make do with the sports that the local town offers. We no longer have
to go to church if we don’t want to, and we are not forced to read the local paper because it is the
only one available. We do as we like, choose what we feel is right for us. Or we do it, if we have the
opportunity to do so.
Life-long communities are still of great value
The conditions of modern society favour short, casual and limited communities, but of course
that doesn’t mean that we must scrap the life-long ones in the future, on the contrary. It is exactly
because even more communities become casual, that it is important to have a small core of good
relations, friends, family or neighbours who knows us and keeps up with what happens in our
life. It doesn’t necessarily have to be relations with very tight bonds. The stability, the familiarity,
the routine, the loyalty and the safety are more important. There is a need for stability in a world
where the only constant is change: Friendships, family and neighbourhood, for example. In the
society of the future, more people will decide to cultivate the good and potentially life-long commu-
nities. People choose to hold on, to get involved, to make a difference and to give meaning to the
community. Because of individualisation and the more casual communities, they often realize that
their existence doesn’t have meaning unless it gives meaning to others. Exactly as it becomes clear
to them that there must be coherence, a main thread that gives it all meaning, that most people
need to a part of something.
Community gets on the agenda
The community will be one of the major topics of discussion of the near future. What is a commu-
nity and what do we need it for? The reason for this is also individualisation. The individualists of
modern society looked for – and are still looking for – freedom. Even if more freedom means less
safety. But maybe we have enough freedom now. Some people have so much freedom that they are
choking on it, and therefore long for a world of less choice and more stability. The discussions of
tomorrow on the advantages of communities might make people see that the “compulsory commu-
nity” (or the less optional community) also have strengths, possibilities, advances and gratification.
The cool and trendy extreme sports won’t be bungee jumping or marathon in the Sahara desert.
The extreme sport of tomorrow are people who voluntarily agree to move in with some people
who are very different from themselves and then try to make it work. The skill of the future is not
“me before you”, but individualistic solidarity and the ability to give and take to the benefit of the
community. The successful man or woman of tomorrow has social skills of an individualistic and
unique nature, but those are also effective skills. Today it is easy to leave when you don’t like the
company anymore. Off course you will still be able to leave communities in the future. But there
will also be a growing awareness about the demands of will, engagement, activity, sacrifice, and
most of all tolerance, that are required to take part in a community, and therefore you will think
about it more carefully before you leave. Like you value any major investment, you also value an
investment for life in other people.
Six more examples
As shown here, the modern communities thrives, and on the following pages are six more examp-
les of why we want and need communities both today and in 2016.
1. We meet in the e-communities. 2. We want to be good. 3. Consumer communities.
4. The communities of experience. 5. The clubs and me. 6. We are networking.
We meet in e-communities
E-communities is an often used term for communities that uses the internet
as its primary means of communication. E-communities are children of
the internet, but networking, global communities existed long before the
internet. The first of these communities were probably the western univer-
sities, who shared their knowledge and research in the form of books and
journals. It was a decentralized network of independent entities, which
freely made resources available for each other – not unlike the open source
networks of today. The Worldwide Web was also originally developed as a
tool for researchers to share their research.
Today there are countless internet-based communities, or e-communi-
ties, with many purposes and with widely different levels of involvement of
the participants. It may be impossible to make a statistic on the number of
e-communities, since every day thousands more arise. There are probably
almost as many e-communities that die out, but their “ghosts” can often be
found on the net several years after, in the form of inactive homepages and
other sites. This makes it very difficult to get a realistic idea of the distribution
of e-communities, so we have to make do with a look at thier characteristics.
Common locality, mentality and/or activity
As stated before, the community can be viewed as where you share locality,
mentality and/or activity; either sharing all three or maybe just some
of them. This is also applies to e-communities. E-communities can be
complementary to local communities, such as a residents association. But
local e-communities are not used widely, maybe because today’s electronic
communication is not capable of the range of expressions that are possible
in face-to-face communication. If the physical distance is small, meeting
physically is not so hard.
E-communities can also be the framework for mental communities,
often of a global nature. The internet makes it easier to find someone with
whom to share your values and interests, regardless of how special they are.
If you want to discuss your interests with others, it is easy to find discus-
sion fora by a simple search on search engines like Google. This makes it
possible for the isolated outsiders of the past to find like-minded people
and get their values and interests confirmed, whatever their nature is. This
applies to innocent interests such as feng shui, Star Trek and the raising of
orchids, and for the less acceptable such as neo-Nazism, pedophilia and ter-
rorism. The internet is neither censored nor under any editorial control, and
its decentralised structure makes it doubtful if such is even possible.
Communities of activity
Finally, e-communities can also be based on activity. An example of such a “In 1910 the Russian philoso-
community is dating sites where you can find someone to share an evening pher Peter Kropotkin wrote a
and maybe your whole life with. Another example is online games like Pla- vision of the anarchistic so-
ciety of the future – a vision
netSide, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, where a number of people
that in many ways are close
from around the world meet in virtual worlds to share adventures. Even to the modern thoughts
though the online games seem like superficial communities, they often lead about the network society:
to strong bonds – in many cases, gamers have found friends and lovers “…an interwoven network,
through these games. composed of an infinite vari-
Open source networks are activity-based communities, e-communities ety of groups and federations
of a kind, where members contribute to the common project with their of all sizes and degrees,
local, regional, national and
knowledge or by working on it. An example of this is the network of volun-
teers who have developed the Linux operating system as an alternative to or more or less permanent
commercial operating systems like Unix and Windows. Another example – for all possible purposes:
is the many new wikis like the encyclopaedia Wikipedia and the movie production, consumption
database IMDB, where people use their spare time to write and edit articles. and exchange, communica-
tions, sanitary arrangements,
education, mutual protec-
Anarchistic communities tion, defence of the territory,
Many e-communities are almost anarchistic by nature because of their and so on; and on the other
decentralised structure and lack of editorial control. Today most e-commu- side, for the satisfaction of
nities are built around a central server, but this will become less necessary an ever-increasing number of
when decentralised sharing systems like the Grid gets more common. scientific, artistic, literary and
In the future, information and computer power can be distributed in sociable needs.”
a network of computers – a little like the internet, which in itself is a col- (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1910)
lection of many computers without any central control. The internet was
originally developed by the US military as a safeguard against the disabling
of all communication by an attack on central installations. In the same
way legal and illegal e-communities can become safe from attack by using
decentralised communication, and then the world will become a bit more
anarchistic – but not exactly in the way Kropotkin imagined.
We want to be good
You can hardly sit at a dinner table without someone telling you about his
or her sponsored child in Africa or her Amnesty International membership.
Last summer you couldn’t take a walk in the park or in the countryside
without encountering an outdoor concert or a happening in favour of this
or that. Another good example is the bracelets that a number of people are
wearing, supporting a good cause. For a small amount of money they get the
right to show off their solidarity and thoughtfulness to the rest of the world.
Individualism or not, modern man still has a need to show solidarity with
the weak and to serve the common good causes of the community.
Look at my bracelet
Individualisation is not only about the physical conditions like where we
live and what our job is. Individualisation is also about who we want to
be. We create ourselves through what we do or through the products we
choose to purchase. We show our identity by buying organic milk, clothes
from Diesel, or by wearing a yellow bracelet or a red bow. Modern lifestyle
is not only about expensive brands and high income. Today and in the
future, lifestyle can also be about charity and solidarity. To show goodness,
philanthropy, and human responsibility is very popular: “Look! I help
people in need, don’t you?” Not alone do we symbolize good, we advertise
it. The bracelet fad is as much a message to others to do the same, and for
everybody to pull together.
Welfare organisations and NGOs have spotted the need for humanity
and solidarity of modern man, and therefore the staging of their relief
efforts are becoming more common. It is no longer sufficient to point at
an account number or to take out your collection box a few times a year.
People want credit for showing their solidarity. This is why philanthropy
has become much more loud and symbolic than yesteryear. Sensual adverti-
sements for the Red Cross, designer clothes with relief logos, and celebrities
appointed as relief ambassadors show the trend. People wants to show that
they are good, to brand themselves with humanity and to show social re-
sponsibility. In that way they have more solidarity, maybe even more than
before. For when the individual is free to choose communities to belong to
and where to show solidarity, it increases the interest. In the old days we
were forced to visit a much-hated old aunt, give her money and hear her
complain. The neighbours saw what we did and acknowledged it. Today we
choose victims of an earthquake in Pakistan, but who can see it, if we don’t
show it. Individuals need the acknowledgment of the community, and there
is nothing wrong with that, for as individualists we are still social beings,
though we have our selfish needs.
The companies also want to
The individualist is not alone in the urge to be good. The tendency is also
clear if we look at for instance the social behaviour of companies. More and
more companies have a logo of solidarity on their homepage. There are ad-
vertising agencies that compete about making the best charity commercial
for free, and there are companies who promise to use one percent of one of
their revenue for some good cause. In some of the latest giant charity events
companies spent millions on relief. The company of today has a need for
social acknowledgment. There is still some social stigma connected with
earning too much and being too superior. This stigma can be curbed with
good deeds and social responsibility. Especially if it becomes a part of the
company’s PR strategy. Help for cancer-sick children, money for tsunami
victims or sponsor children in Tibet are just a few examples.
In the service of philanthropy
Philanthropy doesn’t stop at your wallet. There is an increase in the number
of volunteers who wants to work for the good cause. Today there are a
numerous organisations, associations, and support groups for those who
want to do volunteer work. Studies shows that to a large part it is individua-
lisation rather than duty or necessity that makes the wheels of charity turn.
53 percent of those who do volunteer work state their reason for doing so as
out of interest or because of a relative. Only three percent volunteer because
of injustice, and 15 percent state that they do it because it was necessary to
do something. In particular the areas of culture and sports attract many vo-
lunteers. So in spite of the rumours about the lack of social commitment of
the zapper generation, it is no secret that the volunteer organisations don’t
have recruiting problems. People are interested in both the close and local
as well as in the global aspects.
The many volunteers are very pragmatic about their work – they want
to do some actual good deeds, make a difference without following any
particular political ideology. They can even see themselves as opposed to
the established political system. They want to make their mark on what
they think is important right now. It’s about making a difference and
doing one’s best, about doing something meaningful, both to others and to
themselves. Getting something on your resume is also a legitimate reason
for helping others, not just a selfish motive. The volunteer organisations
have even managed to make working for them a meaningful individualistic
act. They have made the framework for an individual development, where
you don’t make any long-term commitment, but take part in a community
where you can implement charity, solidarity and even a new self. It also
gives you the awareness of being able to make a difference by being a part
a something greater.
When you consume a product you not only create an image in other people.
You also create an image of yourself. The products give you identity.
They place you in a subculture. And you can belong to several subcultures
simultaneously. The same consumer can wear designer clothes from Gucci,
be a member of Greenpeace and be a regular guest at the local Tupperware
party. A grill of the right brand can make even an argument with a hated
neighbour change into a friendly conversation at the hedge.
The new consumer communities are growing, while old communities like
the church, the union, the party, the class etc. have lost its strength. Consump-
tion makes new opportunities for the communities of interests and opinions.
Identity from the new communities
Earlier, communities were based on a shared locality, activity and mentality.
The consumer communities need only one of those. Today the consumer
can work in his or her home, and without any physical contact enter into
a net community, where they can shop, play games, chat and flirt. In other
words, there are many more possibilities for the individual to take part in
groups or communities, and preferably several at once. Consumer commu-
nities may look rather unstable and even superficial.
When the fashion changes, the community might become obsolete.
But that doesn’t mean that communities are worth less or that they are less
important. Quite the opposite. Today the individual’s primary source of
identity are new communities. And here consumption plays a large role.
Therefore the grill, the mobile phone, the home computer, the car, the
clothes, the beer, the plastic containers and all kind of stuff have become an
important part of daily life.
The consumer communities presuppose shared role models among indi-
viduals; that they have common frames of reference, which connect the
lifestyle with the corresponding values. It has to be quite clear for the con-
sumer what values the product represents, and other people must be able
to recognize the motive of the one who chooses to buy the product. Logos,
home pages, badges, a greeting, a hand signal, etc. is contributing to making
the brand be a symbolic link for the community.
In that way brands can work as a means to participate in social groups
and communities. People who drive Saab greet each other in traffic, and
Nokia’s motto “Connecting People” is not just saying what a telephone can do
and is capable of, but is the creation of a whole culture. A brand is nothing by
itself, but in its ability to be a relation between people. And it is important to
know the code that makes you a part of the community. What is the value of
the lining of my designer shoes, and what does a ring in the navel mean?
Apple is one of the companies that has had success in establishing a
specialized community, which is not geographically bound, and is based on
social relations within and between organised groups of people admiring a
brand. That way the brand becomes the social link between the consumers
of the community.
Confessions of a Mac user
There is a lot of computers available on the market today, and for most
people it doesn’t matter which one they buy if it fulfils the requirements.
But there is an exception: when you buy a Mac computer it matters. Mac is
more like a religion that a computer. Even though the congregation is from
all over the world, every single Mac user imagines him- or herself as part of
a community where everybody knows each other and share a set of values,
making them different from everyone else. The apple stands for quality
and superior design while the slogan “think different” put the user in the
company of the great thinkers of the past like Ghandi and Einstein. The
operating system itself mimics the strongest cement of the classic commu-
nities, namely the fight against the big evil force, the alienating power,
the system – Microsoft’s Windows. Think different. Together we can do it
– it’s “us” against “them”. You can get Mac stickers and Mac banners on the
internet, not sponsored by Apple, like you can see Mac users wearing Mac
T-shirts for the same reason that others wear pictures of Che Guevera. Mac
users are the guerrilla force of the affluent.
At the same time, Mac has created communities on the internet, where
the many followers can tell stories about the brand. Its partial immunity
against computer virus and its strength in graphics applications are examp-
les of these stories, and every Mac user knows the date January 24th 1984,
the day the first Mac was launched, the year zero of the Mac. Members of
the Mac community feel a sort of responsibility towards the community
and each other. Technical problems are solved together, and tips on how to
make the best deals are shared in the community. This sharing of knowled-
ge is often thought more useful and honest because it is freely given. That
way the users do a lot of important and necessary tasks. The community
exist almost without interference from the company. The rituals and the
community are kept alive by the history and the culture of the brand, and
new members are recruited every day, whenever a Mac is sold.
To be a part of the Mac community implies a lot of advantages and
obligations, though not of the sort where you can borrow a little money or
cry at somebody’s shoulder. For that, you still have the local communities.
The communities of experience
Theme parks, football matches, pubs, art clubs. Activities where the
community is a part of the experience is nothing new, and the range of
possibilities have been great during the last hundred years. What is new
is an increasing number of each, and that the organizers now realize that
that what they thought were the core activity is not essential for most of the
audience, but is only a framework necessary for differentiating activities.
The average visitor at a free rock concert is in his or her late twenties, only
marginally interested in music, but very much in having a good time. The
organizers are aware of this and plan accordingly.
Communities of identification or of experience
The communities of experience can be either communities of identification
or communities of experience. Just reading the same newspaper can be a
community of identification: To read and enjoy that particular paper and
share its political and cultural views. This identification becomes a part of
the personal brand. The same applies to other communities of identificati-
on. From the organizers point of view, there is another distinction between
activities, namely essential activities and activities with the sole purpose of
creating customer loyalty.
Some activities are just product branding. Activities in connection with
the launch of a new product or the sponsorship of a football team. For the
members of pure communities of identification – those with a low level of
social interaction – the activity itself is of course the important part. This is
what creates the experience and holds the value of identification. Free con-
certs are much more communities of experience than of identification. The
participants are looking for a social experience. The identification value is
weak for most of them. But an activity can also be both: A rock festival has
a much higher identification value than a single free concert. And various
merchandise, newsletters etc. reinforce this value of identification.
The communities of experience need quality activities, too. A free concert
performed by inferior artists could become a negative identification value
and thus keep away the audience. But as long as the experience is ok, the
rest don’t matter a lot. The artists just have to know the expectations of the
audience, so that they can give them the show they want. The financial struc-
ture of the communities varies widely: There are non-profit organizations,
charity organizations and commercial enterprises. An example from Denmark
is the Skanderborg Festival, a rock festival that uses all its profit to make a bet-
ter festival the following year. Another Danish rock festival, Roskilde Festival,
donates part of its profit to various humanitarian and cultural organisations.
But there are also purely commercial undertakings in this field.
Participants and organizers
Both participants and organizers have their communities. The financial
structure to some extent determines what kinds of communities are pos-
sible. The difference between non-profit and charity organisations is not
great, though. This would change if the charity organisations used activities
of experience to further their cause, instead of seeing the activities only as a
source of income. One wonder why organisations dedicated to the physical
health of young people see an event like the Roskilde Festival as just an op-
portunity to make a profit on beer sale. Why not try to do something more
in line with their object?
The community is essential for the non-commercial organisations,
because of the need to recruit volunteers for their major activities. Commer-
cial organisations don’t have similar problems. In non-commercial activities
the participants also more often think of the organisation as an ally and of
themselves as being co-responsible for success. They are willing to overlook
that the price of the beer as well as its temperature is too high, when they
know that it’s for a good cause.
The distinction between organizer and participant is part of the com-
mon conception of how to organize something. But in reality, events like
the Roskilde Festival and Skanderborg Festival have almost one-third of their
participants also doing work for the organizers. This distinction between
“them” and “us” makes it more difficult to achieve a shared feeling of
community. Thus the activity creates two separate and opposed communi-
ties. When charity organisations use some events as cash cows and others
in accordance with their purpose, it is probably the same sort of dichotomy
as that between organizers and participants. But the dichotomy is not
unavoidable. It does not exist on for example American festival Burning
Man, a festival about the size as the Danish Skanderborg Festival. Here the
organizers only handle the basic logistics and safety. The participants deter-
mine the content. This makes it one single community, including everyone.
Why not try that elsewhere? That way you can have both experience and
identification in one community.
The clubs and me
The clubs are covering more fields than ever, are more numerous and
thrive better than ever. You can find anything from Dostoevsky to Harry
Potter, from Thai cooking to car repair, from ecology to patriotism, and
from archery to swimming. There is a club for every interest and for every
sort of self-staging. But the clubs can also be excuses for just getting to-
gether and be a part of a lasting community. The clubs are doing very well
in Denmark in 2006. One-fourth of Danish clubs were started after 1990.
Clubs now and before
In the Danish constitution from 1949 it was stated that every citizen has the
right to meet and to associate without interference from the government.
This right of association has been a driving force in development of
modern Danish society. But now the conditions have changed.
The clubs have become a part of daily life in Denmark. Most Danes
are member of several clubs. The leisure life and the club life are a result
of a development over the last 150 years, in which a sharp distinction was
created between leisure time and work time. The work was something
to be done with. The leisure time and the clubs were an oasis where you
could get most of your social needs fulfilled. The athletics clubs were
about being sound in mind and body, the meeting halls and a new kind of
schools took care of the political discussions, and unions and co-operati-
ves focused on workers rights and co-ownership in the industry.
In this separation of work and private life, the clubs became necessary
institutions for the community. In the past the individual had to be a mem-
ber of certain clubs, and had to fit in with the clubs and their communities,
but now it is the clubs that have to adjust to the lifestyles and plans of the
individuals. The clubs no longer have a particular function in society and no
longer represent a rigid set of values. And most people no longer consider
a membership of any club as an obligation or a necessity. Memberships are
chosen for reasons of self-realisation and personal advantage.
The modern industrialised man has taken control in all parts of soci-
ety. So why does he still chose the community of the clubs? The answer
might be that it is to temporarily exchange the many demands of society
with the solidarity of a community. In the clubs, where the scope of the
community is fixed, you can relax, take part in the activities and forget
about the self without being lost.
The clubs are our breathing space
In the hectic daily life of modern society, the clubs have become a
breathing space of choice. A place for being together. When life becomes
a series of choices, the need for having some immutable relations with
others also increases. In the clubs we look for a place to be together about
some activity. But often it takes a little time before you are properly ac-
cepted as a member of the club and are shown the loyalty that long time
members share. And if not, you just find another club.
Learning in clubs
Even though the clubs are breathing spaces, it does not mean that we don’t
develop ourselves in the clubs. Just being in a club for the social activities
is getting ok, but for many the real reason for being in a club is to acquire
knowledge or skills (rowing, playing golf, making a campfire). The way you
learn in a club is not the usual way. No learning methods are enforced by
society, everyone does it in his or her own way. Most teachers are volunte-
ers, and expelling someone is rarely done. And since many clubs are financi-
ally backed by the authorities, some tolerance is expected.
In the clubs you can meet other people, and you can acquire a lot of
skills. Professional skills, academic knowledge, democratic insights, physical
wellbeing and social skills are just some of possibilities. And because these
are not the core activities but an added benefit, life in the clubs is much
less stressful than in most parts of society. It is possible to develop without
a constant need to achieve, and we can focus on the activity that we enjoy
doing with others.
The clubs are essential for the community of Denmark. Not just for
society as a whole but also for the welfare state, for the hometown of the
club, for the people at the club, for the local authorities, for the schools
cooperating with the clubs and much more. Denmark as a country and as
a community would be much poorer without the clubs. It is fortunate that
We are networking
Have you ever wondered why some people get better jobs, are promoted
very often, get the best offers on houses, get better dates, and on the whole
live a better life than you? This can be very frustrating if you are better
qualified and able to do a much better job, be a better date, etc. Often this is
ascribed to luck. But there might be another explanation: They are network-
ing. From being a way of circumventing the system in a more or less illegal
way, networking has become a legitimate and efficient way of organising.
And even more so when the internet arrived.
Traditionally communities based on God, King and Country were what
bound together the individuals. Today communities are more or less based
on pleasing the individual, and it’s the individuals who hold together the
communities. You are responsible for making your own relationships and
make sure the right people notice you. For the individual still need social
relations and to see itself reflected in other people. Anyone can make a
homepage, but having a homepage doesn’t necessarily mean than anyone
notices you. If nobody links to you, you don’t exist.
The internet liberated the individual from the limitations of yesterday’s
communication technology, and caused the emergence of networking
communities. But now networking is moving beyond the internet. The
world of networking is no longer just the cyberspace of the internet, but is
everywhere and remains after we turn off the computer. The annoying spy-
ware, pop-ups, and viruses now have “living” counterparts like trendspot-
ters and coolhunters, and the less-popular terrorists. And the hyperlinks
between the pages on the internet have become so important, that we can
no longer distinguish between training networking skills or learning about
our favourite hobby.
If one of the other players in the online game gets some good advice,
you might get your dream job in return. Today you get hired because of
your connections and not only because of what you can do. Today it’s about
the ability to make social relations. We have all become hyperlinks and the
glue that holds communities together.
What you need is “people skills”. According to the American professor
Richard Florida, who originated the claim that the source of growth in the
future will be the creative class, creative people organize in networks – they
participate in many communities at various levels. Networks are the perfect
solution in a time of loose structures and rapid change. The network is an
organic community, continually rising, renewing itself, and dying when no
longer needed. It is easy to join or quit. It is a way of organizing that is en- THE OPEN-SOURCE
hancing the modern individual’s freedom to constantly choose among, and PRINCIPLE: Open Source is
be critical of, the communities they belong to. a new way of working based
on volunteer networks. But
Networks used to be very closed and lodge-like, having narrow and
the principle behind is not
hierarchic patriarchal structures. It was the godfather who was in charge, new. One of humanitis great-
and if you didn’t obey, you were in deep trouble. There are still secretive est inventions, language,
closed and lodge-like networks, but because it is now considered impro- emerged as an open alliance
per to keep knowledge for yourself, even those networks are becoming with everyone sharing and
more open and transparent. Globalization, speed of change, and increased no particular common goal.
complexity means that the individual and the company are very dependent In this type of cooperation,
no one is forced to partici-
on the knowledge of others. The world has been linked together. New work
pate, because everyone can
cultures and the breakdown of barriers on the old hierarchic workplace come and leave as they like.
make way for networking. An open market of exchange
is created, where only the
best products survive. A
system like this is chaotic
In 2006 it is impossible to be a local coffee machine company: the machine and self-organizing, which
is produced in China, was designed in Germany, and was made in part from makes the end product
electronic components from the USA, etc. You also need sociologists, experts unpredictable, but always
on marketing, interpreters, and symbol analysts to get in touch with your fruitful. There are many who
customers. The network can decrease the cost of all this by constantly adap- thinks that yhe open source
ting its structure, hiring experts when needed and closing itself down when principle will change our
society just as much as the
the job is done. But it calls for openness and trust.
assembly line transformed
Outsourcing has been the key to increased productivity and growth, but the agricultural society by
open sourcing will become at least as important, because knowledge is not turning it into the industrial
created in one place, but has become a boundless capital created by custo- society. The assembly line
mers, competitors, business partners and universities. To get access to this was created to produce for
knowledge you have to share your own knowledge capital. The paradox of the masses. Open source
sharing knowledge is that you have to give away knowledge for free in order give the masses the ability
to produce. By sharing and
to get free knowledge. But it is a necessity for any efficient network, whether
delegating, the open society
it is a network of people or a network of companies. imagined by Karl Popper
Networks thrive by common values, ethical guidelines and thrust in the - in his famous book about
individual to act for the common good. You must give as well as receive, and the open society and its en-
even though there can be a short-term advantage in exploiting the network, emies - becomes possible.
it never pays in the long run. For your reputation travels just as fast as the In this book, Popper shows
network, and you will end up getting caught by the net. that openness in political
decisions, in education,
Remember to tell this to your friends and friends of your friends!
in research and in the free
market are the pillars of any
open society. If Popper had
written the book today he
would no doubt have made
the open source principle a
fifth and fundamental pillar.
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