Reimagining American Community

Frankly, it’s something of a move of desperation, a hope that in our culture’s stale air we can conjure up a corner where fresh ideas about our life in common can germinate.

The term itself is our portmanteau word in imitation of “hackerspace” and “makerspace” and is thus meant to suggest a neighborhood hangout where enthusiasts gather to create stuff. Something like Aristotle’s Porch, say, or the Algonquin Roundtable.

A thinkerspace, in our sense of the word, is not a tabula rasa: we bring certain values and concerns to the table. We all live amidst a kind of slow-motion collapse of both our natural and built environments, not to mention our economic environments. And we start neither from sunny optimism about some state-based rescue operation to come nor from the Hobbesian nightmare that has infected our upscale friends with their gated mental universes and “market solutions.”

Instead, we esteem localism, ownership, community wealth, social capital, and the promotion of what Robert Nisbet called a laissez-faire approach to society (rather than the market). If we are to restore genuine community, we must agitate. Let our (local) people go!, we cry out to Pharaoh in city hall or the statehouse.

In this thinkerspace we will create articles, publications, wiki projects, and even organizing manuals, since we intend that action be the child of thought. So a kind of crowdsourcing will operate here, even if we might consider as few as a half-dozen collaborators on a project a crowd.

So what should we think about today?

About the Author
A native Texan, Elias spent several good years studying classics and medieval Italian at UC Berkeley before wasting several more years in financial journalism around Chicago. He has written for Strong Towns, the American Scholar, the New Urbs blog, and the Gary Catholic Worker and is the co-author of a textbook on character education. He briefly published something called The Armchair Historian. None of his three teenage daughters display an interest in the Greek and Latin classics thus far. He and his family reside in leafy Valparaiso IN.