Wendell Berry, “Does Community Have a Value?”

In Home Economics. New York: North Point Press, 1987.

This pithy essay describes a traditional agrarian community and makes one profound point. Everybody says they value community—but few live in such a way as to promote it. Berry asks if a community can have any real emotional or spiritual value if it is not also practically or economically necessary: “can people be neighbors, for example, if they do not need each other or help each other?” (179-180). Too many expect communities to survive on mere goodwill alone. But only real needs make for real relationships.

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