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The Big Answer


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People, Plans and Policies

a book by Herbert J. Gans

(our site's book review)

Gans sees reducing social and physical isolation as essential to optimal mental health in urban and suburban living. He also sees that people with the most psychological problems are usually the ones least likely to seek out help from psychologically oriented professionals, but may be open to help from doctors, friends, ministers, and even lawyers.

Gans says people with the most psychological problems are usually the ones least likely to seek out help from psychologists
Gans says people with the most psychological problems are usually the ones least likely to seek out help from psychologists

He sees the need for privacy and alone spaces for both kids and adults, and safe child-oriented play spaces close to home. There also needs to be creative spaces. Neighbors need to be accessible but not to the level of restricting privacy. In blocks, there should be enough homogeneity so that Haves and Have-nots are not mixed, and well-educated and poorly educated people are not thrown together, because either situation creates conflict. In other words, neighbors should be optimally compatible. House prices in specific areas are similar, and this partially solves these problems. Each block is seen as an important social unit.

Each person in each MC is to have his/her own personal space
Each person in each MC is to have his/her own personal space

He realizes that it’s desirable to segregate blocks by people’s interests, because neighbors will not significantly socially interact without common interests. (The exception is when childcare matters arise. All decent people in the neighborhood with whom one can exchange childcare—regardless of interests—are seen as a plus, by families with children, since childcare quality is in question in the U.S.) Gans looks over various remedies for social isolation tendencies, and one of these is to use newspapers to describe all local organizations’ members’ interests and class so people have resources to find others they’re compatible with. (He wrote this in 1991, so computer matching possibilities should have been suggested. See Why Register for an MC?.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match

Cybercommunity via Facebook helps people to find others they’re compatible with, but does little for IRL f2f community; however, it tempts people to try the hopeless task of replacing real f2f community with its counterfeit. See Why Do We Need Communities? and Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? for more on this subject.)

The more elders can be given a useful function in the community (like childcare), the less they'll experience social isolation or the feeling of being useless
The more elders can be given a useful function in the community (like childcare), the less they'll experience social isolation or the feeling of being useless

Residents in suburbs, intentional communities, condos, and gated enclaves “. . . should be given to understand that social isolation is often a social structural problem, and not a personal failing.” Regarding elders, he says: “The more the old people, like teen-agers, can be given a useful function in the community [like childcare], the less likely the possibility of social isolation or the feeling of being useless [will occur].”

He suggests providing nearby play spaces for kids that don’t require supervision and covered porches for use in bad weather.

Gans says people in gated enclaves should be given to understand that social isolation is often a social structural problem, and not a personal failing
Gans says people in gated enclaves should be given to understand that social isolation is often a social structural problem, and not a personal failing