Thursday, 23 June 2011

Rebuilding the Smurf Society Here I sit trying to think what I might say at today’s Compass seminar on ‘building the good society’, only to get distracted by this BBC headline: Do Smurfs provide a model for a good society? I have never knowingly watched the Smurfs, but apparently they lived without money, using their individual skills for the common good, without individual reward, to ensure their community thrives. So that seems to answer the question in the headline, and suggests that today’s delegates might ask themselves if they’re inhabiting a fictional cartoon world. Ah, you know where this is going don’t you? - You can even see echoes of the British government's Big Society idea, part of which encourages individuals to form community groups and engage in social action, particularly through volunteering, says Prof Ellis Cashmore, a sociologist from Staffordshire University. "There are similarities between David Cameron's idea of the Big Society and what we see embodied in Smurf society. "Cameron [is asking people to get] organised with their local community, have organic collectivity and work for each other, like we used to before industrialisation came along and fragmented society." The last bit needs a bit of qualification of course. Historians do still argue that neighbourliness declined at the end of the middle ages, but it was a debt-based society with a great deal of mobility, and the home was a public, not a private place, which must have made a difference. But it’s the phrase ‘Smurf Society’ that catches the eye. I’m floundering in a surfeit of universalised kinds of ‘Society,’ but if I have to choose one, this could be it.

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