Do Communities work ?

In the absence of being able to listen to the radio during the day, I get the newsletter for Professor Laurie Taylor's r...

January 25, 2006

In the absence of being able to listen to the radio during the day, I get the newsletter for Professor Laurie Taylor’s radio 4 programme, ‘thinking allowed’.

Today’s issue, in advance of the broadcast, contains the following pearl of wisdom from the time he reluctantly invited 5 of his sociology students to houseshare with him:

“It proved a disastrous idea. The meetings to discuss who should clean the oven – “It can’t be me, I hoovered the stairs last week” – took longer than it would have taken to clean the damned oven, and we were constantly without washing-up liquid and toilet rolls.

All the chat about egalitarianism began to sound increasingly hollow as it became evident, after no more than a few weeks, that the person who was stuck with most of the domestic tasks was the only woman in the house, while the only communal activity ever undertaken by the rest of the group was sitting slumped in front of the television.

When I complained I was reproved for being authoritarian and patriarchal. All in all it took me three years to get the communards out of the house. I even had to resort to selling the chairs upon which they sat to watch the television. When the auctioneers arrived to claim these seats, their incumbents simply stood up glumly and went on watching from a standing position.

Only a couple of years ago I met up with one of these former communards. He was full of happy memories.

“That was great, wasn’t it?” he said. “All that sense of community. Everyone mucking in”…

Ah well. Nobody said aligning self-interest was easy…particularly among a gang of students!

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