Beliefs in American Myth: Volunteerism in HOAs is alive and well

Last night, the Presidential Candidates spoke at the National Service Forum at Columbia Univ. in New York. Volunteerism by citizens in private groups was mentioned as the answer to more government services.  My point here is to call attention to such statements as myths about an America fading into the sunset, and the failure of our national leadership to understand what is happening here in America.  How will they learn about the real America if advocates do not educate them.  No one else will.


One of the Hosts specifically referred to Robert D. Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone* that records a decline in volunteerism and civic virtue. Obama’s “mutual responsibility” comes close to this concept of civic virtue.  Putnam describes social capital as,


The core idea of social capital theory is that social networks have value. … Social capital refers to connections among individuals – social networks and norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arises from them. … ‘Social capital’ calls attention to the fact that civic virtue is most powerful when embodied in a dense network of reciprocal social relations. A society of many virtuous but isolated individuals is not necessarily rich in social capital.


I wrote about Putnam’s concept of “social capital” in my June 2006 commentary, “The Effect of Planned Communities on Social Capital.”**  In my commentary I compare this view of voluneerism in American not with the propaganda about HOAs building harmony and vibrant communities, but with what is really occurring in HOAs.  I make use of a number of studies contained in the Barton & Silverman book, Common Interest Communities***, that hold true today as demonstrated by the continuing news releases concerning the actions of HOA boards.  HOAs are founded on a social relationship of a distrust of neighbors —  they will destroy MY property value and must be watched, but not me, I’m good —  and the HOA attorneys are only too happy to instigate this divineness of “us against them”.  And with the strong arm of financial ruin and loss of one’s home, in an undemocratic society, people are naturally fearful and see much harm in speaking out.


Our national leaders must deal with reality, and not with myth.  As the data shows, 20% of Americans live in HOA-land under authoritarian regimes.





      Bowling Alone: the Collapse and Revival of American Society, Robert D. Putnam (Simon & Schuster 2000).


***  Common Interest Communities, , Stephen E. Barton & Carol J. Silverman, eds. (Institute of Government Studies Press, Univ. of Calif., Berkeley 1994).

Published in: on September 12, 2008 at 7:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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