Communities and Values

In “The Portable Community: Mobility and Modernization in Bluegrass Festival Life,” Robert Gardner quotes Richard Florida, who says, “Where old social structures were once nurturing, they are now restricting.  Communities that once attracted people now repel them.  Our evolving communities and emerging society are marked by a greater diversity of friendships, more individualistic pursuits, and weaker ties within the community” (Gardner, p. 173).  I agree with this sentiment that many people have found themselves disillusioned with modernization and urbanization.  The stereotypical desire of past generations for the suburban house, with a white picket fence and garage! has even trickled down to our generation.  However, more frequently this “dream” is being replaced with the more pressing longing for creative self-expression, as well as fulfillment through acquiring knowledge, cultural immersion, shaping history, etc.  Florida speaks to this notion when he says that although people undoubtedly seek community, it is “not to the extent that they [are] inhibited from living their own life and being themselves” (Gardner, p. 173).

Parallel to this idea, Gardner summarizes festival-goers’ sentiments by stating that “they described their involvement as driven by a quest for intimate community, open and equal social relations, and simple living, elements they found in short supply in their daily lives. Whereas traditional community forms depend on residential stability, these participants intentionally cultivated and supported alternatives that emerged in response to participants’ geographic mobility” (Gardner, p. 155).  Gardner is suggesting that these individuals sought out to capture their values in their lifestyles and behaviors.

It interests me how this take seems to contrast other opinions on the development of communities.  In a chapter titled, “Music and Identity,” Simon Frith suggests that it “is not that social groups agree on values which are then expressed in their cultural activities…but that they only get to know themselves as groups (as a particular organization of individual and social interests, of sameness and difference) through cultural activity, through aesthetic judgement” (p. 111).  When this idea is applied to the Bluegrass community which Gardner studied, this would mean that members did not seek out certain values, but instead established behaviors and values through their playing Bluegrass and their geographic mobility.


The Portable Community: Mobility and Modernization in Bluegrass Festival Life by Robert Gardner

Florida, Richard. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure and Community in Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books

Chapter “Music and Identity” by Simon Frith


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