Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Talking to neighbours

I can't help thinking that this 6% figure (non-neighourly attitudes) that Kevin has unearthed is actually quite low.

Surely there are a fair few people who will tell a survey that they do want to have contact with their neighbours, but that - in truth - that they actually don't?

In my line of work, I'm often tempted advise people that it is impossible underestimate people's willingness to interact with each other - and that people have quite elaboate avoidance strategies in place to help them keep themselves to themselves.

That the decline in neighbourliness is not just a factor of social atomisation, but that social atomisation has been welcomed by a substantial number of people who would claim to deplore it.

Digging around for any studies that would confirm or reject this prejudice is on my to-do list - but any pointers would be welcome?


Anthony Z said...

Can't help specifically but "Bowling Alone" presumably has some stats in, and there is a question in the local government Place Survey (results for every top tier authority out soon folks) asking people to rate the statement "this is the sort of area where people from different backgrounds can get along well together" - though of course that's aimed at social cohesion in the bigger sense.

Kevin Harris said...

We don't know that neighbourliness has declined because we don't have the measures, and we still aren't asking the right questions in our surveys so confirmation is a long way off.

However, it's what we would expect because of eg use of cars, tv, less socio-economic homogeneity in neighbourhoods, more organised welfare state etc. Plus what I think you identify, Paul - the decline of necessity neighbouring (it's mostly discretionary now although the recession will have an effect), alongside the continued rise (and perhaps imminent demise?) in the value of privacy.

I'm pretty familiar with the literature of neighbouring and will have a scan but can't think of anything that will answer your question. As far as I'm concerned it's one of several issues where we need a contribution from the community psychologists.