The following review and series of articles are based on The Book of Community: A practical guide to working and living in community, by Los Indianos (authors) and Steve Herrick (translator)
For many years, thousands in the Spanish-speakers (and even many English- and Esperanto-speakers) have been enjoying the content created by the Indianos, who contribute to El Correo de Las Indias (“Las Indias Mail”) blog. As for myself, I’ve been touched by their frequent shows of solidarity with Epicurean philosophy.
Solidarity comes naturally for the members of Las Indias, as it is a multi-national, egalitarian community of bloggers, many of them affiliated with worker coops and other communitarian experiments and initiatives. The wisdom gained from many of these experiments–which were inspired in part by Epicurus’ Garden–, and their ideological underpinnings, found their way into the recently released e-book.
The Book of Community, among other things, expands on a conversation that inspired me to blog about natural community based on some of the insights that the Indianos have shared on their blog. The full repercussions of these insights will be explored further in a future blog on the tension between natural community and the polis, as the material covered in the book deserves further rumination and careful, separate focus on a few important issues.
However, concerning natural community, I wish to point out that the Indianos interestingly cite how in 1993, Robin Dunbar published a study that predicted “the maximum size of a human group” to be 147.8. This is known as the Dunbar number, interpreted as “the cognitive limit in the number of individuals with whom any person can maintain stable relationships“. This seems to not only vindicate the doctrine on natural community which was initially formulated as a result of my exchange with the Indianos, but also attaches a specific number of individuals to the size of a natural community.
The Book of Community also sets out to debunk the idea that freedom and individualism are enemies, and argues that responsibility comes with both, and contrasts the Epicurean communal model versus the monastic one, as an alternative for free men and women.
The book concludes by discussing two great thinkers. First, it discusses Alfred Adler and his “community feeling”: Adler believed that real communities contribute to a person’s sense of meaning, and his theories on how there should be dialogue and learning in these communities greatly inform the communal models implemented by the Indianos. Secondly, it discusses John Dewey and his ideas around participatory democracy: he was one of the founders of American pragmatism and believed strongly that we should focus on truth that is useful.
Although the book delves into Epicurean concepts of justice and friendship, and is to a great extent written from an Epicurean perspective, it’s less concerned with doctrinal adherence to Epicurus than with the practicalities and the history of communal life, as well as with the need for an intellectual and ideological framework for it. We will explore the book’s discussion of autarchy, ceremony, libertarianism, and its critique of the “common good” in future blogs.