The Atlantic

What Does 'Community' Mean?

The term’s evolution makes a nice metaphor for the rise of American individualism—and the decline of trust in American institutions.
Source: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

For much of the 20th century, if you asked someone to define “community,” they’d very likely give you an answer that involved a physical location. One’s community derived from one’s place—one’s literal place—in the world: one’s school, one’s neighborhood, one’s town. In the 21st century, though, that primary notion of “community” has changed. The word as used today tends to involve something at once farther from and more intimate than one’s home: one’s identity. “A body of people or things viewed

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