The right to choose your neighbors

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September 16, 2005 by AK

The Ambler quotes Christopher Lasch (“The Sexual Division Of Labour”):

It is often said that people went to the suburbs in search of “community,” as an alternative to urban anonymity. I think it was just the other way around. What they craved was complete privacy — the freedom to bring up their children without interference from intrusive relatives and neighbours, to choose their friends on the basis of mutual interests instead of physical proximity and to organize their time without consulting the pleasure or convenience of anyone else.

Why not both? Russians know very well the dubious pleasures of living in apartment buildings (to say nothing of communal flats). Out of Moscow’s 10 to 13 million residents, I’d say 99% live in apartment houses, most with more than a hundred flats. Does living in an apartment building imply membership in an associated community? In Tbilisi, I hope yes; in Moscow, seldom. (My tower might be an exception.) Much depends on the way tenants select themselves, or are selected. What’s interesting is that, depending on the types of people involved and the local custom, both an apartment building and a suburban settlement could be a community or a collection of insular units.


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