The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits

The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits
By John L. McKnight

A volume containing a series of essays written by John McKnight over the past 40 years. The essays offer insights into why "professionalized services" have destroyed the very communities they are designed to help. Instead, McKnight shows how local citizens can restore and revitalize their communities by drawing on their own talents and strengths.

The Careless Society After 40 years of work in the urban neighborhoods of Canada and the United States, McKnight paints a scathing picture of “how competent communities have been invaded, captured, and colonized by professionalized services” with devastating results. Reciting a litany of lethal effects produced by service providers—families collapsing, schools failing, violence spreading, prisons swelling—he charges them with eroding the very soul of community. “The enemy is not poverty, sickness, and disease,” McKnight writes. “The enemy is a set of interests that need dependency, masked by service.”

The 17 essays in the book were written over a span of two decades. They focus on four “counterfeiting” aspects of society: professionalism, medicine, human service systems, and the criminal justice system. Each is deemed counterfeit because it attempts to produce, provide, and manage care, which is “the only thing a system cannot produce,” says McKnight. He follows these analyses with his own prescription for generating “authentic citizen communities of care.”

Basic Books (1995)
Paperback (1996)


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