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Belonging in the past

In post-Thatcher Britain, we are nostalgic for social cohesion and a sense of belonging. But Michael Ignatieff argues that we cannot reconcile freedom with belonging. New Labour's stakeholding and constitutional reforms are welcome, but they cannot turn back the tide of social fragmentation and atomisation—these are inescapable components of modernity

By Michael Ignatieff   November 1996

Certain social anxieties are an inseparable part of the experience of being modern. One of these concerns the possibility of belonging. Is it possible to feel a sense of belonging to societies which change as rapidly as modern ones do, which are as explicitly divided—by race, class, gender and region—as modern ones are, and which are as driven by the power of money as capitalist modernity has been? The way the question is put suggests the answer. Modernity and belonging just do not go together: the incompatibility is not simply a matter of the brutal temporariness of the modern social…

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