DISINTEGRATION AND
DIS-INTEGRATION

Dis-integration, or the breaking up of mass culture into smaller units, is a hopeful global trend, especially when the end result is smaller human-scaled centers of social power (communities) dispersed throughout a larger society.

The word "disintegration" has two meanings that are closely related. The first is "decay or destruction." When something decays it dissolves into elements that are qualitatively different from the whole, parts that can no longer function individually. The second meaning is "a separation into component parts, a breaking up." It is possible for the whole to dis-integrate by separating into smaller units that can still function as discrete entities.

Our global society is disintegrating in both senses of the word. Sometimes the disintegration results in individual parts that are too small and fragmented to function effectively; they fly apart in an explosion of violence and disorder. Then we get the kind of decay that is occurring in many U.S. cities. Alternatively, dis-integration can result in unified centers of power that are smaller, more human-scaled. Then we have communities.

Almost every country in the world contains groups that are agitating for more autonomy. In some cases these factions are ethnically exclusive; their methods of struggle are violent; their goal is to control land and dominate other peoples. But in some places we also see "special interest" groups that believe in tolerance and cooperation as well as greater autonomy. These groups are striving to define their individuality and gain more control over their lives. I consider this trend the positive side of disintegration.

1996

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