The glue that holds society together
September 5, 2010 § 2 Comments
by Irna Hofman
‘The glue that holds society together’.
That is how Putnam (1993, 1995 in Portes, 2000) defined social capital.
Well, how about this glue on Mandø?
Social capital, the stock of social capital actually, determines the extent to which a society has strength for collective action, and the capacity to cooperate. By positive interaction and communication and mutual interests the stock increases and strengthens community bonds, builds trust. By the same token, negative experiences, such as conflicts devaluate the glue.
On Mandø, collective action is there in case of emergency. A serious accident which happened this year bound inhabitants together. However in daily life bonds are loose. Like one lady told me, in case of storm, people certainly help each other. ‘Aber am Alltag bekriegen wir den ander’.
A first glance of the island, after two days, gives me the impression that there is only little cooperative capacity or willingness to cooperate on Mandø. Overall, without focussing on particular individuals or families, life can be characterised as ‘living apart together’. From my first impression, inhabitants can roughly be divided into different groups:
- People depending on tourists for income: the lady managing the Mandø centre, the several other people owning shops with souvenirs, the shop with food, the men owning the tractor busses. Most of these people have historical roots here and are born on the island.
- People living permanently on the island, but are independent of visitors. They are farmers (four households), or pensioners, or people having other sources of income. Children go to school on the main land, which is a difficulty because traveling back and forth is determined by the tide. Therefore older children go to boarding schools and come back only in the weekends.
- People coming here regularly and prefer to have a rest, not to be disturbed by too many tourists. Most of them have a summer house: the majority of families owns a house which is inherited and given over from one generation to the next. As an outsider it is hardly possible to buy a house. Permanent renting rarely takes place. Many of the house owners are seasonal inhabitants: they have a permanent residence on the main land.
The different groups each attach own values to the island, to its nature, and have own, sometimes (actually quite often) opposing preferences and ideas of future development of the island. A shared identity which could function as a vehicle to develop the island seems to be absent.
What should a common future look like? And, what could follow from a dialogue with the artists? More to follow in the coming week…