Barometers of Community Change

Personal Reflections
  • Seymour B. Sarason


Communities change in diverse ways. Some of these changes may be visible: new buildings arise, other buildings are empty and deteriorating, one-way streets are designated, and the like. Some changes are not directly visible, but are known by us in the form of information that then alters our perceptions and experience, e.g., juvenile crime has increased, the percentage of older people is steadily escalating, air pollution has worsened, approval has been given for a large condominium development, an elementary school will be closed (or built). People, I assume, differ markedly in their awareness of past, present, and potential community change. That is to say, they vary not only in what they regard as a change, but in the indicators they use as a basis for their conclusions. The more a person has lived continuously in a community, the less easy it is to recognize ongoing changes, i.e., the seeds of future change. We may know in an abstract way that the community we have lived in has changed dramatically over the years, but our knowledge in no way means that we are sensitive to the indicators of ongoing change. When we see a photo of our neighborhood or downtown taken years ago, we are surprised and sometimes shocked at how much change has taken place. Or, if, as I had occasion to do, you go back and read the local newspaper of 20 and 30 years ago, you quickly conclude that what was once your community hardly exists today—quite the opposite of “the more things change the more they remain the same.” At the same time that phenomenologically we do not perceive that, as persons, we have changed much—the “I” of today is not much different than our “I” of those days—we cannot deny that we have lived in a changing community and, significantly, that we did not appreciate or were insensitive to the implications of those past changes. If I am at all representative, a frequent reaction is that much of what we thought was a desirable change was at best a mixed blessing, and at worst a disaster. Another reaction is: Why was I so insensitive to the beginnings and implications of many of these changes? Were the unintended consequences truly not discernible?


Family Therapy Collective Bargaining Community Change Community Psychology Space Perception 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Seymour B. Sarason
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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