I think there’s a kernel of truth in David Brooks’s observation:
Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.
The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.
There’s another revolution that goes unmentioned but which I believe is central to the developments about which Mr. Brooks writes in his column: the technological revolution, in particular the World Wide Web. It has created a situation in which like-minded individuals from the corners of the world whether they be violent Islamist fundamentalists or people who just love My Little Kitty can find each other.
That in addition to the other revolutions, the attack on local standards and the attack on local markets, has created a challenge that our societies and institutions have barely begun facing let alone adapting to.