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Rekindling Democracy is a book that needed to be written. At a time
when the words “community,” “neighborhood,” and increasingly “place” are
thrown around with casual abandon, a book that brings focus and a rigorous conceptual framework to these words is hugely welcome. But this book
is more than simply a necessary corrective to loose and careless thinking.
It is a manifesto for a different sort of society and a more relational, more
human way of doing business. Cormac illuminates a debate that is too often
characterized by assertion, rather than evidence and experience. Drawing
on personal experience that is both deep and broad, Cormac maps out the
opportunities facing communities and offers a careful and compelling understanding of the shortcomings of some of the institutions and systems
created to respond to “social need.”
The way in which Cormac enters into the current debate about the
social policy challenge is welcome. There is a debate which—at the risk of
parody—is frequently characterized by one corner shouting about austerity
and the undoubted need for greater public expenditure, while the opposing
corner applauds community self-organization. In this thoughtful contribution to the debate Cormac avoids both positions. He makes it clear that
while state intervention, and crucially contribution, is always needed, there
are ways in which it can be done in the service of community, just as there
are so clearly ways in which it only serves to weaken and destroy the power
of communities. The subtle understanding of the different perspectives is an
important part of the credibility of this book.
The assets found in communities are frequently eroded by institutions
that only seek to extract. This publication weaves together a narrative about
mutual dependence, a much more community-based future, and at the same
time a clear understanding of the challenges and pitfalls facing all those who
advocate in this way. It offers a route map for our increasingly uncertain
234 afterword
future, and one that is based in deep knowledge, practical experience, and a
profound commitment to the common good.

Julia Unwin, DBE, FAcSS
Former chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust Chair of Civil Society Futures, The Independent Inquiry, 2018