Highlighting the isolation and independence of McMansions

A feature of McMansions that sometimes draws criticism is the possible isolation they offer their inhabitants. Neighborhoods of these homes are sometimes envisioned as wastelands where neighbors don’t know each other and really don’t want to have any interaction. Here is an illustration of this idea within an article about the “peer-to-peer economy”:

The mentality peaked during the ’90s and first half of the last decade. Heaven was a safe job, a McMansion, a Target (TGT) in your city, a Starbucks (SBUX) down the road, a credit card with no limit, and a seven-figure bank account. No need to ever interact with strangers! The perfect bliss of isolation, err, “financial independence.”

The general idea here is that the goal of life during this time period was to have so much money that people don’t have to interact with others that they don’t want to interact with. While this may be in the name of being “financially independent,” it is really about becoming self-sufficient and not having to depend on anybody.

Several thoughts about this:

1. Even with this so-called “financial independence,” it is hard to escape the need for other people. I’m reminded of Durkheim’s idea of organic solidarity where people are more interdependent on others than ever due to the division of labor but also feel more independent. This seems related to American cultural ideas of individualism: the goal is to become a self-made man/woman who can do it all on their own. Can we then interpret advice from people like Dave Ramsey as promulgating American individualism more than fighting debt?

1a. This fear of strangers is an interesting idea. It is often invoked when talking about the formation of American suburbs (white flight out of cities) or gated communities (trying to keep certain people out). I wonder if there is survey data that would suggests Americans are more afraid of strangers than citizens of other countries.

2. Is a single-family house more of a place to avoid people or to build up the individual and the family unit?

3. I understand the idea of a McMansion and a large bank account fitting the theme of isolation but what do a safe job, Target, and Starbucks have to do with it? In all three of these settings, people interact with others, particularly on the job. With money, one can purchase a customizable experience at Target and Starbucks but this would be true in a lot of commercial settings.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s