They may have the same title, I thought to myself when I saw the review of Richard Sennett’s new book, Together, but they’re bound to be about completely different things. What are the chances of two books about collaboration and group activity with the same title coming out within a year of each other?
More than I thought…
Sennett’s Together, published by Allen Lane, is about cooperation: specifically, the rituals, pleasures and politics of it. At its heart is the idea that cooperation is a skill that needs to be learnt and celebrated, a point he makes using historical material as well as contemporary psychological insights and modern-day examples.
These are all things you could say about my Together, but, thankfully, this is roughly where the similarities end. While the 2011 Together focuses more on the dynamics of small groups and the rituals attached to these, as well as why these groups matter, the role of cooperation within each, and specifically their revival in Britain over the last decade, the 2012 Together is broader in geographical range as well as the kind of cooperation that comes under examination.
I’m intrigued by the ways in which these two books unconsciously reference each other (unconscious because mine came out before his and I doubt he has read mine). But far more important than any similarities, or lack of, is the sense that cooperation might soon be seen as a skill worthy of our attention, and one that might be taught. This is what both Togethers share, and the more that is written about this, the better.
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