Why Place Matter by Wilfred McClay Review

In his article Why Place Matter, Wilfred McClay discusses the impact of losing touch with a place on people’s lives. He begins by reminding readers that everyone has a place to belong. He writes that a diminished connection can seriously impair a person’s emotional state, even to the point of losing the meaning of life and his or her own identity. The author concludes that the ability to appreciate the place can lead to the more active participation of people in improving their community and making life more fulfilling and happier. Much attention in the article is paid to American society, whose inhabitants’ inattention to place is the cause of the country’s social and political problems.

It is difficult to analyze the author’s narrative for weaknesses, as his article is logically and coherently written. However, I think it would not be out of place to mention not only the experience of the inhabitants of America but also how this sense of attachment is manifested in the populations of other countries as well. I think the strength of the narrative is the use of illustrative examples, the expressiveness of the speech, and the exploratory approach to the writing. I agree with the arguments offered by the author, and none of the things he writes about make me want to challenge him. The article’s main ideas are the importance of place to people’s emotional health and the devastating effects of globalization.

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By reconstructing the continuity of the past, present and future, memory proves to be an important way of forming and preserving collective and personal identity. Through the ability to remember, individuals can recognize personal traits in a particular community with its own system of values. It is difficult to argue with the article’s author when he says that by losing one’s sense of place, one may lose part of one’s identity. The sense of comfort that comes from a place of origin is unmatched by any other feeling. However, as McClay rightly points out, people have become increasingly disconnected from their places of origin in the face of constant travel in recent years (McClay 3). Therefore, the place becomes a space – that is, some impersonal territory that does not evoke a warm sense of nostalgia in people’s souls.

The amount of knowledge about the past of the social group in which individuals are located is one of the most important factors of their social identity. Memory is an indispensable condition of an individual’s socialization. In this case, socialization itself can be understood as a process of an individual’s exposure to various volumes of memories, both group and individual, in terms of their content and meaning. However, against the backdrop of stunning technological achievements, something not quite noticeable is happening. In an intensely globalized and digital world, the sense of place is weakening, which cannot but affect people’s state of mind (McClay 5). People are becoming disoriented in their attempts to flee to more developed and distant places of origin. Moreover, it is often the case that many are not even aware of the reasons why they become bored, apathetic, or sad. However, the reason for this is often that notorious attachment and nostalgia for the places they have left.

However, many thoughtful people have already noticed the consequences of losing touch with a place. The general detachment of people toward one another, the inability to build long-term connections, and individualism result from globalization. Time is speeding up, and where there used to be a Korean market, which was a pleasure to go to in the past, now there will be something alien (McClay 2). Thus, the past world will continue to exist only in memories distorted by time. The author stresses that it is not only a matter of melancholy, of course, that the world is subject to constant change, and nothing can be immutable (McClay 3). However, people become like trees without roots, consciously or unconsciously losing touch with the past.

Attachment to a place may vary in intensity, and four levels of this category can be conventionally distinguished. At the lowest level, people simply know where they live and think about a place without strong feelings or personal memories. At the next level of place attachment, people retain memories of a place inseparable from their personal experience. For example, it is the school he went to, the house, or the forest they played in when they were kids. When such places are associated with very strong emotional memories, attachment becomes deeper and encompasses larger areas. The most intense level of attachment is described as fusion or embodiment. At this point, the blurring of boundaries between the person’s self and the environment occurs. The house where a person has spent a lifetime or the cemetery in which a loved one is buried can reveal particularly intense feelings of belonging.

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Even the idea of time itself is changing, becoming increasingly universal due to cheaper travel and the transparency of borders. Whether this is good or bad is too early to judge, but one can say that there is a risk in this trend. The latter’s essence is that universality contributes to the destruction of individuality, a simplification that leads to degradation (McClay 3). People have to get used to the new world, where they have to be prepared that everything they hold dear will be destroyed at the most unexpected moment. The reason for this will be found in the need to renovate the environment and expand the number of apartments or houses in a particular area. If people are taught that all that makes up their environment can be left in an instant as a pile of bricks and dust, then they will not learn to appreciate the world around them. Certainly, they would rather pretend to feel no affection than to feel nostalgia and sadness.

Attachment and belonging can develop through many ways. However, it should be noted that the more mobile a society becomes, the more often its inhabitants move from place to place, the less place attachment develops. Strong place attachment is usually associated with great satisfaction with one’s home and an experience of stability in the future. It is also accompanied by a more detailed knowledge of the history and geography of one’s residence and a greater time and resource commitment to improving it.

The author has convincingly explained why it is important to maintain importance with a place and how the absence of such a connection can make people more unhappy and aloof. Social relationships are undoubtedly important in forming a sense of attachment to place. The more satisfactory the social relationships are, the better people feel about themselves in society. That is why, due to a developed sense of attachment to place, there is a more active civil society, in which people become ready to help those around them. This idea of the author is extremely logical and clear and is confirmed by the conclusions of other researchers of the phenomenon of civic participation.

Work Cited

McClay, Wilfred M. “Why Place Matters: Geography, Identity, and Civic Life in Modern America.” Encounter Books, 2014.

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