As my experience of relying on a local community develops, I find it not really fitting to individualist or communitarian ethical (or political) theories; instead it's a sort of hybrid. In any case it's not just local. As well as autism and mental health charities (and friends) and the social services, it also includes state benefits and pension, so there's central government as well.

I confess that, as my mother fades with dementia, I could not cope with what I do without the support. Emphatically I am not an 'atomised' individual. Even when I pay for my cleaning and laundry, I am paying with my pension and benefits. But neither am I part of an overall communal enterprise, let alone one with a tradition and unifying history. Each part of my support is specific to me - and likewise for many thousands of other people in a somewhat similar position. The national component is purely bureaucratic. At the same time, the groups and charities involved rely on volunteers or frequently changing (and relatively low paid) staff. In short, they reflect the transience of the world we know. There is hardly anything like an ongoing communal narrative or identity.

If nothing else, my experience may serve as at once recognising the generosity and public-spiritedness of some people, and yet warning us not to take some social and ethical theorising too seriously.

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