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The varied and distinct ways we connect can facilitate or impose isolation, our own or someone else's. Different forms of isolation are themselves interconnected and sometimes enrich our connecting. The relation between isolation and connection, we argue, is one of complementarity, like Calvino's ‘two inseparable and complementary functions of life …syntony, or participation in the world around us … [and] focalization or constructive concentration.’ Solitude sought can enhance connections. Imposed isolation weakens connections in ways both obvious and subtle. This contrast between sought and imposed underscores the influence of hierarchy and socially produced inequities, excesses of which fragment the social ties that could constrain or diminish these same inequities. Deep inequity degrades the quality of both connections and isolation, at significant costs to our health, ecology, economy, cultural diversity, and political vitality. From this vantage point, we cull ways to improve our syntony and our focalization, fulfilling by expressing those shared egalitarian moral sentiments that motivate connections of solidarity partly in the interest of being “left alone”.

Keywords: complementarity; connection; inequality; isolation; moral sentiments; solidarity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Human Geography, Lund University, Sölvegatan 10, SE-22362 Lund, Sweden., Email: 2: Psychologist, 1515 Payne St., Tallahassee, FL, USA., Email:

Publication date: 2009-12-01

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