At the end of the first chapter of Slim's Table, Mitch Duneier describes the death of Bart. At first we might say that Bart died alone. His case might fit well along side the heatwave deaths that inspired Eric Klinenberg's research. Duneier resists this conclusion, however, suggesting instead that Bart died a member of the caring community of Valois regulars.
This captures a long standing dispute in the sociology of community surrounding the possibility for living a solitary, atomized life in modern society. Some recognize an inevitable trend in this direction, while others consider it unlikely or an impossibility.
The contemporary incarnation of this dispute erupted onto the pages of the American Sociological Review in August of 2006. Mitch Duneier wrote a strongly worded criticism of Klinenberg's Heatwave project. You can find it here and here. Klinenberg's response followed immediately after.
This is fun reading! Two of our best contemporary sociologists discussing a subject and our field passionately. You'll need to be on a computer at UBC or connected through the VPN to get access to the articles.