“Younger People Want to Do it Themselves” - Self-Actualization, Commitment, and the Reinvention of Community

  • Matty LichtensteinEmail author


Current research indicates that younger Americans, driven by socioeconomic shifts and cultural trends prioritizing self-actualization, are increasingly disinclined toward traditional communal organizations. Yet a search for self-actualization may, in fact, lead religiously inclined young adults to traditional communal organizations, which are characterized by relatively strict organizational norms. To explore how such organizations respond to the tension between self-actualization and communal practices, this paper describes a multi-method study of an urban Jewish congregation that experienced a large influx of young adults. The paper demonstrates two related outcomes of the resultant tension: first, the strategic integration of self-expressive content into traditional organizational practices, in a manner that allows these practices to become vehicles for self-actualization; second, the leveraging of these young adults’ transience, in both formal and informal ways, in order to maintain organizational stability. These two seemingly paradoxical outcomes contribute to our understanding of how some communal organizations respond to young adults’ self-actualizing inclinations.


Community Young adults Organizations Judaism Self-actualization 



The author would like to thank Ann Swidler, Claude Fischer, Casey Homan, Jessica Lopez-Espino, Lindsay Bayham, Iddo Tavory, and Robert Wuthnow and the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University for their invaluable assistance with this paper. The author would also like to thank Shayna Weiss for the original inspiration for this research.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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