As you all know, G & I frequent several online forums, many of them focused on rural/bush living, self-sufficiency, and long-term survival/preparation. One topic that keeps coming up, over and over in one form or another, is whether it's better to go it alone or to be in a community. This question pops up under the guise of "City vs. Rural" and "Transition Community Building" and others along those lines. I can honestly say, this discussion/argument is really getting on my nerves.
There seems to be an assumption that the only way for humans to survive after long-term catastrophe is to band together in communities, that socialization is a necessity, and that rural living is boring, etc etc. What has become batantly apparent to me is that an individual's temperament plays a major role in determining which lifestyle and survival strategy will work best for them... one way is not ultimately superior to another.
So what do I mean by temperament? Well, rather than going too far into the psychology of personality and all the Myers-Briggs temperaments, I'll just focus on the one factor that I think is the most relevent to successfully selecting, as a starting point, a style and strategy that will work for you - Extraversion vs. Introversion. This has nothing to do with being chatty or shy, but where you get your energy from. Keep in mind that slightly over 75% of the population are Extraverts, and that there is a full spectrum on the E-to-I scale. Most people are a little of both, and fall somewhere between the two extremes. Understanding where you fall within the scale can help you determine which style and strategy will work best for you.
Extraversion: Extraverts are more outwardly-focused. They tend to get direction, motivation, validation and energy from interactions with other people. If left alone too long, they tend to get bored, lonely, or depressed. Their make-up actually requires them to receive a certain level of outside stimulation, particularly the human social kind.
Extraverts would be best served by remaining in the cities and attempting to enact their survival plans there, or finding/creating a medium-large rural community because they simply need other people. If they strike out on their own or into a rural community that is too small for them they will be unhappy, which could lead them to fail in their efforts. Isolation goes against their basic nature.
Introversion: Introverts are more inwardly-focused. They tend to be self-directed, self-motivated, self-validating, and self-energizing. They require time to themselves for introspection and recharging, and very rarely get bored, lonely or depressed when they are alone. They do, however, get exhausted and depressed when subjected to too much outside stimulation, particularly the human social kind.
Introverts would be best served by moving out to a small rural community or striking out into the bush in isolation. Remaining in a city, or joining/creating a community that is too large for them will make them unhappy, which could lead them to fail in their efforts. Socialization goes against their basic nature.
Now, temperament aside, there are pros and cons to isolation vs. community. Neither is inherently better, but a basic understanding of your options allows for better decisions.
Community does provide additional resources and allows for larger-scale projects because the labor pool is larger; but it also costs more because time/effort must be spent on building and maintaining social and communal infrastructure (churches/community centers, legal systems and courthouses, etc). Community allows people to specialize in a few talents that they excel at, while relying on others to make up the difference in knowledge/skills and to help them problem-solve... which works well until your doctor gets sick or your mechanic is on vacation. Community allows for greater defense and fortifications, but also makes you a more noticeable target. Community allows workload to be shared; but also promotes resentment, slacking and competition.
Isolation reduces the time/effort you must spend building and maintaining a social/communal infrastructure, but it can limit the scale and amount of projects you can undertake to those you can complete with only one or two people. Isolation means that you must be a jack-of-all-trades and a good problem-solver since you are responsible for the whole shebang; but that also means that you are/become reasonably prepared for any eventuality regardless of the availability of an "expert". Isolation provides you the security of anonymity, but can leave you under-manned if overrun. Isolation means all the burden is yours, but so are all the benefits.
With that in mind, you need to weigh those pros and cons against your own style -- are you really great at one or two things with an extreme depth of detailed knowledge, or are you reasonably proficient at a multitude of things with a wide breadth of "surface" knowledge? (I guess this plays into the second temperament type of Sensor vs. Intuitive... but we won't go there for now). If you're a detailed specializer, living out in isolation may be very difficult for you since it goes against your nature. If you're a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, living in a community where peope have assigned specialties may not be the best fit; but you should have minimal troubles problem-solving in isolation.
There are combinations and variations of situations to fit almost every combination of temperament and style -- it's not just "live in the city" or " live in the bush". If you understand your temperament and basic preferences, you can better determine what lifestyle and survival strategy works best for you... but none of them are inherently any better or more successful than the other :) Yes, there is a historic-survival value and benefit to combining resources. But that doesn't automatically mean it has to be a close-knit or large centralized community, because a loose federation of distributed individuals can work just as well. The human species existed quite efficiently for a very long time in "pastoral villages" before "industrial cities" became the norm.