240. "A Moderate Communitarian Proposal," Sociological Imagination, Vol. 32, No. 2, (Summer 1995), pp. 67-78.


This article argues that some of the points that have long been debated between libertarians and communitarians, the two sides are meeting mid way, narrowing if not "settling" these points.[1] Recognizing this progress allows focusing on the "remaining" issues that contain some rather challenging and much less discussed issues. Among the issues that seem to offer an opportunity to narrow the differences are the social nature of the person, the relations between the individual and the community, the need to balance rights and responsibilities, and perhaps ways to defend against community majoritarianism. Among the "remaining" challenging issues are the source of values that contextuate communities and the role of human nature.

Initial sections of this essay deal with the issues that arise out of membership in community, the link between individual rights and social responsibilities, and the dangers of majoritarianism; they also detail the ways in which a communitarian vision of political theory helps to sustain the American experiment in ordered liberty. I argue that the relationship between the individual and the community is more nuanced than the simple opposition of individual vs. the overarching collectives generally posited by libertarians. Essentially, we shall assume as the cornerstone of our discussion that individuals and communities are constitutive of one another, and their relationship is, at and one and the same time, mutually supportive and tensed. The mutual character of the relationship between individuals and communities also suggests that efforts to advance one at the expense of the other is likely to undermine the important benefits that arise from keeping these two essential factors in proper balance.[2]

In this essay the author circumvents the customary review of the relevant literature on the grounds that such reviews have been carried out often and very well indeed.[3] Instead, an attempt will be made here to cut directly to a modest suggestion for a moderate communitarian position.

The I&We

Some communitarians take "...community rather than the individual as their basic theoretical concept" (Daly 1994: ix.) Derek Phillips, in his appraisal of the communitarian position, criticizes Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Sandel, Charles Taylor, Robert Bellah and others for "ascrib[ing] supreme value to the community itself rather than to its individual members" On the other hand libertarians tend to ignore community or assign it secondary status as a derivative -- the result of an aggregation of individual choices, transactions, or other such deliberate and voluntary acts.[4] Bentham wrote that "community is a fiction", while others from Jean-Paul Sartre to Robert Nozick, consider the "community" (or at least the claims of other) a burden if not a "hell." As Nozick (1974: 32-33) suggests, "[T]here is no social entity... There are only individual people, different individual people, with their own individual lives." In this view, social goods are created only through the actions of individuals acting in their own self-interest.

This seems an unnecessary opposition. If one views the community as merely an aggregation of individuals joined for their convenience, one leaves out the need for commitment to shared values and for affective involvement in the community, to preserve unity and to provide criteria for shared decisions. If one sees the community as the source of authority and legitimacy, and seeks, in the name of duty, to impose behavioral standards on individuals, this leaves an insufficient basis for individual freedom and other individual rights. It also prevents the community from being creative and responsive to a changing world by constricting the evolution of differing positions, which could in time replace the community's dominant values, thereby enhancing its adaptability to a constantly changing world.

Our thinking would progress if we take as our theoretical starting point, as our primary concept, the admittedly more complex concept of a self congenitally contextuated within a community, a view which accords full status to both individuals and their shared union. Following Martin Buber's (1937) designation of the I and Thou, I use the notation the I&We to capture the tensed but also Siamese bond between these two poles of our social existence. ("Siamese" because like Siamese twins, the lives of the community and individuals are greatly endangered if they are fully separated). The "We" signifies social, cultural, political, and hence historical and institutional forces which shape the collective factor -- the community. The "I" stands for members of the community . The I&We highlights the assumption that individuals act within a social context, that this context is not reducible to individual acts, and, most significantly, that the social context is not necessarily or wholly imposed. Instead, the social context is to a significant extent perceived as a legitimate and integral part of one's existence, a "We" rather than a "They".

The I&We synthesis does not entail the kind of nirvana harmony, based on idealized "fraternal sentiments and fellow feeling" and lacking the social conflicts associated with modern life, that some enthusiasts have ascribed to communities (Sandel 1982, 130 and Greenhouse 1994, 184-185). Indeed, I predicate that the concept reflects a deep-seated yet productive tension. The tension is the result of the tendencies of at least some individuals to seek to expand his or her realm of unprescribed behavior and to change the community to reflect more fully his/her values and interests, while the community attempts to extend its social/moral prescriptions and to reformulate the individual members in line with its values and true or perceived needs. While the tension can be excessive and wearing (having high social and personal costs) or even tearing (wars among families or among clans), up to a point the tension is creative. The uncommunitized personhood is a source of creativity and change for the community and fulfillment for the person. The communitized part of the person is a source of service for shared needs and a source of stability and one source of support for social virtues of the community.

An analogy is that of the role of bricks in an arch. There is little sense in asking which is more "basic." Without the arch the bricks are a pile of rubble. And without bricks there is no arch. The proper relations among the bricks ensures the proper level of tension to maintain the bond. If exceeded, the arch will collapse and the bricks will scatter.

If this view is enriched by examining the relationship in a historical perspective, we note that communities are continuously adjusting the relationship between the centrifugal inclinations of their members and the centripetal tendencies of the community.[5] If the communities veer too far in the centripetal direction (as in the Soviet Union), the historical role of social critics (intellectuals, the free press, dissenters) is to enhance the centrifugal forces and vice versa.[6] If neither element gains ascendancy, and if the excesses of one are corrected by shoring up the other, a balanced, responsive community may be sustained. For this reason communitarians in the U.S., who see excessive individualism in American society, call for a return to community -- not because community is more fundamental but because the I&We is out of balance after decades in which self-interest and individualism were assigned primacy.[7] Thus while the I&We paradigm assigns both the individual and the community the same basic moral, philosophical and sociological standing, the historical context indicates which elements must be nourished within a given period and culture.

The concept of community used here has been criticized by those who equate the concept of "community" with the social and cultural communal structures of the past and their attendant characteristics. One stream of thought asserts that communities tend to be monolithic, conformist, oppressive, intolerant of minorities, and hierarchical, suggesting even that "[communitarians] want us to live Salem..."(Gutmann 1985, 319). Others accuse communitarians of seeking a nostalgic return to an imagined past. Derek Phillips attacks communitarian thinking by outlining the shortcomings of the communities of ancient Athens, the Middle Ages, and the American colonial era, claiming that "there can be no "renewal" or "restoration" of community...[given] the general absence of community in the periods [communitarians] celebrate" (175).[8]

However, communitarians (at least the more enlightened among them) favor new communities, in which all members have the same basic moral, social, and political standing. In these communities, values are reformulated and policies evolve in a free give and take in which ideally all are participants, and values are not imposed by particular groups. Whereas traditional communities were often homogeneous, new communities seek a balance between diversity and unity. As John Gardner has noted: "To prevent the wholeness from smothering diversity, there must be a philosophy of pluralism, an open climate for dissent, and an opportunity for subcommunities to retain their identity and share in the setting of larger group goals" (1991, 11).

Individual Rights and Social Responsibilities

For the same basic reasons, it is unnecessarily polarizing to suggest that while libertarians are preoccupied with individual rights communitarians concern themselves only with social responsibilities. Firstly, often rights and responsibilities are corollaries, one assuming the other. For instance the right to trial by jury of one's peers, is unsustainable without a duty of peers to serve on the jury.[9]

Some have argued that animals and sand have rights though none of these can undertake responsibilities (Stone and Kaufman 1988, 8-14, and Stone 1974, 17), but these are exceptions to the rule. Most social relations assume reciprocity either among the parties (the right of one person to free speech is based on the claim on others to restrain their desire to prevent such speech) or on a reciprocity between the person and the community (if we are to have a right to governmental services, we must assume the obligation to pay for them, but not to those who deliver the services but to the community till).

Once we grant the basic complementarity of individual rights and social responsibility, we can turn to numerous challenging issues that arise within this context. These range from the question of whether those with long-term disadvantages have entitlements but are exempt from social responsibilities to the question of under what conditions do community needs (which often prescribe social responsibilities) take priority over some limited individual rights (e.g. drug testing of those who drive school buses).[10]

No Majoritarians Here[11]

Communitarians are charged with opening the door to majoritarianism. Critics argue that by advocating that the community should have a say over what the course of the social entity ought to be, individual and minority rights will be shortchanged, if not disregarded. Some fear that the community would, for example, ban books the majority dislikes from public and school libraries. Note that the concern is not that some local goon or national tyrant would take over, but that ordinary citizens would instruct their duly-elected city council or school board to institute policies that violated basic rights.

Ira Glasser, Executive Director of the ACLU, claims, "Communitarian really means majoritarian. The tendency is to make constitutional rights responsible for the failure to solve social problems" (Erlich 1990). In a like manner, Charles Derber offers that " [c]onsensual'" values are, in reality, the voice of one part of the community -- usually the majority or an elite minority -- against the others" (1993, 29). Professor Tibor Machan of Auburn University expresses the view that "[c]ommunitarians wish to place community and individual on a collision course, saying there is some kind of balance that is need between the rights of individuals and the rights of the community. But if we consider that community means simply a lot of other people other than oneself, this simply makes for majority rule" (1991).

As Michael Sandel offers, "The answer to that majoritarian threat is to try to appeal to a richer conception of democracy than just adding up votes" (Moyers, 155). American society has both constitutional and moral safeguards against majoritarianism that communitarians very much respect. These safeguards basically work through differentiation, by defining some areas in which the majority has not and ought not to have a say and those in which it does and should. We are not simply a vote-counting majoritarian democracy, but a constitutional democracy. That is, some choices, defined by the constitution, are beyond the realm of the majority.

Clearest among these is the Bill of Rights, which singles out matters that are exempt from majority rule and from typical democratic rule-making. The First Amendment, which protects the right of free speech, is a prime example of an area in which minority and individual rights take precedence. Similarly, the majority may not deny any opposition group the right to vote; even Communists were not banned in the days when they were most hated and feared.

The Constitution and our legal traditions and institutions indicate clearly, however, that other matters are subject to majority rule. Thus majorities decide how much tax Americans must pay, which side of the road to drive on, and at what age young adults can vote. It is inconceivable, and there is no moral and legal support for the notion, that individuals could decide for herself whether or not to pay social security taxes, which side of the road to drive on, and so on.

A Challenge: Contextuating Values

The preceding discussion makes an assumption that not all communitarians have made as clear as possible. That communities are free to follow whatever value consensus they can achieve as long as it does not violate a particular set of overarching values.[12] These values are most clearly reflected in the Constitution, but this by itself does not answer the difficult question: "What is the legitimacy of these values?"[13] This question is sometimes phrased in terms as to what is the "source" of these values; one should read this query as not necessarily meaning where they came from, say from France, but that what is the standing, the basis for the moral claim, of these values? How is one to differentiate between those that have a valid claim on us and those that do not?

Some find the answer in religion, others in natural law. But these are sources that others find less than compelling and that in themselves may yearn for further accounting. Some look for the answer in the empirical social science finding that these values are universally respected, such as thou shalt not kill. However, this base also provides questionable and unsecured ground because many values are not universally accepted, and a rather meager defense (surely burning books, and even killing their authors, is quite valued in some communities, e.g. in contemporary Iran).

One answer may be found in a deontological position. Although the prevailing view in Western thought is that values are anchored in a utilitarian framework, the less familiar deontological view may provide a philosophical anchoring point.[14] The essence of the ethical deontological position is the notion that actions are morally right when they reflect principles that appear to us as morally binding. Deontology stresses that the moral status of an act should not be judged by its consequences, but by the "intention." For example, a person who sets out to defame another is acting immorally, whether or not the person succeeds in actually damaging the one he or she seeks to defame. More significantly, in this view certain moral values are essentially beyond debate. For example, no morally reflective individual would seriously contend that lying is morally superior to truth-telling, except possibly in highly unusual circumstances. Likewise, no moral person would deny that treating others with respect is an authentic moral value, though the particular behaviors guided by this principle may differ from person to person.

One may not find this response any more satisfactory than the others previously listed. My main point is that libertarians are not required to attend to this matter, because they can rely on the legitimacy of procedures to determine the aggregated course (for instance, the course is morally acceptable, say a declaration of war, as long as it was subject to free election, Congressional consultation, etc.). Communitarians, who see shared values and social virtues and seek the commitment of individual members, must account for the legitimacy of these values, for ways to differentiate those that deserve one's adherence rather than invite rebellion.

A Cardinal Challenge: Human Nature

Every social theory and philosophy contains an implicit or explicit theory of human nature (Jaggar 1983). Libertarians assume that people are basically benign and reasonable by nature, and hence urge the government not to interfere with their choices and allow individuals to set the collective and personal course on their own. They typically blame the social structure for deviant behavior exhibited by criminals and drug addicts and those who riot. Their most recommended treatment is to change society (rather than "blame the victim"). Individuals need to be informed and empowered -- because they are inherently inclined to do what is right and beneficial for the commons.

In contrast, many social conservatives assume that people are if not nasty and brutish, at least governed by impulses and other irrational forces. While social conservatives seek to indoctrinate people with values, they tend to assume that human nature cannot be "perfected," and hence there is a congenital need to "keep the lid on" by the use of public authorities. Still other social philosophers and theories make different assumptions, but it is difficult to complete a social philosophical position without an examination of its implications or explicit assumptions about human nature. Communitarians clearly assume that human nature is to a significant extent socially constituted. However, this position is insufficiently specified.

One answer to the problem of human nature is offered by a range of postmodern philosophers who argue that people are fully "constructed" -- that is, determined by their culture, or at least that our views of human nature reflect our assumptions and values (or those drummed into us, or implicit in our culture). These philosophers assume that human nature is extremely unstable. Richard Rorty (1989: 50), for example, has called for "...a repudiation of the very idea of anything -- mind or matter, self or world -- having an intrinsic nature to be expressed or represented." In fact, few postmodern theorists even refer to "human nature," instead predicting the death of Man', or the demise of the Western humanist assertion of the primacy of a thinking individual with an underlying transcendental self.

Others also refuse to accord human nature any extent of inherent qualities. Some argue that once one assumes that there is a specific human nature, the next step is to argue that there are particular attributes that differentiate people by their nature: for instance, that men have a different nature from women (or blacks from whites). This, in turn, opens the door to various discriminatory positions. For instance, if women are "naturally" mothers but men are not equally "natural" fathers, women should be relegated to the chores of parenting and so on. Many feminists, for example, respond that there is nothing especially natural about women's relationships with each other, with children or with men" (Jaggar 1983). [15]

Catherine MacKinnon argues that gender differences are static constructs imposed on women which reflect cultural, economic and legal oppression (Regan 1993). Male-female differences are the post hoc justification for inequality. In this weltanschauung, a particular conception of human nature, with innate attributes and differences distributed according to gender, is simply a tool for maintaining an entrenched system of inequality. Thus this argument is intended to protect women from discrimination. Socialist feminists, on the other hand, acknowledge the existence of human nature but see it as a historical product arising from the interrelation of human biology, human society and the natural environment so that "specific historical conditions create distinctive human types" (Jaggar 2983: 125). Thus, socialist feminism shares Marx's observation: "All history is nothing but a continuous transformation of human nature." (quoted in Jaggar 1983: 130).

The problem with proceeding in this way is that human nature is presented in such a way as to be infinitely malleable and hence an assessment of human nature can play no role in value-judgements or social criticism! As Frank Iacobucci (1992:12) argues, "At its crudest expression, one finds the argument that as there is no objective reality outside the knower, it is impossible to agree on any objective standards. You have your opinion and I have mine... who's to say who is right and who is wrong?'" If this is the case, there is no Archimedean point where we can criticize social practices -- such as slavery, sexism, etc. -- without being accused of ethnocentrism or insensitivity to the values of other communities.

It is true that our understanding of human nature is hindered by that we encounter it only in specific cultural settings, which most would agree significantly affects what we see reflected in human behavior. (Those who assume that behind each specific behavior lies a specific gene may reach a fundamentally different position). However, the fact that we can reach conclusions about human nature only indirectly does not mean that we cannot glean what it is and draw conclusions from what we are able to establish.

In my view, it is fruitful to assume that there is a universal set of basic human needs which have attributes of their own that are independent of the social structure, cultural patterns, or socialization processes. We are -- men and women, black, brown, yellow, white, and so on -- all basically the same under all the layers cultures foster and impose on us. I see a great deal of evidence that people of different eras, societies, and conditions show the same basic inclinations (Inkeles and Smith 1974). Hence one certainly cannot find in human nature any justification for treating one group of people worse than another. More significantly, it is these basic attributes which yield the productive tension between the individual and the community.

While we cannot point to a basic human nature in that we have never encountered it in a pure form, a variety of observations suggest that it exists. One main relevant finding is that when socialization and social control mechanisms slacken or breakdown, behavior tends to slide not randomly, but towards an indicative pattern -- towards human nature. Thus the fact that so many priests in diverse societies and eras in religious institutions that prohibit sex do indulge in some form of sexual expression or another does inform us about human nature. So does the fact that religion, magic and culture are irrepressible despite numerous attempts in Nazi Germany and the former U.S.S.R. to repress them.[16]

Even in totalitarian societies that monopolized control of educational institutions, suppressed alternative sources of values, and maintained tight control of all forms of media and communication, combined with iron-fisted social and political control, were unable to sustain social cultures and institutions that are incompatible with the underlying human nature. Indeed as these societies persist in maintaining their unresponsive cultures, human nature asserts itself and contributes to the failure of these regimes.[17] An examination of these regimes in comparison to those that did persist, allow us to draw additional insights into the nature of human nature.

How does this view of human nature bear on the communitarian position? As human nature has immutable characteristics, the concept anchors the relationship between the individual and the community. If human nature were pliable, the tension of the I&We could be dissolved by wholly merging the individuals into the culture pre-molded by the community.

A close observation of human nature has a number of secondary implications as well. There is a strong accumulation of evidence that people have a deep-seated need for social bonds (or attachments) and that they have a compelling need for normative (or moral) guidance. The evidence also suggests that they are unable to fulfill any of the conditions various libertarian models presume (such as capacity to render rational choices, or to separate many of one's preferences from those that are culturally endorsed and so on).[18]

The observation that human nature has specific attributes does not mean that we need to approve of them, or embrace them. The fact, for instance, that people cannot make even a nearly rational decision, may either lead us to seek systems that require less rational capacity, develop equipment that will help them, or -- argue that decisions should be made by those who are most rational.

How should we respond to the basic human need for attachment and for values? Neither is an unmixed blessing but neither needs to be confronted head on. The need for attachment and normative guidance is at the foundation of the family, neighborhoods, voluntary associations, community and many of the institutions that basically enrich human life (and possibly ennoble it).[19] We need to guard against excesses (e.g. conformism, fads, unjust notions that are implicit in the culture and that deserve open critical and normative examination). However, none of these is severe enough or sufficiently resistant to amelioration that we should seek to do without these basic human features (even if we could). In short, the communitarian self -- part member, part creative and critical -- is a rather well empirically grounded concept and one on which a communitarian philosophy can build constructively.

REFERENCES

Avineri, Shlomo, and Avner de-Shalit, eds. 1992. Communitarianism and Individualism. New York: Oxford University Press.

Baker, Mayerene. 1991. "University Divided over Proposal for Speech Code." Los Angeles Times. May 16, p. B3.

Beauchamp, Tom. 1982 Philosophical Ethics: An Introduction to Moral Philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Bell, Daniel. 1993. Communitarianism and Its Critics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Bellah, Robert, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. 1985. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bolick, Clint. 1993. Grassroots Tyranny: The Limits of Federalism. Washington: Cato Institute.

Buber, Martin. 1937. I and Thou. Translated by Ronald Gregory Smith. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons.

Daly, Markate. 1994. Communitarianism: A New Public Ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.

Derber, Charles. 1993. "Coming Glued: Communitarianism to the Rescue." Tikkun. July/August: 27-30, 95-99.

Erlich, Elizabeth. 1990. "Worker Rights vs. My Safety: Where Do We Draw the Line?" Business Week. September 3, p. 56.

Etzioni, Amitai. 1988. The Moral Dimenstion: Toward a New Economics. New York: Free Press.

Etzioni, Amitai. 1991. "Too Many Rights, Too Few Responsibilities." Society. (January/ February): 41-48.

Etzioni, Amitai. 1993. The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities, and the Communitarian Agenda. New York: Crown.

Fowler, Robert Booth. 1991. The Dance With Community: The Contemporary Debate in American Political Thought. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press.

Galston, William A. 1992. "Clinton and the Promise of Communitarianism." The Chronicle of Higher Education (December 2), p. A52.

Gardner, John W. 1991. Building Community. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector.

Glendon, Mary Ann. 1991. Rights Talk. New York: Free Press.

Greenhouse, Carol J., Barbara Yngvesson, and David M. Engel. 1994 Law and Community in Three American Towns. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Gutmann, Amy. 1987. Democratic Education. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Gutmann, Amy. 1985. "Communitarian Critics of Liberalism." Philosophy and Public Affairs. 309-322.

Iacobucci, Frank. 1992. "The Evolution of Constitutional Rights and Corresponding Duties: the Leon Ladner Lecture." The University of British Columbia Law Review: 1-19.

Inkeles, Alex and David H. Smith. 1974. Becoming Modern: Individual Change in Six Developing Countries Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Jaggar, Alison M. 1983. Feminist Politics and Human Nature. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allanheld.

Oaks, Dallin H. 1991. "Rights and Responsibilities." The Responsive Community. 1:37-46. Mac

han, Tibor. 1991. "The Communitarian Manifesto." The Orange County Register. (May 12).

McClain, Linda C. 1994. "Rights and Irresponsibility." Duke Law Journal 43.

Nisbet, Robert. 1953. The Quest for Community. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nozick, Robert. 1974. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.

Phillips, Derek L. 1993. Looking Backward: A Critical Appraisal of Communitarian Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Price, David E. 1977. The 'Quest for Community' and Public Policy. Bloomington, Ind.: The Poynter Center.

Rawls, John. 1980. "Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory: The Dewey Lectures" Journal of Philosophy. 77: 515-572.

Regan Jr., Milton C. 1993. Family Law and the Pursuit of Intimacy. New York: New York University Press.

Sandel, Michael J. 1982. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schlesinger, Jr, Arthur. 1991. The Disuniting of America: Reflections on a Multicultural Society. New York: Whittle Communications.

Stone, Christopher D. 1974 Should Tree Have Standing. Los Altos, CA: William Kaufman.

Stone, Katherine E., and Benjamin Kaufman. 1988. "Sand Rights: A Legal System to Protect the Shores of the Sea." Shore and Beach 56: 8-14.

Taylor, Charles. 1989. "Cross Purposes: the Liberal-Communitarian Debate." In Liberalism and the Moral Life, edited by N. Rosenblum. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Unger, Roberto. 1975. Knowledge and Politics. New York: Free Press.

Walzer, Michael. 1983. Spheres of Justice. New York: Basic Books.

Williams, Oliver F. "Catholic Social Teaching: A Communitarian Democratic Capitalism for the New World Order." Pp. 5-28 in Catholic Social Thought and the New World Order, edited by O. Williams and J. Houck. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Notes

1. The terms “liberals,” “classical liberals,” and “contemporary liberals” have been used to characterize the critics of communitarians. These labels can often be obfuscatory and misleading. I feel that “libertarians” more effectively communicates the essence of this position, and this essay will use that term exclusively.

2. For a discussion of this point from a Catholic perspective see Williams (1993).

3. Fowler (1991) presents an overview of various strains of political thought which grapple with the issue of community. Also see Avineri and de-Shalit (1992), Bell (1993), Sandel (1982), Taylor (1989), and Walzer (1983).

4. Indeed, much of neoclassical economics, psychology, and important segments of other social sciences literature is reductionist; that is, it maintains that the explanatory factors are individual, and either denies the need for collective concepts or depicts them as the result of aggregations of individual transactions. For a communitarian critique of liberalism on this count see Sandel (1982). Others that have faulted liberalism for its failure to acknowledge community include Unger (1975) and Taylor (1989).

5. For a review of early communitarian ideas see Iacobucci (1992) and Price (1977), who argues that thinkers of the past, from Burke, to Tocqueville, to Durkheim, have stressed that no society will thrive in the absence of vital social bonds and ends.

6. This notion of balance is supported by a notation that often accompanies statements about John Locke, Adam Smith and other classical liberals, that they were writing in a period in which community was overpowering and hence focused on individualism.

7. See Bellah et al. (1985) and articles recently published in the communitarian quarterly, The Responsive Community.

8. McClain (1994: 1030) joins the refrain observing that in “the new communitarian appeal to tradition, communities of ‘mutual aid and memory,’ and the Founders, there is a problematic inattention to the less attractive, unjust features of tradition.”

9. In the highly individualistic period of the recent past, Americans have often claimed this right while rejecting the responsibility (Etzioni 1993; Glendon 1991; Oaks 1991).

10. Space precludes further examination of this issue here (see Etzioni, 1991, 1993; and Glendon, 1991).

11. For a more in-depth treatment of the problem of majoritarianism, see Etzioni (1993).

12. For example, some communitarians have afforded individual rights insufficient legitimacy, raising the specter of oppressive communities in conflict with overarching values. Bound to the particular social meanings of the community, then, individuals may be unable to evaluate the moral standing of their community, which may deserve criticism (see Walzer 1983).

13. There are other society-wide shared values that are npt reflected in the Constitution, for instance, in recent years, a commitment to stewardship over the environment.

14. Deontology is a major school of ethics, akin to utilitarianism in its scope, encompassing different sub-schools (e.g., acts vs. rule-deontology), and has its share of internal differences (Beauchamp 1982). To do justice to but one of its leaders, Immanuel Kant, would take us far afield. Instead of engaging here in a major digression on ethics, the discussion focuses on the one element of deontology used here (Personal communication with Charles Taylor).

15. See Jaggar (1983) for a fuller explanation and excellent summary of the socialist feminist position on human nature.

16. It must be noted here that the universality of basic values does not apply to secondary values, which can be created and maintained through socialization.

17. As these observations are post hoc, it might be useful to provide here a prediction of a series of future events: if the position advanced here is valid, fundamentalist Muslim regimes, like the one in Iran, too will prove to be unsustainable.

18. For a discussion of the issue and references to the literature see Etzioni (1988).

19. William A. Galston, “Clinton and the Promise of Communitarianism,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2 December 1992, A52.

The Communitarian Network
2130 H Street, NW, Suite 703
Washington, DC 20052
202.994.6118
comnet@gwu.edu