||A moral and political philosophy which argues for the good of community, and that this should be preserved and extended. Communitarians challenge liberalism, which they see as too individualistic, insufficiently sensitive to the social sources of self-hood, too much concerned with rights and too little with duty, and failing to grasp the historical contextuality of human life (see MacIntyre, 1985). They also assert that liberalism devalues community and political participation therein.
Three principle elements of communitarianism are recognized by Kymlicka (1993). The first is that the virtues of benevolence or solidarity characteristic of communities render justice a remedial virtue (see Sandel, 1982), rather than the first virtue of social life as claimed by liberals. The second is that justice arises from particular community understandings of social goods (see Walzer, 1983), which are local and historically specific, not from external universal criteria. The third is that the common good of the community comes before individual rights, including the freedom to pursue personal conceptions of the good life.
In such a community, people are supposed to live in harmony, sharing a culture and system of values. While the model is sometimes found in a traditional form of local community life (see rural-urban continuum), the family is often considered the ideal case â€” involving mutual selfless generosity, with no role for the notion of fair shares. Other examples are universities, trade unions, and various ethnic, religious, and cultural groups. While communities might be associated with a particular locality, those valued by communitarians are not necessarily territorially defined.
Central to communitarianism is a relational identity or social self, expressed as a focus on \'we\' rather that \'I\'. This goes beyond the recognition of community as instrumental in the pursuit of individual ends, and as subject of purely sentimental attachment. Persons are seen as embedded or situated in a particular societal milieu, in contrast to the autonomous self-determination of agents floating free of context in the idealized liberal formulation.
Communitarianism has recently (re)surfaced as a political project with explicit moral content. On both sides of the Atlantic and at different points on the political spectrum, there have been calls for a return to values associated with community, loss of which is thought to be implicated in various contemporary ills. Hence the claim by Amitai Etzioni (1995) of a social movement aiming at shoring up the moral, social and political environment.
Critics of communitarianism point out that its advocates are trying to turn the clock back to a lost form of human society, which was not as harmonious as they claim. Actual communities could (and still can) be intolerant of dissent, and oppressive towards minorities and women. There are also great difficulties facing the recreation of communities which may depend to some extent on face-to-face relationships among persons, in a world of increasingly remote communications. (See also ethics, geography and; social justice).Â (DMS)
References Etzioni, A. 1995: The spirit of community: rights, responsibilities and the communitarian agenda. London: Fontana Press.Â Kymlicka, W. 1993: Community. In R. E. Goodin and P. Pettit, eds, A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell, 366-78.Â MacIntyre, A. 1985: After virtue: a study in moral theory, 2nd edn. London: Duckworth.Â Sandel, M. 1982: Liberalism and the limits of justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Â Walzer, M. 1983: Spheres of justice: a defence of pluralism and equality. Oxford: Blackwell.
Suggested Reading Kymlicka, W. 1990: Contemporary political philosophy: an introduction. Oxford: Clarendon Press, ch. 6.Â Mulhall, S. and Swift, A. 1996: Liberals and communitarians, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.Â Selznick, P. 1992: The moral commonwealth: social theory and the promise of community. Berkeley: University of California Press.Â Smith, D.M. 1998: Geography, community, and morality. Environment and Planning A, 31, 19-35.