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Communitarianism: Communitarianism in philosophy emphasizes the importance of communal values, shared responsibilities, and the well-being of the community as a whole. It contrasts with individualism, emphasizing individual interests and not so much the social cohesion.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

Political Philosophy on Communitarianism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 170
Communitarianism/Political Philosophy/Dagger: [Longing for community] did not find expression in the word 'communitarian' until the 1840s, when it and communautaire appeared almost simultaneously in the writings of English and French socialists. French dictionaries point
to Etienne Cabet and Pierre-Joseph Proudhon as the first to use communautaire, but the Oxford English Dictionary gives the credit for 'communitarian' to one Goodwyn Barmby, who founded the Universal Communitarian Association in 1841 and edited a magazine he called The Promethean, or Communitarian Apostle.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on 'English reformers', Barmby
Gaus I 171
advertised his publication as 'the cheapest of all magazines, and the paper most devoted of any to
the cause of the people; consecrated to Pantheism in Religion, and Communism in Politics' (1842(1): 239). In the beginning, then, 'communitarian' seems to have been a rough synonym of 'socialist' and 'communist'.
To be a communitarian was simply to believe that community is somehow vital to a worthwhile life and is therefore to be protected against various threats. Socialists and communists were leftists, but a communitarian could as easily be to the right as the left of centre politically
(Miller, 2000c)(2)
(...) people who moved from the settled, family-focused life of villages and small towns to the unsettled, individualistic life of commerce and cities might gain affluence and personal free-
dom, but they paid the price of alienation, isolation, and rootlessness. Ferdinand Tönnies (2001)(3), with his distinction between Gemeinschaft (community) and Gesellschaft (association or civil society), has been especially influential in this regard. As Tönnies defines the terms, Gemeinschaft is an intimate, organic, and traditional form of human association; Gesellschaft is impersonal, mechanical, and rational. To exchange the former for the latter then, is to trade warmth and support for coldness and calculation.
Concern for community took another direction in the twentieth century as some writers began to see the centripetal force of the modern state as the principal threat to community. This turn is evident, for instance, in José Ortega y Gasset's warnings in The Revolt of the Masses against 'the gravest danger that today threatens civilisation: State intervention; the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State' (1932(4): 120).
Nisbet: Robert Nisbet's The Quest for Community (1953)(5) provides an especially clear statement of this position, which draws more on Tocqueville's insistence on the importance of voluntary associations ofcitizens than on a longing for Gemeinschaft.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in short, the longing for community took the form of a reaction against both the atomizing, anomic tendencies of modern, urban society and the use of the centripetal force of the modern state to check these tendencies. Moreover, modernity was often linked with liberalism, a theory that many took to rest on and encourage atomistic and even 'possessive' individualism (Macpherson, 1962)(6). Against this background, communitarianism developed in the late twentieth century in the course of a debate with - or perhaps within - liberalism.
Philosophical communitarianism: Four books published in rapid succession in the 1980s - Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue (1981)(7), Michael Sandel's Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (1982)(8), Michael Walzer's Spheres of.Justice (1983)(9), and Charles Taylor's Philosophical Papers (1985)(10) - marked the emergence of this philosophical form of communitarianism.FN7 Different as they
are from one another, all of these books express dissatisfaction with liberalism, especially in the form of theories of justice and rights. The main target here was John Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971)(11), but Robert Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974)(12), Ronald Dworkin's Taking Rights Seriously (1977)(13), and Bruce Ackerman's Social Justice in the Liberal State (1980)(14) also came in for criticism. (CommunitarianismVsRawls, CommunitarianismVsNozick, CommunitarianismVsAckerman, Bruce, CommunitarianismVsDworkin).
CommunitarianismVsLiberalism: a typical complaint was, and is, that these theories are too abstract and universalistic.
Walzer: In opposing them, Walzer proposes a 'radically particularist' approach that attends to 'history, culture, and membership' by asking not what 'rational individuals under universalizing conditions of such-and-such a sort' would choose, but what would 'individuals like us choose, who are situated as we are, who share a culture and are determined to go on sharing it?' (1983(9): xiv, 5).
>M. Walzer.
Walzer thus calls attention to the importance of community, which he and others
writing in the early 1980s took to be suffering from both philosophical and political neglect.
For a valuable, full-length survey of this debate, see Mulhall and Swift, 1996(15)
Gaus I 172
Communitarian responesVsCriticisms: responses:
1) the first is that the communitarians' criticisms are misplaced because they have misconceived liberalism (Caney, 1992)(16). In particular, the communitarians have misunderstood the abstractness of the theories they criticize. Thus Rawls maintains (1993(17): Lecture I) that his 'political' conception of the self as prior to its ends is not a metaphysical claim about the nature of the self, as Sandel believes, but simply a way of representing the parties who are choosing principles of justice
from behind the 'veil of ignorance'. Nor does this conception of the individual as a self capable of
choosing its ends require liberals to deny that individual identity is in many ways the product of
unchosen attachments and social circumstances.
2) 'What is central to the liberal view,' according to Will Kymlicka, 'is not that we can perceive a self
prior to its ends, but that we understand ourselves to be prior to our ends, in the sense that no end or goal is exempt from possible re-examination' (1989(18) : 52). With this understood, a second response is to grant, as Kymlicka, Dworkin (1986(19); 1992(20)), Gewirth (1996)(21), and Mason (2000)(22) do, that liberals should pay more attention to belonging, identity, and community, but to insist that they can do this perfectly well within their existing theories.
3) the third response, finally, is to point to the dangers of the critics' appeal to community norms. Communities have their virtues, but they have their vices, too - smugness, intolerance,
and various forms of oppression and exploitation among them. The fact that communitarians do not embrace these vices simply reveals the perversity of their criticism: they 'want us to live in Salem, but not to believe in witches' (Gutmann 1992(23): 133; Friedman, 1992(24)).

1. Emerson, R. W. (1842) 'English reformers'. The Dial, 3(2).
2. Miller, David (2000c) 'Communitarianism: left, right and centre'. In his Citizenship and National Identity. Cambridge: Polity.
3. Tönnies, Ferdinand (2001 118871) Community and Civil Society, trans. J. Harris and M. Hollis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
4. Ortega y Gasset, José (1932) The Revolt of the Masses. New York: Norton.
5. Nisbet, Robert (1953) The Quest for Community. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
6. Macpherson, C. B. (1962) The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke. Oxford: Clarendon.
7. MacIntyre, Alasdair (1981 ) After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.
8. Sandel, Michael (1982) Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
9. Walzer, Michael (1983) Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality. New York: Basic.
10. Taylor, Charles (1985) Philosophical Papers, 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
11. Rawls, John (1971) A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
12. Nozick, Robert (1974) Anarchy, State, and Utopia. New York: Basic.
13. Dworkin, Ronald (1977) Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
14. Ackerman, Bruce (1980) Social Justice in the Liberal State. New Haven, CT: Yale Umversity Press.
15. Mulhall, Stephen and Adam Swift (1996) Liberals and Communitarians, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell.
16. Caney, Simon (1992) 'Liberalism and communitarianism: a misconceived debate'. Political Studies, 40 (June): 273-89.
17. Rawls, John (1993) Political Liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.
18. Kymlicka, Will (1989) Liberalism, Community, and Culture. Oxford: Clarendon.
19. Dworkin, Ronald (1986) Law's Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
20. Dworkin, Ronald (1992) 'Liberal community'. In S. Avinerl and A. de-Shalit, eds, ommunitarianism and Individualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
21. Gewirth, Alan (1996) The Community of Rights. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
22. Mason, Andrew (2000) Community, Solidarity, and Belonging: Levels of Community and Their Normative Significance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
23. Gutmann, Amy (1992) 'Communitarian critics of liberalism'. In S. Avineri and A. de-Shalit, eds, Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
24. Friedman, Marilyn (1992) 'Feminism and modern friendship: dislocating the community'. In S. Avineri and A. de-Shalit, eds, Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dagger, Richard 2004. „Communitarianism and Republicanism“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Political Philosophy
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004

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