Communitarianism

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Communitarianism emphasizes the need to balance individual rights and interests with that of the community as a whole, and argues that individual people (or citizens) are shaped by the cultures and values of their communities.

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Terminology

Though the term communitarianism is of 20th-century origin, it is derived from the 1840s term communitarian, which was coined by Goodwyn Barmby to refer to one who was a member or advocate of a communalist society. The modern use of the term is a redefinition of the original sense. Many communitarians trace their philosophy to earlier thinkers. The term is primarily used in two senses:

  • Philosophical communitarianism considers classical liberalism to be ontologically and epistemologically incoherent, and opposes it on those grounds. Unlike classical liberalism, which construes communities as originating from the voluntary acts of pre-community individuals, it emphasizes the role of the community in defining and shaping individuals. Communitarians believe that the value of community is not sufficiently recognized in liberal theories of justice.
  • Ideological communitarianism is characterized as a radical centrist ideology that is sometimes marked by leftism on economic issues and moralism or conservatism on social issues. This usage was coined recently. When the term is capitalized, it usually refers to the Responsive Communitarian movement of Amitai Etzioni and other philosophers.

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