The Communitarian Vision

Americans have been struggling during the 1990s to restore the integrity of our basic institutions and turn back disturbing trends toward crime, social disorder, and family breakdown. The past decade has been an era of important social reforms: in the public schools, in the criminal justice system, in family policy. In states and localities across the nation, citizens have fought for greater emphasis on character, individual responsibility, and virtues and values in the public square. Partly as a result, on a host of “leading social indicators”—rates of violent crime, rates of youth crime, levels of teenage pregnancy, even student test scores—the nation is showing incremental but significant improvements.

Communitarian ideas and policy approaches have been playing a major role in this growing movement of cultural and institutional regeneration. Communitarian thinkers are in the forefront of the Character Education movement, which is fostering a return to the teaching of good personal conduct and individual responsibility in thousands of public schools around the country. Likewise, communitarians have been played a role in the new community-based approaches to criminal justice, which are showing solid success in restoring neighborhood order and achieving real reductions in violent crime. In the area of family policy, communitarians have worked for policies to strengthen families and discourage divorce. They have led in devising fresh, incentive-based policies designed to discourage a casual approach to marriage and to promote “children-first” thinking and family stability–while at the same time preserving the rights of women and men.

In contrast to conventional “right” or “left” approaches to social policy, communitarians emphasize the need for a balance between rights and responsibilities. Communitarians believe that strong rights presume strong responsibilities and that the pendulum of contemporary society has swung too far in the direction of individual autonomy at the expense of individual and social responsibility. One key to solving contemporary America’s social problems is replacing our pervasive “rights talk” with “responsibility talk.”

In finding solutions to our social problems, communitarians seek to rely neither on costly government programs nor on the market alone, but on the powerful “third force” of the community. By reawakening communities and empowering communities to assert their moral standards, communitarians seek to hold individuals accountable for their conduct.

Communitarianism is essentially an optimistic approach to issues of public policy. While mindful of human tendencies to act in self-interested ways, Communitarians believe that it is possible to build a good society based on the desire of human beings to cooperate to achieve community goals that are based on positive values. This has been the essential optimistic view that has animated Americans throughout our history. New times raise new issues, but the communitarian focus on the values of the good society provides a vital guide to maintaining the good society.

Innovative, deadlock-breaking policy ideas that promote a fresh consensus around positive social action–such has been the hallmark of the communitarian movement over the past decade.

Learn more about communitarianism and become a part of one of the most innovative movements working to renew and revitalize American society:

Marriage and Family

Schools and Education

Criminal Justice

Diversity and Reconciliation

Civil Society

Faith-Based Social Services

The Economy

The Political Process

News

Rules of Engagement and Abusive Citizens

Read the full article, “Rules of Engagement and Abusive Citizens,” Prism, 2014.

Israel and Palestine: There’s Still Room at the Inn

Simon Schama’s new TV series and bookThe Story of the Jews is particularly timely, although he’s covering well-ploughed ground.

Near East and Far East: Not So Distant

Many observations about the Near and Far East view them as if they were worlds apart.

Two People, One Land?

An old anti-Zionist argument has recently been reasserted by one of the mildest critics, Ari Shavit. In his book My Promised Land, Shavit promotes the thesis that the ultimate source of the trouble between Israelis and Palestinians is a grand illusion which was and is at the core of Zionism.

In Defense of Drones

Originally published in The Diplomat Amnesty International has just issued a report that is highly critical of the use of drones by the United States. Its main concern is the great number of civilian casualties that these strikes cause – the so-called collateral damage. There is considerable disagreement among observers about the extent of these casualties.