Communitarians believe in the free market. But they emphasize that the market–getting and spending–is not the whole of life. The free market has proved a remarkable engine of prosperity, and prosperity is an indispensable foundation of a stable liberal democracy. Certainly, the major alternative to free-market economics–the command-and-control approach of socialism–has been discredited. But in capitalist societies the economic impulse is always threatening to overwhelm every other. The United States has experienced a remarkable run of economic growth; productivity has surged. But the emphasis on getting and spending has disrupted other crucial dimensions of life. In the majority of households today, both parents work. This means that one of society’s most critical tasks–child-rearing and moral formation–is often getting short shrift. In an age of electronic media, the drive for profit shapes our culture, and much of our culture is no longer suitable for the young. Politics has increasingly become a money-driven business, as candidates are forced to raise vast sums for campaigns.
The key to the communitarian approach to economics is the quest for balance–between free enterprise and the social good, between the marketplace and government, between economic freedom and society’s broader needs.
Readings and Links
Read Amitai Etzioni, “How to make a humane market,” from the New Statesman (UK).
Institute Chairman Norton Garfinkle lays out a communitarian vision of the marketplace in “Communitarian Economics,” from the Journal of Socio-Economics.
For Further Exploration
Boswell, Jonathan. Community and the Economy: The Theory of Public Co-operation. London: Routledge, 1994.
Coughlin, Richard M. “Whose Morality? Which Community? What Interests? Socio-Economics and Communitarian Perspectives.” Journal of Socio-Economics 25 (1996): 135-55.
Etzioni, Amitai. The Moral Dimension: Toward a New Economics. New York: Free Press, 1988.
Granovetter, Mark. “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.” American Journal of Sociology 91 (1985): 481-510.
Ramsay, Meredith. Community, Culture, and Economic Development: The Social roots of Local Action. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1996.
Ver Eecke, Wilfried. The Economy and Values. New York: The International Cultural Foundation Press, 1981.
Ver Eecke, Wilfried. “Ethics in Economics: From Classical Economics to Neo-Liberalism.” Philosophy and Social Criticism 9(1983): 145-68.
Ver Eecke, Wilfried. “The Limits of Both Socialist and Capitalist Economies.” Institute for Reformational Studies 348 (1996): 1-12.
Ver Eecke, Wilfried. “A Refundable Tax Credit for Children: Self-Interest-Based and Morally Based Arguments.” The Journal of Socio-Economics 25 (1996):383-94.