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Communitarianism and its Critics - Daniel Bell

Communitarianism and its Critics

Paperback

Published: 1st October 1994
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Many have criticized liberalism for being too individualist, but few have offered an alternative that goes beyond a vague affirmation of the need for community. In this entertaining book, written in dialogue form, Daniel Bell fills this gap, presenting and defending a distinctively communitarian theory against the objections of a liberal critic. In a Paris café Anne, a strong supporter of communitarian ideals, and Philip, her querulous critic, debate the issues. Drawing on the works of such thinkers as Charles Taylor, Michael Sandel, and Alasdair MacIntyre, Anne attacks liberalism's individualistic view of the person by pointing to our social embeddedness. She develops Michael Walzer's idea that political thinking involves the interpretation of shared meanings emerging from the political life of a community, and rebuts Philip's criticism that this approach damages her case by being conservative and relativistic. She goes on to develop a justification of communal life and to answer the criticism that communitarians lack an alternative moral vision. The book ends with two later discussions, by Will Kymlicka and Daniel Bell, in which Anne and another friend, Louise, criticize the book's earlier debate and put it in perspective.

`This is a timely book...Bell's philosophical dialogue is, in fact, witty and irreverential. The book reminds us of the rich heuristic potential of this much-neglected form...it offers the liveliest and most accessible introduction to the intensely important debate between liberals and communitarians that has yet appeared. For that reason alone - and quite apart from its persuasive advocacy of the communitarian cause - his book is very welcome: it will engage anyone torn between the rival claims of community and personal freedom in modern life, which, of course, is all of us' The Guardian `This book gives an excellent account of thie body of work. A clear and very readable, indeed enjoyable, piece of writing. The dialogue form is used skilfully to bring the communitarian position to life and to give an overview of the debate between it and liberalism which is central to current social philosophy ... A great virtue of this book is that one need not agree with all the ideas it advocates in order to welcome it as an engaging and stimulating discussion of these issues.' Times Higher Education Supplement `for those who are unfamiliar with the so-called liberal-communitarian debate, this book offers an accessible account without sacrificing the more scholarly discussion ... Daniel Bell's book will help readers, specialists and non-specialists alike, gain a clearer insight into these difficult questions. Some may even be pleased to see that the dialogue form in philosophy has not died out.' Canadian Journal of Political Science `entertaining, stimulating, and unusual in attempting to develop and render plausible non-trivial communitarian ideas rather than dismissing them out of hand' Political Studies `for those who are unfamiliar with the so-called liberal-communitarian debate, this book offers an accessible account without sacrificing the more scholarly discussion ... Daniel Bell's book will help readers, specialists and non-specialists alike, gain a clearer insight into these difficult questions' Canadian Journal of Political Science `excellent book ... a book that will be accessible to a wide range of readers' Radical Philosophy `A spirited and absorbing book, animated by a sharp sensitivity to political events in the real world as much as by a firm grasp of recent theorizing ... The novelty of the book's dialogic form only reinforces the vigour and freshness with which Bell engages the issues that separate communitarians and liberals.' Times Literary Supplement `The author deserves to be commended for his originality and his courage in opting for this format and anyone who wishes to learn more about communitarianism really ought to look at this book and judge for themselves whether its approach suits them.' Talking Politics

Introductionp. 1
In Defence of the Dialogue Formp. 21
Act I: A Communitarian Critique of Liberal Foundationsp. 24
Act II: Political Theorizing as the Interpretation of a Community's Shared Understandingsp. 55
Act III: A Communitarian Moral Vision and Some Political Consequencesp. 90
Act IV: On the Importance of the Nationp. 124
Act V: A Discussion about the Value of Language-Based Communities, the Gay Community, and the Familyp. 156
Appendix 1: Some Questions about Justice and Communityp. 208
Appendix 2: A Replyp. 222
Bibliographyp. 237
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780198279228
ISBN-10: 0198279221
Audience: Professional
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 272
Published: 1st October 1994
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 21.59 x 13.97  x 1.55
Weight (kg): 0.36