The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities, and the Communitarian Agenda

The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities, and the Communitarian Agenda

by Amitai Etzioni
     
 

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America needs to move from me to we.
 
In The Spirit of Community, renowned professor and former White House Fellow Amitai Etzioni, the founder of the Communitarian movement, lays out a blueprint for how in the 1990s Americans can move forward—together.
 
The Spirit of Community calls for a reawakening of our

Overview

America needs to move from me to we.
 
In The Spirit of Community, renowned professor and former White House Fellow Amitai Etzioni, the founder of the Communitarian movement, lays out a blueprint for how in the 1990s Americans can move forward—together.
 
The Spirit of Community calls for a reawakening of our allegiance to the shared values and institutions that sustain us—from our marriages and families to our schools and our neighborhoods, and extending to our nation itself. In proposing a new balance between our rights as individuals and our social responsibilities, this controversial, groundbreaking book articulates the emerging social attitudes of the nineties.
 
We have many rights as individuals, Etzioni declares, but we have responsibilities to our communities, too. The right to be tried before a jury of our peers, for instance, is connected to our willingness to serve on one. We as a nation have in recent years forgotten such basic truths of our democratic social contract. And what we need now is a revival of the idea that small sacrifices by individuals can create large benefits for all of us.
 
We must have the moral responsibility to respect our families and fight to preserve them, to value our children and their futures, and to be willing to espouse and teach commonly held moral values. Etzioni faces the tough issues that arise when the rights of individuals are weighed against those of the community, from free speech versus restrictions on hate speech to the right of police to conduct random checks of motorists’ sobriety, from drug and HIV testing to mandatory national service.
 
A movement that has already attracted the attention of policymakers as varied as Al Gore, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jack Kemp, and Henry Cisneros, Communitarianism provides a call to action and a perceptive analysis of American politics and society today. And The Spirit of Community is vital reading for any American who is engaged with the future of the country in the next decade.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arguing that Americans must assume responsibilities commensurate with their rights, Etzioni, a founder of the Responsive Community movement, accessibly describes the movement's tenets of societal reconstruction. Communitarians, he avers, are neither majoritarians nor puritans, but believe that societal morality must be shored up through policies that strengthen child care, discourage divorce, promote moral education in schools and require high school graduates to perform national service. He calls for local communities to foster volunteerism and for a balance between self-help and social justice. Criticizing libertarians, Etzioni suggests moderate restraints on privacy like sobriety checkpoints and greater testing for HIV. To combat hate speech, he encourages not censorship but more speech. Perhaps least controversial is his Naderesque advocacy of public financing of elections, a ban on PACs and free broadcast time for candidates. Etzioni slights the question of income redistribution and the influence of pop culture, but his manifesto is a worthy starting point for debate. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Etzioni, who has acquired an international reputation for his advocacy of the ``communitarian'' point of view, defines communitarianism as a movement designed to ``bring about the changes in values, habits, and public policies that will allow us to do for society what the environmental movement seeks to do for nature: to safeguard and enhance our future.'' In this book, he sets forth an agenda for correcting the ``imbalance'' between rights and responsibilities in American society. His agenda is focused in particular on rebuilding families and schools to instill in our citizens a sense of responsibility to the interests of the community as a whole. While many of Etzioni's recommendations are grounded in common sense, his book fails to grapple with the many important philosophical issues raised by his dual critique of liberalism and conservatism. A more satisfying study from a similar perspective is Philip Selznick's The Moral Commonwealth ( LJ 10/1/92). Recommended for larger libraries.-- Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307830494
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
04/03/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
323
File size:
3 MB

Meet the Author

AMITAI ETZIONI is a professor at George Washington University, a former White House adviser, and the author of ten previous books on social policy and philosophy, including Capitol Corruption and The Moral Dilemma. He is a founding editor of the Communitarian quarterly, The Responsive Community.

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