The Roots of Communitarian Ideas

  • Henry TamEmail author


In this chapter, the author distinguishes communitarian ideas with reference to five core formulations that gave rise to the ‘communitarian’ label, and traces their historical roots back to the Golden Rule of reciprocity that featured in all ancient civilisations. The chapter gives an outline of those formulations by Owenite thinkers; the communitarian critics of Rawls; the advocates for communitarian social markets; the liberal communitarian exponents of inclusive public policies; and the progressive communitarian synthesis that highlights the principles of mutual responsibility, cooperative enquiry, and citizen participation. On this basis, he sifts out misleading conceptions of ‘communitarian’ thinking, and commences his examination of communitarianism with a look at the germinal debates that took place amongst thinkers in ancient Greece and China over the proper direction for the development of community life.


  1. Avineri, S., & de-Shalit, A. (Eds.). (1992). Communitarianism and Individualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, D. (1993). Communitarianism and Its Critics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bellah, R. (1996, Winter). Community Properly Understood. Responsive Community, 6(1), 49–54.Google Scholar
  4. Bellah, R., Madsen, R., Tipton, S., Sullivan, W., & Swidler, A. (1991). The Good Society. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  5. Bellah, R., & Sullivan, W. (2001). Cultural Resources for a Progressive Alternative. In Tam (2001).Google Scholar
  6. Bestor, A. E. (1950). Backwoods Utopias: The Sectarian and Owenite Phases of Communitarian Socialism in America, 1663–1829. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press.Google Scholar
  7. Boswell, J. (1990). Community and the Economy: The Theory of Public Co-operation. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Boswell, J., & Tam, H. (2013). Communitarianism Revisited. Question the Powerful.
  9. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (2011). A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Broadie, S. (1991). Ethics with Aristotle. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Chan, W. T. (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Claeys, G. (1989). Citizens and Saints: Politics and Anti-politics in Early British Socialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Confucius. (1995). The Analects (W. E. Soothill, Trans.). New York: Dover Publications.Google Scholar
  14. Cooper, J. M. (1986). Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Coutinho, S. (2013). An Introduction to Daoist Philosophies. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Derber, C. (1994, Fall). Communitarian Economics: Criticisms and Suggestions from the Left. The Responsive Community, 4(4), 29–42.Google Scholar
  17. Derber, C. (1995). What’s Left? Radical Politics in the Postcommunist Era. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.Google Scholar
  18. Etzioni, A. (1998). The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a New Democratic Society. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  19. Etzioni, A. (2003). My Brother’s Keeper. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  20. Etzioni, A. (2018). Happiness Is the Wrong Metric: A Liberal Communitarian Response to Populism. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Etzioni, A., Volmert, A., & Rothschild, E. (Eds.). (2004). The Communitarian Reader: Beyond the Essentials. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  22. Farrar, C. (1988). The Origins of Democratic Thinking. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ferenstein, G. (2013). Obama’s Shift Toward Communitarianism. Daily Beast.
  24. Frazer, E. (1999). The Problems of Communitarian Politics: Unity and Conflict. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Frazer, E., & Lacey, N. (1993). The Politics of Community: A Feminist Critique of the Liberal-Communitarian Debate. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.Google Scholar
  26. Frohnen, B. (1995). The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  27. Galston, W. A. (1991). Liberal Purposes: Goods, Virtues, and Diversity in the Liberal State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gove, M. (2017, April 21). Now We’ll Find Out What Mayism Stands For. The Times.Google Scholar
  29. Gutmann, A. (1985, Summer). Communitarian Critics of Liberalism. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 14(3), 308–322.Google Scholar
  30. Hale, S. (2006). Blair’s Community: Communitarian Thought and New Labour. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Harrison, J. F. C. (1969). Robert Owen and the Owenites in Britain and America: The Quest for the New Moral World. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  32. Holyoake, G. J. (2017). The History of the Rochdale Pioneers. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Inamura, K. (2015). Justice and Reciprocity in Aristotle’s Political Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jha, A., & LaSalle, M. (2012). Cooperative Membership Hits 1 Billion Worldwide. Coop News.
  35. Kainz, H. P. (1988). Ethics in Context. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kenny, S., Taylor, M., Onyx, J., & Mayo, M. (2015). Challenging the Third Sector: Global Prospects for Active Citizenship. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kline, T. C., & Ivanhoe, P. J. (Eds.). (2000). Virtue, Nature and Moral Agency in the Xunzi. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
  38. Long, A. A., & Sedley, D. N. (1987). The Hellenistic Philosophers: Volume 1, Translations of the Principal Sources, with Philosophical Commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After Virtue. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  40. MacIntyre, A. (1988). Whose Justice? Which Rationality. London: Duckworth.Google Scholar
  41. Marshall, W. (2012, Summer). The Forgotten Communitarian: Why Are Bill Clinton’s Contributions to Restoring the Language of Civic Obligation so Regularly and Casually Overlooked? A Response to James T. Kloppenberg. Democracy (25).
  42. Mei, Y. P. (1929). The Ethical and Political Works of Motse. London: Arthur Probsthain.Google Scholar
  43. Mencius. (1970). Mencius (D. C. Lau, Trans.) London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  44. Milbank, D. (2001, February 1). Needed: Catchword for Bush Ideology. The Washington Post.
  45. Miller, D. (1989). Market, State and Community: Theoretical Foundations of Market Socialism. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  46. Mulhall, S., & Swift, A. (1992). Liberals & Communitarians. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Neusner, J., & Chilton, B. (Eds.). (2008). The Golden Rule: The Ethics of Reciprocity in World Religions. London: Continuum International Publishing.Google Scholar
  48. Ostrom, E. (1993, Summer). A Communitarian Approach to Local Governance. National Civic Review, 82(3), 226–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Owen, R. (1991 Edition of 1813/1814 Original). A New View of Society and Other Writings. London: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  50. Phillips, D. L. (1993). Looking Backward: A Critical Appraisal of Communitarian Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Reay, D., Crozier, G., James, D., Hollingworth, S., Williams, K., Jamieson, F., & Beedell, P. (2008). Re-invigorating Democracy?: White Middle Class Identities and Comprehensive Schooling. The Sociological Review, 56(2), 238–255.Google Scholar
  52. Riasanovsky, N. V. (1970). The Teaching of Charles Fourier. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  53. Sandbach, F. H. (1989). The Stoics. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.Google Scholar
  54. Sandel, M. (1982). Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Schofield, M. (2006). Plato: Political Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Selznick, P. (1992). The Moral Commonwealth. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  57. Selznick, P. (2002). The Communitarian Persuasion. Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press.Google Scholar
  58. Spragens, T. A. (1990). Reason and Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Spragens, T. A. (1995). Communitarian Liberalism. In A. Etzioni (Ed.), New Communitarian Thinking. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.Google Scholar
  60. Spragens, T. A. (2009). Getting the Left Right: The Transformation, Decline, and Reformation of American Liberalism. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.Google Scholar
  61. Tam, H. (1995). Communitarianism & the Co-operative Movement. The Co-op Commonweal (2).Google Scholar
  62. Tam, H. (1998). Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics and Citizenship. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tam, H. (Ed.). (2001). Progressive Politics in the Global Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  64. Tam, H. (2018). What Should Citizens Believe? Sheffield: Citizen Network.Google Scholar
  65. Taylor, C. (1985). Philosophical Papers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Vlastos, G. (1991). Socrates. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Walzer, M. (1983). Spheres of Justice. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  69. Walzer, M. (1987). Interpretation and Social Criticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Williams, Z. (2017, June 1). Corbyn Gained an Edge in This Debate, Even If He Hasn’t Forged an Alliance. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  71. Yao, X. (2000). An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zhuangzi. (1996). The Book of Chuang Tzu (M. Palmer, Trans.) London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

Personalised recommendations