“Communitarianism” and Patriotism

  • Vicki A. Spencer
Living reference work entry


This chapter examines the relationship between patriotism and communitarian thought in the 1980s with a specific focus on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre and Charles Taylor. Patriotism is not a forgone conclusion of communitarian commitments with Michael Walzer instead advocating a liberal neutral state in the case of the United States. Nonetheless, there is a strong correlation between the priority placed on the importance of cultural traditions and belonging, and the advocacy of greater communal solidarity and collective goals in the work of MacIntyre and Taylor that is equally evident in Michael Sandel’s critique of John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971). Despite their common rejection of the communitarian label, these thinkers share a conception of the self as situated in its social relations so the question of identity is at the forefront of their concerns.

But little agreement exists among these thinkers about the kind of communal identification we ought to adopt, for patriotism is no more a distinct ideology than nationalism with the two terms becoming virtually synonymous in modern political discourse. Like Sandel, both MacIntyre and Taylor criticize the liberal neutral state that is characterized by citizens joining together as self-seeking maximizers to ensure the provision of collective goods that serve their individual interests. MacIntyre’s substantive patriotism that legitimates the patriot’s support for nonliberal nations differs significantly, however, from the republican patriotism, deep diversity, and cosmopolitan outlook that Taylor advocates in the interest of freedom and participatory self-rule.


Belonging Communitarianism Community Cosmopolitanism Culture Diversity Ethnic nationalism Embedded self Identity Language MacIntyre, Alasdair Moderate patriotism Nationalism Quebec Republican patriotism Substantive patriotism Taylor, Charles Tradition Sandel, Michael Walzer, Michael 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PoliticsUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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