Under communitarianism (from Latin communitas, community) refers to a political philosophy that emphasizes the responsibility of the individual to his environment and the social role of the family. Communitarianism developed around 1980 as a critical reaction to the philosophy of John Rawls in the USA. The main representatives are, among others, Alasdair MacIntyre, Michael Walzer, Benjamin R. Barber, Charles Taylor and Amitai Etzioni.


In 1982 Michael Sandel's book Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. In it Sandel is critically an important work of political theory in the 20th century apart, the theory of justice of John Rawls from the year 1971. In his work, Rawls attempts from a liberal point of view, to formulate universally valid principles of justice and their validity by means of the theory of the social contract - based on the individual reason of free and equal people and the general consent ability - to justify. The debate between liberals and communitarians was the main discourse of the 1970s and 1980s, the Anglo-American political theory.

The communitarians are of the opposite opinion here; their acceptance is that just an embedded in a linguistic, ethnic, cultural, religious or otherwise defined community man is able to decide on the principles of justice. In the Community dominate certain commonly shared values ​​and morals and traditions. Only on the basis of shared values ​​, especially on the basis of a common conception of the good can be negotiated useful on the principles of justice. Although communitarians emphasize the dependence of the individual from the community, which is in sharp contrast to certain liberal views that consider the human being as an independent individual. This includes but his individuality and be independent and properly reasoned judgments not enough. It would be better, therefore, to consider man as a social individual. Especially Sandel, Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre have identified this. Communitarianism in favor of the free development of the individual, as long as it is socially acceptable. In liberalism, in the free development of the individual is often seen as more important - it should be restricted only for very important reasons.

Critique of liberalism

" Communitarianism diagnosed within the meaning of postmodernism is a crisis in modern societies ( desolidarization; decline in values ​​, legitimacy, identity and sense of crisis ), the cause of which he makes a radical, funded by the ideology of neo-liberalism individualism to forgo the need to return to significance and value of community (community) to demand. "

Communitarianism conceives man as a social being, which is necessary influenced by culture and tradition of his community. Liberalism is valid under the communitarians as self-destructive. The economic utility maximization, self-realization and an over-emphasis of the individual, which is at the expense of the common good, are characteristic of liberalism. Liberalism is therefore accused that he thereby undermines the common foundations of its own culture. However, these have in turn allows only democracy and freedom.

The communitarians see in liberalism and the associated " atomized society," the risk that the market takes power and reigns.

Of contrast, communitarians a public welfare policy. For this, they call for more civic engagement, strengthening civil society and a return to civic virtues of republicanism. As a means to achieve these goals they see this as the decentralization of government functions to. This is to local communities, direct democracy and a stronger civic education promote.

Proposals of communitarianism

The origin of the ongoing individualization see the communitarians in the onset of the 20th century industrial capitalism. Nor were incorporated in the 18th and 19th centuries, individual rights in a network of family, community and faith community, it was shifted the social balance in favor of economic utility maximization in the context of industrial capitalism. Restrictions of morality and religion lost more and more important. The result was that the people are becoming more retired to the privacy and civil commitment to a great extent lost. At the same time thereby established a bureaucratic existence and welfare state, which greatly restricts the initiative of individuals.

Robert N. Bellah is therefore as two strategies to address this - here in American society - combat. Firstly, to old forms of communities are revitalized. To achieve this, he wants to draw on traditions, customs and religious and civil communities. He argues that this "social habits" Community action in the United States have influenced for a long time so-called.

Secondly, they Bellah to the creation of new forms of community. So Bellah believes when old forms of communities were destroyed and can not be revived, new forms of community must be created. From neighborhood structures and interpersonal friendships new community structures are to be built. The objective Bellah is the restoration of a "good society ". In this " good society " to keep individualism and community spirit in balance.

Similar to the views Bellah is that philosophical brand of American communitarianism, which " mainly criticized the supposedly atomized list of individualism concept ". She argued that the " may develop modern liberal self only in a social context ."

The " Good " in front of the right people is therefore a guiding principle of the communitarians. The " Good " describes the commonly shared beliefs and values ​​of a community. In addition, every philosophy is criticized that only sees the individual as a subject of rights. The reason given is that " rights are only in social practice their anchoring ".

The communitarians it is all about, in the company ( re-) establish a balance. The goal is an active society of free and equal citizens. Social justice and community-based responsibility play an essential role. To achieve a "good society " is the rejection of statism, ie, the departure from the service and the welfare state, is necessary. According to the communitarians promotes statism that social and economic involvement decreases or is eliminated. Further, the administrative- bureaucratic system helps to break down with and between human virtues.

However, Communitarianism did not demand the disestablishment of all areas. To him, it is all about, to stop the citizens to resort to old traditions. This means, for example, self-help, so the help of family, neighborhood and community. Not with the state's welfare offer should help, but the " self-healing powers of the diverse communities and associations of citizens". " What can be done in the family, should not be entrusted to an intermediate group. What can be done at the local level, should not be delegated to the state or federal level. "

Thus the communitarism aims at a middle or an intermediate member. So should act between state and individual communities, groups and associations as an intermediary. This intermediary is the foundation for an active civil society. The intermediate member connecting social and moral foundations and makes them available. The individual gets by backing and is socially " secure ".

Another guiding principle of communitarians is that each member of a community all in this community owes something and vice versa. So it is not surprising that communitarianism promoted a balance between individual rights and social responsibilities. Social justice is a virtue for the communitarians and justified by the simple motto, " none of us is an island ."

The communitarian theory neglects the full support of the state and prioritized instead help themselves using a pronounced self-organization among citizens. To realize this goal, beat the theorists of communitarianism ' before, prepare citizens in schools, universities and kindergartens on the self-organization. Finally, one can say that communitarianism wants to convey the idea that " a polity is ultimately supported by the commitment of its citizens to public affairs."

Forms of communitarianism

Religious Counterculture

Under " communitarians " were understood in the U.S., especially religious groups, sects militaristic and municipalities, the beginning of the 19th century so-called " enclaves of difference" were formed. As an example here would be the Oneida Commune of John H. Noyes mentioned.

In today's time, find their ideological successors about the New Age movement back or in start-ups of new religious groups such as the neo- sannyas movement by the Indian Osho, who was also known as " Bhagwan " in the West.


Republicanism uses in his theory on the ideas of the Greek polis and the Roman Republic. The Greek Polis and republican Rome were characterized by a free, in the public interest verpflichtetes community that was based on civic virtue and patriotism essentially.

Republicanism is dominated by two traditions: the one in the continental European tradition with the identitarian democracy Rousseau, on the other, as Anglo-Saxon or Atlantic republicanism. The continental European republicanism, for the creation and history of the United States of significance.

Republicanism is today releasing all to ensuring the common good to provide higher than the private interests. Through political education is to increase the participation of citizens in political decisions and commitment to social concerns are aroused.

In the U.S. republicanism experienced in the recent past a renaissance. However, this new republicanism is not limited only to the history of ideas. In several recent work on democratic theory it is clear that " Republican ", communalist and grassroots accents gaining in importance.

" The participation of citizens in the political process is the republican sense of community to consolidate (or donate ) - the sharing of a common cultural tradition is to promote participation (or only allow ) ". Michael Sandel's idea of ​​republicanism based contrast strongly to moral and political core values ​​of the community and to notions of "the good life".

At the new republicanism is criticized, for example, that minority rights can be jeopardized by the consensus of the majority. Another point of criticism is that the public policy formation could involve the risk to an " educational dictatorship " to be.

Communitarianism in Social Sciences

In the social sciences, the communitarianism has developed mainly from the criticism of the " Theory of Justice" John Rawls and the " Rational Choice Theory". Two theories is first together, that man must solve as person acting by his socio - cultural background. In John Rawls ' theory that serves as a prerequisite to express generalized assumptions about a just society. According to the " Rational Choice Theory" only rational choice is possible in this way. The rational choice is made only after the " advantage Thoughts," the goal is to " maximize profit ".

The danger here would be that individuals would join mainly interest- bound communities that arise directly from their interest- bound action. In exchange, but no social obligations to the communities could be developed in which the individual was born. So, for example, family, neighborhood, ethnic group or nation.

The social sciences strive today considering the communitarian idea of ​​the "formal rationality differentiated system of modern societies (...) to connect with their institutional and cultural context to understand from this and criticize from this local context ".

Communitarianism as a social movement

In the U.S., communitarianism also occurs as a social movement. It invites practical way the " domestication of egoism principle in the economy and society." This fight should be supported " by a newly to be justified to public morals and strengthening local community building ." The Kommunitarimus as a social movement committed to an alternative conception of political order. It acts as a middle way between laissez- faire liberalism and socialism etatistischem.

In Germany, especially Axel Honneth has dealt with the communitarianism. Richard David Precht also refers in his reflections on the transformation of politics and economy and to curb the egoism principle to the communitarianism.


Communitarianism is in the tradition of republicanism, but not the places the emphasis on the community, but on the political participation.

Striking is the proximity to the analyzes of Ferdinand Tönnies ( Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, 1887). While Ferdinand Tönnies, however, an inevitable development of the community (community) to Gesellschaft ( society ) accounted for (Spirit of Modern Times, 1935), go modern communitarians such as Amitai Etzioni of an exactly opposite trend from (more community, less society) and deem it desirable.

Communitarianism as a political concept in France

In the political debate in France, the word means something else. He describes a political setting that the rights of a language ( Corsican, Breton, Alsatian, Catalans, Basques ), ethnic ( Black, North Africans ) or religious (Catholic, Jewish, Muslim ) community ( communauté ) to the nation and the citizens as a whole highlights. These include demands for state support of minority languages ​​such as Corsican, Catalan or Breton or the desire to Muslim students and teachers to allow the wearing of headscarves in public schools. This is in the French political culture of universalisme républicain that emphasizes in the Jacobin tradition of national sovereignty, the indivisibility of the Republic and the separation of church and state ( secularism ) and the assimilation of immigrants to the national culture demanded a negative connotation. This tradition is upheld mainly by Gaullist parties like the UMP, but also of left-wing parties. Therefore, the term is mainly used communautarisme by his opponents to devalue political opinions and demands. Thus, Pierre -André Taguieff stated: " Communitarianism is mainly a word for several decades usually works in French political discourse as an operator of delegitimization " and " Communitarianism is defined by his critics as a socio- political project of the members group defined by the standards, which are believed that they were in this group own, is defined, this community would like to arrange to brief the views, the beliefs, the behaviors to control that which in principle belong to that community. "


( Thinkers who are attributed to the communitarianism, even if they do - such as Charles Taylor - Do not call communitarians ).

  • Benjamin Barber
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alasdair MacIntyre
  • Robert Putnam
  • Michael Sandel
  • Charles Taylor
  • Michael Walzer