Communitarianism is a movement, founded by Amitai Etzioni in 1991, whose adherents are united in the belief that the West must balance their passion for individualism with a new sense of social responsibility. Communitarians call for a re-awakening of civic pride and a new awareness of the values and institutions which help sustain us through the uncertainties of the modern world - marriage, schools, the family, neighbourhoods and religious groups.
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Published in this country for the first time, Amitai Etzioni's American bestseller, 'The Spirit of Community', argues that we in the West balance our passion for individualism with a new sense of social responsibility. Already exerting huge influence on all three British political parties, Etzioni's Communitarianism, described for the first time in this book, is shaping up to be the most influential political idea of the decade – and beyond.
"Why does Bill Clinton lament a 'stunning and simultaneous breakdown of community, family and work, the heart and soul of civilised society'? Why does Tony Blair speak emotionally of community as 'what we share; it means working together'? And why does John Major urge his fellow countrymen to 'come with us as partners as we spread the message of social responsibility'?… It does appear that leading politicians from across the ideological spectrum have fallen under the sway of a new group of social critics known as 'communitarians', led by Amitai Etzioni, professor of sociology at George Washington University… 'The Spirit of Community' is important because, although written primarily for a popular audience, it is the first systematic treatment of the ideas and policies animating the communitarian movement… Most important, and this may be the most original part of the book, Etzioni formulates several criteria that ought to inform social policies that suspend or violate rights in the name of social responsibilities.
DANIEL BELL, 'Times Literary Supplement'
"The name of Amitai Etzioni is not widely known on this side of the Atlantic. It should be. Etzioni… is one of the most unusual social science academics who actually speaks in plain language… This is because he does not fudge the issues. His theory builds upwards from the reality of everyday experience. As a result, his message is difficult and controversial. It challenges some powerfully entrenched interests. Yet 'The Spirit of Community' has hit a nerve because the book responds to a profound and urgent longing; it appears to offer a way out of the terrible political impasse – the sense that both Left and Right have failed to come up with the answers, the dangerous malaise that has gripped the Western democracies where the people have become so alienated from the whole political process."
MELANIE PHILIPS, 'Observer'
Amitai Etzioni is professor of sociology at George Washington University.
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