All you need to know about communitarianism


It is often said that man is a social animal. In other words, man needs to associate with other fellow beings to survive. Since time immemorial, man has lived in communities. These communities have specific rules and regulations. Men as social beings are guided by these implied rules and regulations of the communities and societies. Social orders, cultural beliefs, and religious faiths often played crucial roles in developing these communities. However, even within this integration, he should be able to nurture his individualistic thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and ideologies. Some of the unique features of communitarian theories are as follows:

Developing an association with society and the community

Social scientists believe that the primary building block of a community is a family. This is the first place where a man learns to commune with other fellow beings. Family members can belong to different age groups and even follow different religious faiths. Thus, man learns to communicate with other members of his family from an early age. This communication is the foundation of a community. 

Similarly, as he grows up, he learns to communicate with other members of the community. Thus, a man's identity is incomplete unless he can say that he belongs to a community. However, there is a paradox that is embedded in the communitarian theory. Communitarian theorists believe that even when man associates with society and community, he does not do so by giving up his individualism. Communitarians do not reject individualism. In other words, they believe that even while associating and living harmoniously within a community, man does not lose his ideal and beliefs. Communitarians believe that man should not be isolated, but he should be well-integrated with society. Societal norms can help mold personal thought processes and ideologies.

Nurturing of individual thoughts and ideologies

The communitarian theory nurtures the concept following personal passions and ideologies even while staying within the community. Say, for instance, a person is passionate about a particular religious faith but is born into a family that follows a different religion. In such a situation, he should be allowed to follow the religion of his choice. He should be able to do so without facing any persecution. He should not be discriminated against by his family members and the community as a whole. The communitarian theory is based on the idea of freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Social scientists believe that the basis of human rights lies in the fact that all men are born equal and are born free. Thus, he should be allowed to express his thoughts and beliefs without any fear of persecution. However, faith beliefs and ideologies of a single person should not disturb the foundation and framework of the community. In other words, the doctrines of an individual should not be imposed on other members of the community. The communitarian philosophy believes in nurturing the individual as an essential part of societal norms. The individual must rise above the community to establish his individuality. But while doing so, he cannot become tyrannical and expect other members of the community to follow him. All members of the community should be allowed to pursue their individual choices and desires, staying well-integrated with society.

Communitarian ideology as a critique of political liberalism

The notion of political liberalism, as established by John Rawls, seeks to establish each human being as a separate individual. Communitarian theorists much critiqued this atomistic representation of human beings. Rawls tried to separate man from the community. They believe that though man can pursue his ideologies, he cannot do so by stepping out of his community. The city provides man with both shelter and security. If the man is considered to be isolated from society, then it breaks the very structure of the community itself. Political liberalism failed to understand the complicated relationship between man and the community. For example, if a man follows a non-conventional profession, which is unusual but not illegal, then society may perceive it as an anomaly. However, it is the community again that will support the particular passion for the individual. Thus, though society might be critical initially, yet it cannot reject the individual as his work does not disturb the foundation and framework of the community. However, if a person is considered to be completely isolated, then approval or disapproval of the community does not matter. This might result in the person losing interest in pursuing his passion. The importance of the activity of the person will lose its social context. Thus, whether society approves or disapproves of something, these are essential to help the community progress. A completely individualistic society often stagnates as a man loses the interest to aim for perfection since there is no one to approve or disapprove of his work.

Rejecting social norms

Communitarian theorists do not suggest that man should follow the societal norms without questioning their utility and application. Instead, they indicate that nurturing individuality means rejection of social norms. If a particular model or rule is detrimental for the overall health of the community, then it should be rejected. The rejection can also be done based on the ideological differences of a single person. Communitarians seek to raise communication between individuals who live and work in the same place. In other words, they try to strengthen and increase what is commonly known as 'social capital.' This reinforces the foundation of the community. If, while improving communication between individuals, it becomes essential to reject a pre-existing norm, then communitarians believe that it should be done immediately. This will only strengthen the foundation of the community and improve human understanding and association. 

Thus, communitarians consider human beings as a part of an ever-changing society. They do not consider human beings only as individualistic entities. It is the amalgamation of these individualistic entities that form a community. Therefore, man must be well-integrated with society. Hence, the success of a community lies in letting a man pursue his passions while staying well-integrated with the community.  

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