Sunday, November 18, 2007

What is Communitarianism?

Someone recently commented on a post of mine and inquired on my definition of communitarianism, a political ideology with which I have identified myself:

I would be interested in knowing how you do define "communitarianism", since there seem to be a lot of very strange definitions of it floating about. For what it's worth, you can see what I think it means here Notes from underground: Search results for communitarianism and hereLove is the measure: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker | Khanya

To be sure, communitarianism has been defined in various ways. As I wrote in that post, I use the term to describe “a political ideology that’s at once economically progressive and socially conservative." This is the meaning I was first introduced to. Communitarianism, so defined, is thus similar to Christian democracy, or what some have called “progressive conservatism”. It is tempting to describe my worldview as “Amiricism” since it doesn’t fit neatly into any extant ideological box (then again, the free-thinker’s ideology rarely does). But that would make me look like a narcissist.

Perhaps my usage of communitarianism diverges from that of my predecessors (although it’s difficult to tell in the case of Dorothy Day - her particular use of the term, at least in the quoted excerpt, is quite vague), much like other ideological terms (e.g., “liberal” or “libertarian”) have considerably changed in meaning over time. Today, efforts are underway to redefine British conservatism to make it more accepting of same-sex marriage rights. As Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently put it, “I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.’’

Of course, one shouldn’t unilaterally redefine an ideology just for the fun of it. That said, what Chomsky says of anarchism is true of communitarianism: nobody owns the term.