Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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A philosophy associated with thinkers such as Burke and Rousseau, which opposes the individualism of liberal political theory embodied in such thinkers as Hobbes and Locke. Whereas liberals stress the primacy of the "unencumbered" self and individual rights, communitarians see individual identity as socially embedded and stress responsibility for the common good. Habits of the Heart (1985), by Robert Bellah and his colleagues, is an exemplary sociological study based on communitarian premises. Walzer (1990:6) notes that historically the communitarian critique of liberalism has been "like the pleating of trousers: transient but certain to return." Led by the George Washington University sociologist Amitai Etzioni, communitarianism was formally organized as the "Communitarian Network" in 1990 with the goal of shoring up the moral, social, and political environments of America by strengthening the family, putting character building at the center of schools, and rebuilding local communities.

David Yamane


R. Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985)

A. Etzioni, The Spirit of Community (New York: Touchstone, 1994)

M. Walzer, "The Communitarian Critique of Liberalism," Political Theory 18(1990): 6-23.

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