A Good Communitarian Is Hard to Find

"Never say No when the world says Aye."
—E.B. Browning

This thoughtful and provocative analysis of the new communitarianism can profitably be viewed as a case study in how liberalism, not unlike scheming alien forces in sci-fi movies, assumes new and attractive forms to beguile the unwary. Put otherwise, the liberalism of the New Deal or of the Great Society was simple and straightforward with regard to both its purposes and methods: a meat-and-potatoes liberalism unconcerned with "authenticity," "cultural awareness," "multilogues," or any of the various adornments of new communitarian thought that mask its agenda.

Frohnen's unmasking is important, and long overdue. A traditional, more sensible understanding of community, one that takes its bearings from Tocqueville, has long been central to conservatism. As a consequence, certain of the newer communitarians, by simply calling themselves communitarians, have found a receptive audience in certain conservative circles. (Amitai Etzioni, for instance, has found his way into National Review and The Economist.) Even the rhetoric of acknowledged conservative leaders is unmistakably inspired by the writings of Mary Ann Gordon, William Galston, and Robert Bellah. But, as Frohnen's analysis makes abundantly clear, the substance and approach of new communitarian thought...

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