Friday, February 06, 2004

Roger Scruton on Communitarianism

Conservatives would agree with the burden of Etzioni's message. But they would point out that much of the damage to the sense of community in America has issued from liberal reforms that Etzioni and his followers seem to endorse. Communitarians regard sexual conduct as a private matter and liberal legislation on such matters as essential. They are "caring" people who do not wish to disturb or interfere with anybody's chosen life-style or to take an "authoritarian" attitude toward the problems that freedom creates. Although they are wary of the attitude that places me and my wants at the center of the universe and regards others in terms of their potential contribution to my own fulfillment, they are equally wary of the spirit of community as it tends to show itself in ordinary people. For the spirit of community is vigilant. It stands in judgment over the acts and omissions of individuals and seeks to impose a common morality, a common culture, and a common respect for basic social norms. Human beings may need to live in communities, but there is a cost attached to doing so--a cost that the modern liberal is not always prepared to pay.

Communitarian Dreams

Of course, the Constitution doesn't have to be a liberal fiefdom. But it becomes so just as soon as its interpretation is detached from the tacit endorsement of the community that first invented it. Judges like Robert Bork, who interpret the Constitution in terms of the civic aspirations of the Founding Fathers, restore it to its true place, as the foundation of American society. Such judges give to communities their true and deserved place in our scheme of things. And that is why every effort is made to keep them out of the Supreme Court by those for whom the purpose of the Constitution is not to safeguard the inherited community but to protect the modern urban solipsist.

Community, Yes, But Whose? A Reply

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