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Communitarianism: A Liberal Response Essay

1645 words - 7 pages

“The only way to identify the requirements of justice is to see how each particular community understands the value of social goods”(Kymlicka 211). This is the approach to justice from the communitarian. Communitarianism in the last few decades has sparked in popularity among political philosophers. Communitarians believe that political theories, such as classic liberalism, leaves out the importance and significance of the community. The communitarian respects and upholds social practices and traditions as a way of governing, and as a way of justice. Because of the importance of the cultural aspect, this political current is thought of as a cultural relativist approach to justice. The communitarian does not accept the notion of being able to detach the self from roles of society. While communitarianism shows a great respect for cultural practices and tradition, it is an incomplete theory on the notion of being able to protect individual citizens from social institutions, like the community itself.
For the communitarian, the liberal approach is inadequate because of its insistence on a universal and ahistorical approach to justice. According to Waltzer, there is no way to step outside history or culture(211). People, as much as they would like to believe otherwise, are bound, and somewhat controlled by society's norms and behaviours. For the communitarian, there is no way to detach people from the social realm because it is apart of who we are as humans. We are shaped by the events of history, and shown how to behave within our culture. There is no way to externalize ourselves from the community because of how embedded it is in our psyche(221). With this notion, if a community can have a shared understanding of what the common good is, then there is no reason to have a theory of justice. The shared understanding within the community is the cultural approach rather than the philosophical argument approach to justice. This has an attractive view in a few ways. First, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, when people were trying to break free of oppression from monarchies, the classical political currents of thought such as liberalism, socialism, conservatism, nationalism, and republicanism were created(208). Now, in the twenty first century, different beliefs and historical events have shaped humans in different and unique ways. With a communitarian way of thinking, creating a set of rights and ideals in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, to be universal and ahistorical is ridiculous. Secondly, our world is home to thousands or different cultures and ways of thinking. The view of justice is very different in countries all over the world compared to the western view. Although the west is powerful, it is not up to us to provide the world with what we think is right and wrong. Even if we do not realize, the way we speak, think, and act are all a reflection of our culture; therefore, Michael Waltzer, a communitarian, believes that “this quest...

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