The economic order is determined by the image of man, that is adhered to. Since socialism was discredited, liberalism has become universally dominant. However, communitarianism is an alternative. The present column describes communitarianism, as well as a variant, multiculturalism. The relation with marxism is also discussed. Amitai Etzioni is an important ideologist of communitarianism. He introduces the I&We model, and the new Golden Rule. Pieter Hilhorst suggests ideas for its practical implementation.
Soon after the start of the Gazette the first columns about human nature were published. There notably the liberal and Leninist views are compared. It is well known, that in essence liberalism amounts to individualism. The Leninist morals represent various doctrines, that stress the social character of man. In a recent column it has been explained, that the morals determine the degree of autonomy of the citizens within their state. On reflection, Leninism is certainly not the most important example of collectivism. Notably the religious dogma's are better thought out, and thus more sound. Therefore, the present column takes a wider view on the controversy between individualism and collectivism. In this analysis the collective dogma's are taken together in the term communitarianism.
For a better understanding of the various dogma's it is instructive to consider the three institutional bodies, that control the human life. They are the society, the economy, and the state. A dogma is characterized by the place, that it chooses within this institutional triangle. A hallmark of communitarianism is, that it gives the highest priority to the collective morals. Since the morals are borne by the society, communitarianism notably studies the social order. Here the unit of all activities is the community, which your columnist translates as circle, following protestant moral philosophers1.
Although in philosophy and sociology the communitarianism has not become popular, yet it has a political significance. It inspired both the New Democrats under Clinton and New Labour under Blair. Perhaps the most important political ideologist of communitarianism is Amitai Etioni. His work provides the inspiration for this column.
The modern communitarianism dates from the eighties of the last century, as a reaction to liberalism2. Nowadays at least in the west liberalism has become so popular, that communitarianism can merely express nuances. Nevertheless, liberalism and communitarianism do represent competing paradigma's. The present paragraph aims to sketch the most important differences. First, several important principles of liberalism will be formulated. Next, the various objections by communitarians will be explained.
Liberalism formulates principles with a universal validity3. This can be called a deductive approach. The society consists of individuals, who base their decisions on their personal interests. Everybody can execute his own life plan, at least as far as it is reconcilable with the other ones. There is a maximum of personal autonomy. For liberals, autonomy or self-determination is the core of human dignity. The other side of the picture is that everybody is responsible for himself. The individuals shape their environment by forming free associations with others. That is to say, the interactions are functional. When the associations are more than a loose network, then one has circles, with their own morals. It follows from this, that the liberal society is diverse and pluralistic. By far the most circles are constructive, because this is a rational behaviour, except for psychopats.
The collective must also be autonomous. Therefore the state must limit interventions in the circles to a minimum. And the state certainly must not side with some circle, in other words, it must remain neutral. The most important task of the state is guaranteeing the natural human rights, which have been fixed, for instance in the constitution. The liberal state is a constitutional state. Thanks to the universal rights the circles can compete fairly with another. Due to this requirement, liberals like the democratic rule. Then the central sovereign consists of the popular will. This is realized, among others, by the separation of powers within the state. The state has restricted its own power by means of the constitution, which is a social contract, as it were.
Since the seventies of the last century the philosopher John Rawls has formulated a sound foundation for liberalism. He states that the individuals, due to their rationality, attach value to the natural human rights. Moreover, all professions and functions within the state must be accessible for all. This requires that everybody has access to the required education and formation, so that an unfolding is truly possible. This approach makes the society effective. Now the risk is, that individuals do use their rights, but default on their duties (payment of taxes and the like). Therefore Rawls demands, that all contracting parties are amenable to reason. They must truly subscribe to the fairness (justice) in society. Thus in liberalism the justice becomes the dominating value. It guarantees a fair pluralism, which stabilizes the state4.
Now consider communitarianism5. This pays only indirectly attention to justice. The dominating value of communitarianism is the common good (in French bien)6. According to communitarianism, the individual is determined by his socio-historical environment. This is in essence an inductive approach. Each circle has its own shared morals (a conscience), which creates a natural harmony, with as its consequence that considerations of justice are rarely needed. Nobody can escape from the social embeddedness. Individuals primarily live according to their morals, and less according to their interests. They can not dispose freely of themselves, but can at most become aware of (discover) themselves7. And whoever parts with his moral heritage, will experience merely emptiness. That is to say, criticism is allowed, but it must remain comprehensible.
The communitarians elaborate this idea in a consequent manner. Since the development is organic, the individuals are never able to negotiate about a social contract. Although communitarianism also assumes that the society is pluralistic, yet it does not equate cohesion with the constitutional state. It believes that the universal justice is impossible. Therefore the state must bind by means of the highest common factor of general well-being in the various circles. Here the state becomes the bearer of the collective morals. The state is legitimized by offering a shared path of life. When circles can no longer agree with this path, then the only remaining option is their exit. Jurisdiction can only be based on the general well-being, and not on a universal justice. There is no universal truth, or at least it can not be revealed.
communitarianism has emerged, because according to its adherents the society has become too liberal. The citizens start to feel alienated with regard to their state. Communitarians can be found in all parts of the political spectrum. Some communitarians want to reform liberalism, whereas others search for a third way, or are plainly conservative. Nevertheless, they share ideas, such as a disbelief in globalization. For, numerous states are unable to recognize each other. And love for strangers is impossible. Therefore communitarianism has a tendency to be nationalistic, and a dislike against cosmopolitism8. And revolutions are rejected, because it supports the cumulation principle. Common morals can not simply change. Therefore it has a positive attitude towards a certain degree of paternalism.
It must be admitted, that communitarianism is realistic in its assumption of the organic growth of circles. This is actually not even denied by liberals. Individuals evidently function within circles. This is precisely the reason, why liberalism demands for instance guarantees for the freedom of expression. However, the standpoint of embeddedness does not contribute to the meaning of human life. The personal unfolding requires that some distance is taken with respect to what is. And social progress is also only possible, as long as new initiatives are taken. Since communitarianism favours paternalism, those initiatives must come mainly from the ruling elite. The danger of oppression is real9.
Now the question is, whether communitarianism can help in softening the present clashes of cultures10. Within the state five types of cultural groups are conceivable: regional cultures, marginalized indigenous groups, immigrants, forcedly moved groups, and various non-ethnical groups. The latter type is a rest-category, with as possible hallmarks the religion, sex, sexual inclination, class, etcetera. Dutchmen will remember the former gap between the protestant and roman-catholic groups. The type 1 can be called multi-nationalism. A typical example is Swiss. communitarianism dictates a rigourous solution, namely the submission of the general well-being. This can force minorities to assimilate. Their only alternative is the exit option, by means of emigration. In practice such a policy can lead to the secession of regions.
The categories 2, 3 and 4 have an ethnical hallmark. The French political scientist Laurent Bouvet points to the leading role, that the United States of America (in short USA) have played in the joining of minorities. Traditionally the USA have employed a liberal policy, which strives for pluralism. The administration constructs a melting pot, wherein the various cultures gradually converge. Bouvet concludes, that in this process the Indians and the black population have a backward position. During the sixties of the last century the discrimination has led to a civil rights movement, notably for the black. Next, various discriminated groups begin, partly under the influence of the New Left, to organize in the so-called rainbow coalition. These groups have actually little in common, except for the desire of an acknowledged identity.
The political pressure of the rainbow coalitions changes the USA into a salad bowl. Various groups want to emancipate their own group, and therefore start to stress their differences. They often complain about the oppression by other, dominant cultures. Therefore they are a victim. The liberal policy reacts to the rainbow coalition with an accomodating policy, which is called multiculturalism. The policy wants to improve justice, hoping to generate a fair debate. The goal is inclusion and participation, in other words, a rigourous equality of opportunities, while guaranteeing the pluralism, which is partly ethnic. For instance, the state subsidizes cultural institutions. Sometimes a temporary positive discrimination (affirmative action) is enacted. This requires a careful judgement, because neutrality is easily threatened.
Multiculturalism fails, as soon as the concerned group itself becomes intolerant. Then it searches its isolation, the fair deliberations end, and radicalization threatens. Sometimes such groups are even racist (for instance Afrocentrism)11. The personal shortcomings are forgotten. Bouvet indeed believes that the polarization between groups is a likely development. Integration and the personal identity have a strained relation. It is difficult to find a balance. Incidentally, this also holds for western influences. France sometimes discourages the use of the English language.
Whoever regularly reads the Gazette, and is familiar with its sometimes strange fascinations, will forgive the present paragraph, which is devoted to marxism. Marxism is collective in the sense, that it sees the personal circle as the source of the individual morals. It attaches less value to the natural human rights, because the proletarian morals offer sufficient guarantees for the individual unfolding. But marxism is also deductive in nature, because it accepts the objective truth. The socialist proletariat is an avant-garde, because its morals are superior to all other ones. Therefore marxism is revolutionary, in contrast with communitarianism. Marx derives his truth from the hypothesis, that the historically developed production system determines the morals. The morals are a materialist phenomenon. This theory is called historical materialism.
At the beginning of the twentieth century some socialist thinkers felt increasingly discontented with the determinism, that is the hallmark of historical materialism. Some of then preferred the liberal philosophy of Immanuel Kant. This paragraph briefly presents two thinkers from this group, namely the Austrians Otto Bauer and Karl Renner. Their current is commonly called Austromarxism12. Bauer states that politics must be based on rationality and reason. Human nature demands that politics is fair. There must be a collective consensus about a constitution. Bauer evidently sees indications in the historical developments, that this constitution will be socialist. The general will favours socialism. These ideas are still similar to communitarianism. But unfortunately, in old age Bauer will become an adversary of democracy13.
Renner is more a political scientist than a philosopher. He states, that the nature of capitalism changes, and that motivates him to reject the deductions of historical materialism. Since 1878 the industrial states have begun to order their economies. The rise of cartels and trusts, but also of the trade union movement and of social security, are parts of this order. At the same time, the free trade has diminished. This all undermines the labour theory of value of Marx. Nationalism divides the global proletariat. Therefore Renner concludes, that socialism must be introduced gradually by means of state reforms, in a historical process. This requires a vision with regard to the constitution. Renner wants to develop that view inductively, like a learning process. The workers must unite in their own organic circles, which will be national. Here the reader sees similarities with communitarianism.
The rainbow coalition is strongly present in the anti-globalization movement. During the last decade of the twentieth century she revived, and organized Social Fora everywhere. The political scientists M. Hardt and A. Negri became ideologists of this movement, with their model of the multitude and the empire14. Although your columnist is definitely not in sympathy with this movement or with its ideologists, yet it is interesting to screen it for communitarian characteristics. The empire is a power block of states, firms, and global institutions, which rule the world. The multitude is a coalition of interest groups, which feel oppressed. They are democratic. The term coalition already expresses, that the multitude is polycentric. Actions further a common interest, and are temporary. Hardt and Negri call this a swarm intelligence, without any order. Apparently the coalitions are not sovereign circles.
Hardt and Negri state that a dominant culture is absent. This implies concretely, that the universal, natural human rights are relative. The culture of the Third World is spread by flows of migrants. The postmodern fragmentation furthers cosmopolitic power structures, with as a consequence that the importance of the national state wanes. However, those global structures hardly have any common morals. Global centralization fails due to the diversity of cultures, that is to say, due to pluralism (p.309). The multitude itself is not interested in a central rule. She is not a sovereign, but remains a loose network (p.330). Nevertheless, institutional reforms are needed, in order to give more power to the multitude. For instance, the representative democracy must be pushed back, at least at the global level, and be replaced by a struggle for the public opinion.
In short, at the global level a sovereign is superfluous. This sounds anarchistic. But Hardt and Negri deny that they propagate anarchism, because they rely on a growing cooperation15. However, this will not convince many people. The paradigm is fascinating because it rejects liberalism and communitarianism. On the one hand, the universal human rights are subordinated to the circles. On the other hand, the hegemony of the empire must de destroyed, if need be by means of a revolution. The circles, which together form the empire (states, firms, global institutions), do not belong to the multitude. It is obvious that their elimination is simplified by making the human rights relative. Your columnist is not amused.
The sociologist Amitai Etzioni is leading in the practical application of communitarianism, notably in the formulation of policy. This paragraph is based on two of his books, namely The moral dimension (in short Tmd) and The new Golden Rule (in short Tngr)16. The book Tmd is a criticism of the neoclassical paradigm, which is common in economics. Etzioni argues that actions are often dominated by value rationality. Moreover, the behavioural economics shows, that the rationality is thwarted by urges and impulses. Therefore Etizioni suggests an alternative paradigm, the I&We model, which assumes an interaction between the individual and collective phenomena (Tmd p.5).
The I&We model denies that society can be explained by the individual actions (Tmd chapter 11). The rational choice paradigm is unsound, because social processes are controlled by groups and circles. These circles have historically developed their own morals, which are internalized by their members. The socialization moderates the struggle for the personal interests between individuals17. This implies that markets are ordered, with as a consequence that the competition is restricted (Tmd p.175). The order furthers the effectiveness of the economic transactions. Namely, the process of the transaction (its morals) is valued, in addition to the outcome of the transaction (its utility). This reinforces the bonding between the concerned actors, and therefore the social stability. In other words, the actions depend on logical-empirical factors, and on emotional-affective factors (Tmd chapter 6).
The I&We model rejects the hypothesis, that the rationality of hedonism is subjective. Behaviour must have some objective meaning. The I&We model prefers to explain the apparently irrational behaviour such as self-sacrifice by means of a sense of duty (Tmd p.21, 54). Thus the individuals decide with a double valuation: the personal interest, and the duty. The valuation can not be aggregated in a single utility function (Tmd p.32). Etioni calls this the bi-utility (Tmd p.36), and also co-determination (Tmd p.63). In other words, there is no commensurability (Tmd p.67). Morals limit the conceivable exchange processes. Therefore the morals must be analyzed separately from the utility. In this respect the I&We model is a special (not very popular) version of behavioural economics. For instance, it interprets the heuristics as a normative-affective behaviour (Tmd p.91).
Sometimes consumption does not serve as a pleasure, but as a confirmation of the personal identity (Tmd p.101). For, the preferences are partly determined by the personal circle (Tmd p.181). Those morals grow historically, and are therefore not an added sum of individual preferences. The morals are a source of individual motivation, just like pleasure. They provide meaning and a goal, and thus self-determination. So both the production and the consumption are socially ordered, and they can not escape this fact. Competition and order must balance each other (Tmd p.211). That order can originate from the circles themselves, or from the state. Conversely, the economy penetrates the state administration. Etzioni believes that the I&We model is suited for policy advising, because it optimally takes into account social factors. His book The new Golden Rule makes proposals for an I&We policy.
According to Etzioni, communitarianism has individualism as its counterpart, and not liberalism. For, many liberals value the personal circles. The actions of the New Left resulted in an excessive liberalization of society between 1960 and 1990. The order due to the collective morals has become so weak, that a regeneration is desirable. Too much freedom undermines the autonomy, just like too coercive morals hurt the general well-being. When the freedom and collective morals are balanced, then the autonomy and the general well-being are optimal (Tngr p.36). Etzioni calls this the inverting symbiosis. Etzioni believes that the state must choose in favour of a kind paternalism. The new Golden Rule is: uphold society's moral order as you would have society uphold your autonomy (Tngr p.xviii).
The instability of the order can be measured by analyzing the intensity of the social rebellion. In democratic states this feedback is fairly effective. Etzioni calls this the megalogue (Tngr p.106). Thus the context determines whether a policy must change. Sometimes the state must oppose centrifugal forces, and sometimes centripetal ones. In this manner the state legitimizes itself towards the citizens18. According to Etzioni the adapted morals must base on a minimum of coercion. Formation and convincing are desirable. Consider education, the media, and consultative councils. For, thanks to internalization the feelings of alienation will remain minimal. Note that Etzioni indeed accepts social pressure on individuals, because this is how formation works. Sometimes the individuals will adapt, not out of conviction, but purely in order not to offend their circle. A strenghtened conscience reduces the need for supervision.
Etzioni rejects the polarization, that is recommended in conflict theories, such as marxism. Culture wars and revolutions must be avoided. He expresses his satisfaction that since 1990 the American state regenerates the collective morals. In part this was necessary, because the expectations with regard to the state became overstrained. The criminal law was in danger of becoming overburdened. Etzioni propagates a responsive communitarianism. Circles can invite their members to participate, and they can take over tasks from the state. The personal circle begins with the family, and runs through education to the social organizations. They further dedication, although heroic behaviour will remain an exception.
The society must not be a melting pot or a rainbow, but a framed mosaic (Tngr p.192). That requires a mild form of nationalism. Now Etzioni formulate seven core values for society (Tngr p.199 and further), which are partly a repetition of the preceding: the democracy has an intrinsic value; there is a constitution; the citizens have a layered dedication, corresponding to the administration; the citizens and circles harbour tolerance; they avoid polarization; there is a social dialogue; after each abuse there is an attempt to reconcile. Notably the dialogue and the constitution offer a certain guarantee, that the morals are sound. Better still is to maintain a dialogue at the global level. That is awkward, because then the debate becomes inter-cultural. Here one must accept, that the various cultures have the right to criticize each other.
Unfortunately, even the global debate does not guarantee a virtuous outcome. For instance, of old, women were second-rank citizens at the global level. Again and again, communitarianism is in danger of sinking away into culture-relativism. Therefore, Etzioni presents as the ultimate test of virtue his new golden rule. Necessary is the realization of the right balance between the moral order and the autonomy. Etzioni calls this the dual base values, because they are suited for demanding a normative account from a circle. He assumes that they are truly universally valid. They guarantee that the individual and collective conscience (the moral voice) are really virtuous.
communitarianism has also many adherents in the Netherlands. This paragraph analyzes the views of the writer Pieter Hilhorst, notably his book Sociaal doe-het-zelven19. Hilhorst reminiscences with some nostalgia the beginning of the last century, when thanks to personal initiative the moral pillars were established as conglomerats of social organizations (p.157). There was an organic growth of circles, which ordered the society. Henceforth, the state has absorbed many of these organizations, because this would improve their effectiveness. Hilhorst believes, that this development has become excessive. Besides, he states that the state is anonymous, and therefore conjures up alienation in the citizens. The private circles have an intrinsic value, because people feel at home there. Therefore a re-ordering is required.
The regulation of social provisions by the state guarantees universal rights and duties. However, it also implies a fixation, which hinders ad hoc solutions. The bureaucracy can give a stifling feeling to workers. Besides, the universal values sometimes clash with the group morals, so that the state makes a paternalistic impression. During the nineties of the last century the New public management has been introduced, which employs market incentives in services. However, this increases the strain at work, and discourages cooperation. Besides privatization, small-scale activities and a flat organization are desirable. Therefore, Hilhorst recommends that clients and workers strive for self-control.
This new form of organizing obviously implies, that they take on more responsibilities. This has the advantage that the state can diminish its supervision, which can result in large savings (p.114). Perhaps the various circles can supervise each other. This is called neo-socialization. Hilhorst has invented for his system the term together-efficiency20. He refers to the circles with the more modern expression social networks. An important source of energy is the wisdom of the crowds. The need for social networks is large. This is called the altruist surplus. But a threshold must be overstepped. When the state initiates the process, then a self-reinforcing effect can occur.
Hilhorst thinks that, all in all, this will lead to savings on the state expenses21. He also sees chances for loose networks, such as internet platforms and crowd funding. It will be clear, that together-efficiency also has disadvantages. Therefore the state must establish a frame. Hilhorst excludes revolutionary processes. He believes that private initiative is only allowed, as long as it obeys the rules, there is accountability, and the risks remain limited (p.126) and further).
Your columnist is not impressed by the communitarian criticism of liberalism. The liberal model is an abstraction. The morals can naturally be studied as a separate criterion for decisions, besides the personal interest. However, moral theories give less insights than models of individual preferences. The morals are rather elusive. When the liberal model is abandoned, then there remains little, except for an ideological chaos, where in practice the right of the strong will prevail. Then your columnist prefers to use the mono-utility, such as in the rational choice paradigm. It is autonomy, that makes someone unique. But it can not be denied that in practice the personal unfolding commonly occurs within the boundaries of the personal circles. The new Golden Rule is worth considering, but its outcome is subjective. It does not reveal the optimal policy - and neither does the present column.