The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda

In This Review

The Spirit of Community: Rights, Responsibilities and the Communitarian Agenda

By Amitai Etzioni
Crown Publishers, 1993
313 pp. $22.00
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This is a book for the 1990s. An eminent sociologist and political thinker, Amitai Etzioni senses the pervasive unease in our present society and calls for a new social movement based on the spirit and action of community. The "communitarian" approach he advocates involves mutual obligations between parent and child as well as moral education in schools. It is an appealing vision that seeks improvement in our social and political environment, emphasizing responsibilities to others as well as individual rights. Certainly, it is a far cry from the "me first" philosophy of the 1980s. Yet Etzioni's imaginative thesis falters when it comes to implementation. Here he calls for reforming American politics by reducing the influence of special interests, banning political action committees, and a variety of measures to reduce the corrupting flow of money in politics. This is most desirable, but the spread of "communitarianism" risks a slow start if it is depends on first transforming the political system.

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