In This Review

Liberalism and Community
Liberalism and Community
By Steven Kautz
Cornell University Press, 1995, 232 pp

This thoughtfully written book addresses what is perhaps the central political issue of our time: whether liberal societies can hold together as self-sustaining communities, or whether liberal ideology sows the seeds of its own destruction in promoting an asocial individualism. The book critically examines several major recent communitarian critiques of liberalism, including those by Michael Sandel, Richard Rorty, Michael Walzer, and William Galston, arguing that most of them are unwilling to squarely confront the intolerance that truly communitarian societies foster. In the end Kautz finds he shares a good deal of ground with the communitarians he criticizes, insofar as he accepts the importance of virtue and the dangers of unbounded individualism. He maintains, however, that the liberal tradition of Locke and the American founders fully incorporates the need for virtue, arrived at by free, rational individuals. Kautz is less clear about his feelings on some of the irrational sources of virtue and community in present-day America like religion and ethnicity and on how liberals ought to view the ascriptive groups into which real-world liberal democracies are divided.