A Third Way to a Good Society*

 Communism + Capitalism = Communitarianism

by Professor Amitai Etzioni

Director of the Center for Communitarian Policy Studies at the George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Skip down to Helpful Quotes & Church leaders seek a Third Way

The Three-legged Stool: A mandatory partnership between the public sector (government), private sector  (business), and social sector (community, churches, etc.) -- managed through Global Standards and laws established by national and international governments.

“While governments across the world search for a new political synthesis, the theoretical debate has offered little to those interested in a new framework for progressive politics. This essay presents an account of what the Third Way really means, and roots it in a communitarian vision of the good society. It argues that such societies achieve a dynamic balance between state [public sector], market [private sector] and community [social sector]...." Amitai Etzioni (Page 5)

Note: In this "dynamic balance," the state sets the mandatory standards. It also has the power to enforce those standards. The other two "partners" in this "balance" will ultimately be serving the state. While it's not exactly Communism since the state favors capitalism, the state has ultimate control over everything -- just as in a Communist state. Today's China is a good example.

Civil society: "...the ensemble of suprafamilial, nonstate institutions that organize the members of society into coordinated groups and allow them to express their opinions and particular interests. Of course, the prerequisite is that these institutions and organisms are autonomous and are not merely transferred into offshoots of the state apparatus, or simple 'transmission belts' for state power." Lubomir Sochor, The Black Book of Communism


The SYSTEM or structure of government

"The good society is a partnership of three sectors: government, private sector, and community. Each one reflects and serves a distinct facet of our community. Only by serving all three, rather than fragmenting them or setting one against the other, can we achieve a society that encompasses the whole person....


While these partners may differ in terms of their respective roles, and these may change with social condition, in a good society the three sectors seek to cooperate with one another.... Most importantly, each partner helps contain the others.... Maintaining this three-way balance is at the heart of the good society." [41]

"Third Way governments do best when they resist the rush to legislate good behavior. When there is a valid need to modify behavior, the state should realize that relying on informal community-based processes is preferable to relying on the law." [27]


The PROCESS: Group dialogue to consensus

"At the core of the Third Way ought to be the recognition that a good society combines respect for individual rights and fulfillment of basic human needs with the expectations that members live up to their responsibilities to themselves, their family and friends, and to the community at large...


"Responsibilities from all means that a good person, a member of a good society, contributes to the common good. No one is exempt...."[30]

"Responsibility from all is to be paralleled by responsibility for all. ... This means first of all social inclusion.... Responsibility for all also means ensuring that everyone has access to the basic necessities of life.... [31]


"Third way societies must recognize there are certain basic provisions that are everyone's due. these basics include food, shelter, clothing and healthcare."[31]

"A balanced society approaches the tension between individual rights and social responsibilities along these lines and adjusts its policies accordingly."

"...moral culture is continually recast to reflect new social needs, demands, insights and, above all, oral claims. This occurs through a process of special importance to those seeking a good society: moral dialogue. Moral dialogues are 'give and take' discussions that engage values rather than merely interests or wants. They involve more than facts and reasons; they engage our beliefs....

"Local communities, whole national societies, and even international communities engage in extensive dialogues about acute moral issues, such as our duty to the environment, women's rights and sexual discrimination...."[34-35]

Moral Dialogues: Changing Moral Cultures


"Moral dialogues are largely about values. They are not dialogues among experts but among citizens.... Most importantly, through the process of moral dialogue people often modify their conduct, feelings and beliefs.... The profound moral dialogue that developed in the 1960s and 1970s led not merely to a shared moral sense of our duty to mother earth... but also to a fair measure of changed behavior.... [35]


"If a community needs to change its social fabric in a significant way, moral dialogues are necessary to generate changes in personal and social conduct, and to underpin public polices....


"...moral dialogues lead them to reexamine their beliefs, world views and prejudices and to recast them."[35-36]

Family: the need for a definitive new look


"Before one can settle any of the numerous specific issues that arise from the transition from traditional forms of families to 'post-modern' ones, we require a more conclusive examination of the evidence about the effects of highly divergent social arrangements. To proceed, the government should convene a 'science court', an inquiry composed of expert social scientists. The court would hold public hearings, interrogating scientific witnesses and representatives of the various bodies of thought on the subject.... In this way, it should be able to reach solid credible conclusions about critical issues that arise concerning our ability to replace the two parent family, and help move to settle the public dialogue on these issues.
        "The science court should focus on children of young age, especially from birth until five, the years in which many believe the foundation of character are formed."

Standards and Assessments:

"To ensure that this core education principle will be heeded, an annual assessment should be made in all schools of the educational (as distinct from teaching) messages they impart, and of their approach to character formation. If these are defective, schools should be helped by personnel especially dedicated to this issue to restructure their approach."



Reviews of Etzioni's latest book: From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations

Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands: "Amitai Etzioni's new book offers us an inspiring example of the out-of-the-box thinking that is needed to confront these challenges. Etzioni brings new diplomatic challenges into focus, and launches a crucial debate about the sort of world we are leaving to future generations and how we can best manage problems and grasp opportunities...."


Per Stig Møller, Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs: "It underlines the need of the legitimating United Nations also to seek hard power to enforce its resolutions. As an echo of Kant's Perpetual Peace, Etzioni leads us to the ‘good society' based on both the Western legal tradition and social duties deriving from moral suasion. Etzioni is a bridge-builder by the grace of God."


Joseph S. Nye, author of Soft Power: "Amitai Etzioni applies his communitarian approach to international affairs and foreign policy...."


Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter: "A thoughtful and timely examination of some of the fundamental issues that modern society confronts."


Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chair of the 9-11 Commission: “...a sweeping and thought-provoking blueprint that gets at many of the key issues of our time.”


Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University: "His vision of a potential East-West synthesis is particularly compelling. Better still, he is not afraid to tackle the very real challenge of creating genuine institutions to govern a potential global polity. A valuable read for anyone interested in the future of global governance."


Leon Fuerth, former National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore: "Professor Etzioni's new book From Empire to Community, delivers on its promise of 'A new approach to international relations.' ... This book is not about dogma: it is about the hopeful possibility that an evolving and expanding sense of common need among peoples and nations can with luck and vision, bring about a knitting together of a form of global governance that would permit humankind to address its most urgent issues more effectively: with less sovereign authority for national states as we have known them, but greater freedom, combined with enhanced responsibility for people as individuals and as communities."

See also Training students to rethink God's Word

Glossary of Communitarian Words | CommunitarianismFinds Favor

Charles Haynes & Communitarianism | Facilitating permanent social change

Using Dissatisfaction (a crisis) for social transformation


Al Gore unveiled the heart of this political vision 1991.

"Seeing ourselves as separate is the central problem in our political thinking," he announced at a Communitarian conference in Washington. [See Al Gore's Vision of Global Salvation]

Emergent Church leaders seek a "Third Way" as well:

"...Emergent-U.S. National Coordinator Tony Jones [said]. "As emerging Christian leaders have been pushing through the polarities of left and right in an effort to find a new, third way, we've been desperate to find partners for that quest," he said. "It's with great joy and promise that we partner with the leaders of S3K to talk about the future and God's Kingdom." (Shawn Landres & Tony Jones, Jan 3, 2006) Emergent Christian, Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Meeting


"Synagogue 3000 (S3K) and Emergent will host a groundbreaking meeting to connect pioneering Jewish and Christian leaders from dynamic and innovative congregations on January 16-17, 2006. ...emerging leaders from across America will share experiences and exchange ideas about reinventing the meaning and practice of community in their respective faith traditions, especially for unaffiliated Christians and Jews....

     "Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren has met with S3K three times to discuss recent trends among younger Christians and Jews. 'We have so much common ground on so many levels,' he noted. 'We face similar problems in the present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared resources in our heritage. I'm thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God's dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world.' ... Emergent Jewish & Christian Leaders to Meet

British Prime Minister Tony Blair put a nice, politically correct spin on this global management network:

"...our job is to help people with that change. Not to resist it, and so suffocate opportunity. But not just to let change happen, regardless of the consequence. Our approach, what I call the Third Way, is to manage that process of change to extend opportunity and prosperity for all. To find a way which provides for efficiency in the knowledge economy, and ensuring that everyone feels its benefit.... We have to democratize the new economy." [See Reinventing the World]


Where the Third Way Goes from Here Tony Blair: "...the Third Way to me consisted of four distinctive stances: each takes progressive politics decisively beyond the old dividing lines between left and right.

· on the economy, acceptance of fiscal and market disciplines together with investment in human capital, science and knowledge transfer – in other words ‘flexibility plus’ to cope with market failure.

· in civic society, a rights and responsibilities approach based on conditionality in welfare, strong on law and order, but also social programmes to address the causes of crime;

· in public services, investment to secure equality of opportunity, but also restructuring and reform to build more diverse, individually tailored services built around the needs of the modern consumer ...

· in foreign policy, robust on defence, but international in outlook: pursuing a broad agenda of engagement with the aim of building a new global partnership based on shared values. These ideas enabled us to espouse positions that in the past the Left had wrongly regarded as impossible to reconcile: patriotism and internationalism, rights and responsibilities, the promotion of enterprise and the attack on poverty and social injustice. This is not to say that there are no hard choices to be made in public policy, but that we need to move beyond rigid ideas and old attitudes.

The Club of Rome, an elite think-tank (David Rockefeller, Gorbachev, etc.) exposed this scheme in its report, The First Global Revolution:

"In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill..." The First Global Revolution, Club of Rome, an elite think-tank (David Rockefeller, Gorbachev, etc.) working with the UN. [See Green Lies and Amazing Truths]

THE European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that the European Union can lawfully suppress political criticism of its institutions and of leading figures, sweeping aside English Common Law and 50 years of European precedents on civil liberties." Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Euro-court outlaws criticism of EU, Brussels, 5/07/2001.

Barack Obama: [James Crabtree, March 2007] "He has already been on the front cover of Time and been endorsed by Oprah. His recent book, The Audacity of Hope, reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list....

     "In his mid-twenties, Obama left Chicago to enter the bastion of America's establishment, Harvard Law School.... Having graduated, he returned to Chicago to work as a civil rights lawyer, and to lecture at the University of Chicago....

     "Two further factors are crucial: his consensual style and his public use of faith.... He goes to great lengths to show that he has considered respectfully the ideas of his opponents, and tried hard to find such common ground as exists. In this he shares a talent with both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair....

    "...his calls for liberals to articulate a new moral vision, and to do so unfearful of faith, boil down to little more than a type of reheated communitarianism..... When Obama writes that Americans are troubled because 'they want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives,' he sounds rather like Alasdair MacIntyre, the communitarian philosopher. Obama, in common with such thinkers, wants a full vision of the good life to animate our understanding of politics. This is easier said than done."


Communitarianism [Standord Encyclopedia of Philosopy]: "Drawing primarily upon the insights of Aristotle and Hegel, political philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre...disputed Rawls' assumption that the principal task of government is to secure and distribute fairly the liberties and economic resources individuals need to lead freely chosen lives. These critics of liberal theory never did identify themselves with the communitarian movement (the communitarian label was pinned on them by others, usually critics), much less offer a grand communitarian theory as a systematic alternative to liberalism. Nonetheless, certain core arguments meant to contrast with liberalism's devaluation of community recur in the works of the four theorists named above....

    1. Universalism Versus Particularism: "Communitarians have sought to deflate the universal pretensions of liberal theory. ... Whereas Rawls seemed to present his theory of justice as universally true, communitarians argued that the standards of justice must be found in forms of life and traditions of particular societies and hence can vary from context to context...

    3. The Politics of Community: "...many communitarians seem worried by a perception that traditional liberal institutions and practices have contributed to, or at least do not seem up to the task of dealing with, such modern phenomena as alienation from the political process, unbridled greed, loneliness, urban crime, and high divorce rates. And given the seriousness of these problems in the United States, it was perhaps inevitable that a second wave of 1990s communitarians such as Amitai Etzioni and William Galston would turn to the more practical political terrain of emphasizing social responsibility and promoting policies meant to stem the erosion of communal life in an increasingly fragmented society....

     "Much of this thinking has been carried out in the flagship communitarian periodical, The Responsive Community, which is edited by Amitai Etzioni ....  Etzioni is also the director of a think-tank, Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, that produces working papers and advises government officials in Washington....

     "Such political communitarians blame both the left and the right for our current malaise. The political left is chastised not just for supporting welfare rights economically unsustainable in an era of slow growth and aging populations, but also for shifting power away from local communities and democratic institutions..."

* (London: Demos, 2000)

See also Obama, Warren, and the "Covenant for a New America" 

Barack Obama | Community Policing |  Communitarianism