Glossary Index

Glossary of Communitarian Words

See Marching toward Global Solidarity

A Third Way to a Good Society | Reinventing the World



Communitarianism: Communitarianism emerged in the 1980s as a response to the limits of liberal theory and practice. Its dominant themes are that individual rights need to be balanced with social responsibilities, and that autonomous selves do not exist in isolation, but are shaped by the values and culture of communities... Communitarians would, again, shift the balance, arguing that the "I" is constituted through the "We" in a dynamic tension. (Just as in Hegel's & Marx' dialectic process] ...   

      "The "Responsive Communitarian Platform," drafted by Amitai Etzioni, Mary Ann Glendon and William Galston in November 1991, sketches out the basic framework. It...argues for devolving government services to their appropriate levels, pursuing new kinds of public-private partnerships, and developing national and local service programs."

Civil Society: "Civil society refers to that sphere of voluntary associations and informal networks in which individuals and groups engage in activities of public consequence. It is distinguished from the public activities of government because it is voluntary, and from the private activities of markets because it seeks common ground and public goods. It is often described as the "third sector." For democratic societies, it provides an essential link between citizens and the state."

Consensus Democracy: The idea of Consensus Democracy is based on the theory that the structure of democracy needs new scaffolding—a new concept of how decisions are made, a new approach to the role of leadership and new methods and techniques to build shared vision. ....It assumes that there is a need to rethink what it means to be a "civil society".... Any 21st Century approach to democracy will need a flexible framework in which diverse people can dialogue and not debate; in which systemic thinking replaces a linear project mentality....

Consensus Democracy: (Scroll down to) Phases for building a consensus - Shared Vision. "Once an effort is under way to develop capacities in a local community which will lead to a new 'framework for the future' a second component part of the Consensus Democracy system can be evolved. There is a need to understand that citizens will feel ownership of decisions made in their community only when those interested have had an opportunity to help identify key issues and help develop and vote on strategies to resolve the issue. The Consensus Democracy concept of community decision making is built around three phases of citizen involvement:

     "Phase 1: ...allow all interested citizens to set the agenda (define and set priorities for key issues). This can be done a number of ways although surveying using a network of citizen leaders to distribute the packets probably most effectively balances the need for accurate information with the need for adequate citizen discussion and involvement. In the foreseeable future, electronic means will be used to have a consensus table of priority issues identified.

     "Phase 2: Once one or more key issues have been identified, a two day "community congress" is held to bring all interested participants to a central location to determine what the important "factors" are that relate to the issue(s). Groups of twenty diverse citizens are created to focus on dialogue to define "factors of interconnection". Wireless technology is used to allow all participants the opportunity to vote for the top factors. The second day... talk about key strategic issues to be used as a format for building two or more alternative action plans....

     "Phase 3: The groups of twenty are continued for one to two months to talk about how action plans can be developed. Additional citizens are added who have shown interest and who have been brought up to speed in a specific make-up training session.... Once these 'citizen teams' have finalized at least two action plans, the plans are sent to the original citizens in final surveys for their vote.

     "Conclusion: The intent of Consensus Democracy is to reformulate how local democracy operates in the 21st Century. As with any new idea, this concept will need to be tested and evolved as appropriate methods and techniques are developed. However, the basic principles of Consensus Democracy recognize the need for a new institutional way to allow all citizens to have access to direct control of the decision making process. New advances in human and electronic technology allow new structures to be established. The continuous improvement of democracy is as important as the continuous improvement of humanity. Only by recognizing the need for new ways of thinking about how we build the common good in a world of constant change can our democracy survive.


Social Capital: "Social capital refers to those stocks of social trust, norms and networks that people can draw upon to solve common problems. Networks of civic engagement, such as neighborhood associations, sports clubs, and cooperatives, are an essential form of social capital, and the denser these networks, the more likely that members of a community will cooperate for mutual benefit....

     "Social capital is productive, since two farmers exchanging tools can get more work done with less physical capital; rotating credit associations can generate pools of financial capital for increased entrepreneurial activity; and job searches can be more efficient if information is embedded in social networks. Social capital also tends to cumulate when it is used, and be depleted when not, thus creating the possibility of both virtuous and vicious cycles that manifest themselves in highly civic and uncivic communities. ...

     "Congregation-based Community Organizing: Perhaps the fastest growing form of community organizing today, congregation-based organizing mobilizes existing stocks of social capital in church networks, and generates new stocks across denominations and (sometimes) across ethnic and racial lines. It relies on one-on-one relationship building as the foundation stone for locating and developing community leaders and building trust through a mutual understanding of self interest and values." [See "Social Capital"and the Value of Life]



Spiritual Capital: (This is only one example. It usually refers to interfaith trust, communal sharing and feelings of spiritual oneness), the meaning is “'Spiritual capital' can best be explained by drawing upon a concept from sociology called 'social capital.' In the diamond business, huge deals can be sealed with a handshake. A handshake reflects the social capital within that community—the unwritten understandings and ties that bind dealers together and allow for informal business dealings to have the force of law.... Spiritual capital is the outcome of the religious interactions between parent and child. It is not about role modeling (though that too is important), nor is it about how religious the parents themselves are; rather, it is about the spiritual interactions between parent and child that take place over a period of time. In other words, spiritual capital speaks to the extent that parents and children share in a religious experience.... Spiritual capital consists of the unwritten and unstated ties that bind the religious home, that give it its character and power. This is the stuff that memories are made of—the overall religious atmosphere of our homes and our childhoods, the emotions, smells and songs."


The goals of the Bush administration follows a similar pattern

Rallying the Armies of Compassion: "Our goal is to energize civil society and rebuild social capital, particularly by uplifting small non-profit organizations, congregations and other faith-based institutions....

     "Without diminishing the important work of government agencies and the wide range of nonprofit service providers, this initiative will support the unique capacity of local faith-based and other community programs to serve people in need, not just by providing services but also by transforming lives. Our faith-based and community agenda will be organized around three lines of action:

    1. "Identifying and eliminating improper Federal barriers to effective faith-based and community-serving programs through legislative, regulatory, and programmatic reforms...

   "Social scientists are increasingly documenting the power of faith-based groups to fortify families and communities and to conquer our toughest social problems.... To help promote public/private partnerships that enable diverse sacred places and grassroots secular programs to achieve civic purposes, a new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has been created. It will be the Federal Government’s lead agency in promoting a policy of respect for and cooperation with religious and grassroots groups.

    "It will identify barriers to such groups in Federal rules and practices, propose regulatory and statutory relief, and coordinate new Federal initiatives to empower and partner with faith-based and community problem solvers. The Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives will work in close conjunction with new parallel centers in Federal agencies that operate social programs, including the Departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and Education.


Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy: (President Bush, Washington, D.C. (Inter-American Development Bank) March 14, 2002) "Including all of the world’s poor in an expanding circle of development—and opportunity—is a moral imperative and one of the top priorities of U.S. international policy. ... This Administration’s goal is to help unleash the productive potential of individuals in all nations.... The United States Government will pursue these major strategies to achieve this goal:

More will be added

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