Quotes & Excerpts (on Communitarianism and social engineering)

"Regulating the pursuit of self"

Jerusalem Post

For background information, read A Third Way to a Good Society

Training students to rethink God's Word


"'The current financial crisis highlights the failure of individualism in controlling itself,' asserts American sociologist Amitai Etzioni.... [But it's not true!]


"It is precisely for this reason that Etzioni - director of the Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies at The George Washington University and head of the Washington, DC-based think tank, the Communitarian Network - founded his movement in the early 1990s....


"In response to what he viewed as an era of excessive emphasis on the self... the former Columbia University professor and subsequent senior adviser to Jimmy Carter's White House took ideological action. Though not thrilled at the time with the only name he and his group could come up with to describe their concept of societal balance, Etzioni is now nevertheless satisfied that its essence has taken hold. In fact, he claims, it is best embodied in the philosophy espoused by... President Barack Obama."

The rest of the quotes are Etzioni's responses during an interview with Ruthie Blum Leibowitz

On a balanced community:

"No society has found a perfect balance.... For example, the United States and Britain in the 1980s... went in the direction of extreme individualism. On the other hand, in Japan, the social pressure to behave in a certain way was and is still enormous.... In this case, it is not so much the state that is overwhelming, but rather the community....

On the meaning of Communitarianism:

"In general, the social market reflects this notion of the necessity for some kind of a balance between capitalism, individualism, pursuit of self and some kind of social regulation.... 


"I tried to find a word to counter excessive individualism. Communitarianism is actually associated with.... communism in East Asia. So we had a very long debate about whether to use it or not. But we just couldn't come up with another term that would speak for community and common good. And we hoped that our kind of neo-communitarianism would succeed in becoming a kind of a symbol for this other approach. It's a particularly key point at the moment, because there is no philosophy that better describes Obama's position than communitarianism....


"A community has to have two attributes: a web of affection and a shared moral culture - a sense of right and wrong which is distinct to that culture...."

Note: This new standard for "right and wrong" is totally contrary to God's unchanging guidelines. Ponder these words from Etzioni's book, A Third Way to a Good Society:


       "...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 ... they engage our beliefs....
      "Moral dialogues lead them to reexamine their beliefs, world views and prejudices and to recast them."20-21

"The kibbutz has certainly evolved a great deal since the early days of pure communitarianism - though, to be accurate, only half of them had communal children's houses. And anyway, having communal children's houses is not a prerequisite of my definition....

"Now 'community' always seems to have warm, fuzzy connotations, but communities are not necessarily good. They can be centered around very negative values, like the Nazis. And communities can be discriminatory, because as soon as you have members, you have nonmembers, which means there is exclusion. That's why communities must be balanced with respect for rights...."

On religion and spirituality:

"One problem created by modern, materialistic, hedonistic society is a spiritual vacuum. And spiritual vacuums invite something to fill them. Where there are no moderate, sensitive responses - like in Zen Buddhism, if you like, or Sufism in Islam - you get radicalism. This could take the form of communism, for example, or radical Islam. [Do you wonder where he would put Biblical Christianity? Among "radical fundamentalists?]

"If you go back to the fact that communities need shared values, the question is how you edit them. They're not frozen in time; they're living documents, so to speak. In all our countries, there is intense moral dialogue going on, in which the community at large gets really involved. What my data show is that if you follow those discussions over time... you see the development of a new shared moral understanding. It's not necessarily the right one, but it's shared, which is what a community needs in order to be a community....

"The same goes for race relations, as Obama's election demonstrates. Concern for the environment is a particularly interesting case of this kind of change, because a whole new moral obligation was created where none had existed before.... [Not true]

On human nature and common good:

"We are part God, part beast. We have both good and bad impulses. And we can nurture the moral one to curb the beastly one. Which goes back, again, to my favorite word - balance...."

"Regulating the pursuit of self" by Ruthie Blum Leibowitz, Jerusalem Post, 2-4-09


See also 'Communitarianism' Finds Favor

Training students to rethink God's Word | Facilitating permanent social change

Using Dissatisfaction (a crisis) for social transformation