We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

The Communitarian Constitution

Beau Breslin

Publication Year: 2004

Bowling Alone, the title of Robert Putnam's 1995 article (later a bestselling book) perfectly captured a sense of national unease: Somewhere along the way, America had become a nation divided by apathy, and the bonds that held together civil society were disappearing. But while the phrase resonated with our growing sense of atomization, it didn't describe a new phenomenon. The fear that isolation has eroded our social bonds had simmered for at least two decades, when communitarianism first emerged as a cogent political philosophy. Communitarianism, as explained in the works of Michael Sandel, Alasdair MacIntyre, Amitai Etzioni, and others, elevates the idea of communal good over the rights of individuals. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, communitarianism gained popular and political ground. The Clintons touted its principles in the '90s, and the two presidents Bush make frequent references to its central tenets. In its short life, the philosophy has generated plenty of books, both pro and con. Beau Breslin's authoritative and original examination, The Communitarian Constitution, contributes to the debate from a wholly original standpoint. Existing critiques focus on the debate between liberalism and communitarianism—in other words, the conflict between individual rights and the communal good. Breslin takes an entirely different stance, examining the pragmatic question of whether or not communitarian policies are truly practicable in a constitutional society. In tackling this question, Breslin traces the evolution of American communitarianism. He examines Lincoln's unconstitutional Civil War suspension of habeas corpus and draws on Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments, pegging the Anti-Federalists as communitarians' intellectual forebearers. He also grounds his arguments in the real world, examining the constitutions of Germany and Israel, which offer further insight into the relationship between constitutionalism and communitarianism. At a moment when American politicians and citizenry are struggling to balance competing needs, such as civil rights and homeland security, The Communitarian Constitution is vital reading for anyone interested in the evolving tensions between individual rights and the good of the community.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

read more

Preface

pdf iconDownload PDF (63.4 KB)
pp. ix-xvi

In the spring of 1861, soldiers in the Union army surrounded the Cockeysville, Maryland, farm of John Merryman and arrested him for allegedly participating in the destruction of several railroad bridges west of Baltimore. The Union soldiers were acting on orders from the president of the United States, who earlier that year had suspended the constitutionally protected writ of habeas corpus in an attempt to...

read more

1. Introduction: Communitarianism, Constitutional Visions, and the Anti-Federalist Legacy

pdf iconDownload PDF (116.0 KB)
pp. 1-28

Traditionally, Americans have engaged in continuous and spirited debate. From slavery to abortion, we have vigorously defended our positions on the major moral and practical issues of the day. Some, like Herbert Storing, even claim that the principles of debate, deliberation, and compromise lie at the cornerstone of the American political...

Part I: Toward a Vision of Communitarian Politics

read more

2. Theoretical and Prescriptive Foundations: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate

pdf iconDownload PDF (183.6 KB)
pp. 31-77

The communitarian movement in America has a long and staggered history. Beginning with the Anti-Federalists, communitarianism has come in and out of vogue at regular intervals. Michael Walzer, himself a noted contemporary communitarian, remarks that the movement ‘‘is like pleated trousers: transient but certain to return...

read more

3. Participation, Consensus, and the Common Good: Constructing a Communitarian Polity

pdf iconDownload PDF (151.3 KB)
pp. 78-109

What does a society look like if it is governed by contemporary communitarian institutions and values? Will it resemble its now discredited distant cousin, the communist regime, or does it more closely mirror the small, often-admired, New England town? Or perhaps even more plausibly, is the portrait of a modern communitarian polity conceptually...

Part II: The Communitarian Constitution

read more

4. The Constitutionalist Challenge to American Communitarianism

pdf iconDownload PDF (142.4 KB)
pp. 113-149

The communitarian movement in America has a long and staggered history. Beginning with the Anti-Federalists, communitarianism has come in and out of vogue at regular intervals. Michael Walzer, himself a noted contemporary communitarian, remarks that the movement ‘‘is like pleated trousers: transient but certain to return.’’1 Over the past two decades, communitarianism has been resurgent, once again resurfacing to challenge the dominant political ideology—liberalism....

read more

5. Communitarian Democracy: In Tension with Constitutional Theory?

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.0 KB)
pp. 150-181

Perhaps the most concrete and important provision of constitutionalist thought, the self-conscious restraint of political power, takes us directly into the heart of communitarian politics. What is at stake in fully contrasting constitutionalism and communitarianism is the very essence or power of collective decision making, unitary democracy, and the generation of consensus. In fact, what is principally at stake...

read more

6. Mixed Constitutionalism and the Communitarian Hope

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.1 KB)
pp. 182-207

The theoretical notion of communitarianism, I have argued thus far, appears to be mostly incompatible with the basic constitutionalist ideal. To put the point slightly differently, it should now be clear that the communitarian challenge to liberal dominance is circumscribed by the inability on the part of major communitarian supporters to envision a community-centered regime that is also attentive...

read more

7. Conclusion: The Enduring Constitutional Debate

pdf iconDownload PDF (58.3 KB)
pp. 209-218

Communitarianism as a political ambition is here to stay. Ever since Rawls almost single-handedly resurrected the subject of political philosophy, the communitarian movement has been at the forefront of the normative debate over liberal values. Central to its mission has been an almost continuous investigation of liberal...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (151.4 KB)
pp. 219-249

References

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.7 KB)
pp. 251-262

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (564.6 KB)
pp. 263-269


E-ISBN-13: 9780801892233
E-ISBN-10: 0801892236
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801885389
Print-ISBN-10: 0801885388

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2004