advancing community
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an American politics of virtue
  instilling and supporting a communitarian ethos

gary e. davis
October 10, 2020
Communitarian sense—ethos—derives from communal sense, which derives from com-muning. The notion of communing traces back to the 14th century, typically in relating with: “1 a : to attain to an earnest or deep feeling of unity [cohering], appreciation, and receptivity; b : to hold converse or intercommunication especially with great mental or spiritual depth or intensity” (M-W. Unabridged). In other words, attaining and holding high appreciation intimates highly being with.

But normal sense is a descent from fully communing, whereby communion involves mere sharing or acting in common (normally having never been highly intense, so not appre-ciated as descent).

Yet, the point of descent is in principle vital or constitutive: Potential communing is unwittingly intimated by ordinary communion. due to the actual history of the notion.

Communes are commonly small communities of persons in close engagements with each other. Generalizing that as a type of society—proffering a general conception of com-munes—is a commune-ism as communalism. A communitarianism is “a communal system of organization based on small cooperative communities practicing some communist [i.e., commune-ist] principles.” Being communitarian derives from such systemic interest, i.e., communality as ideal or appeal in deliberate sociality.

The potential of communality belongs to literary history (e.g., communing with nature, spiritual communion), from which sociological notions unwittingly derive. I say “unwit-tingly” because standard views of communitarianism show little acknowledgement of communal history (e.g., humanistic background of ethics of care), let alone appreciation of communing highly.

By the way, the heart of all religions precedes and outpaces religiosity. That heartfulness expresses authentic humanity, which shows openness, integrity, compassion, empathy, engagement, and decency.

(Amitai Etzioni’s exemplary interest fleetingly acknowledges religious backgrounds; Pope Francis is emphatically elaborative, unwittingly reflecting American Presbyterian and Unitarian engagement; and Daniel Bell’s explication for philosophers (though he’s a sociologist) finally finds Confucian thought problematic.)

So, ‘communitarian’ is potentially an auraic (aura imbued) notion which is best under-stood interdomainally: interfacing literary-humanistic and social-anthropological understandings. Here, I’ll let the notion symbolize an opportunity for later conceptual prospecting (far beyond my departure from Habermas, 17 years ago).

I would advocate several kinds of importance or worth or value which communitarian thinking warrants appropriating.

environment (ecosphere) of praise

Our ecology requires a lot of drudgery. So, we should show graciousness toward all necessary jobs as, in principle, part of career paths having dignity. All good work should be praised.

That can be easy relative to the reality of our eco-nomy being ecological. In particular,
no aristocratic pretense got that leisure without the ecology of others’ work.

And authentic sophistication does not “disdain” less educated persons (contrary to
right-wing propaganda).

ethic of care for enabling community life

Publicly, this begins with neighborliness (trite? rare in metropolia); and advances through integrity of interpersonal relations and solidarity with others’ engagements.

Yet, potential there can be no better than the fidelity of private life to good parenting
(viz., concerted cultivation), teaching for educational excellence, and ensuring good leadership in localities.

Generally, fidelity to our shared humanity may scale our neighboring to community, “dramatically expand civic bridging” (Strategy 4 of “Reinventing American Democracy”), and thereby contribute to healthy regioning.

supporting genuine hopefulness

Presently (fall of 2020), authoritarian appeals and the current pandemic (surely not the last one) have instilled common hopelessness. Decades ago, Andrew Delbanco’s The Real American Dream avowed in great detail that “...democracy thrives only [with] the uni-versal distribution of hope.” (67).

But there’s also common reason for hope—which is necessary for democratic “voice” (Strategy 1 of “Reinventing American Democracy”).

communitarian leadership

Points above introduce a basis for scaling communitarian ethics into a conception of politics whose commitment to leadership appeals to good parenting/teaching (beyond the paternalism of religions mapped into politics); and good neighborhood and community, altogether in a spirit of civic humanism and civic republicanism.


next—> good society



  Be fair. © 2020, g. e. davis