Self, Society and State in Liberal Communitarianism
Liberal communitarianism develops its position by reflecting upon the points of conflict and consensus, not only between liberalism and communitarianism, but also between different variations of the communitarian theory. Aiming to reconcile liberalism and communitarianism, liberal communitarianism tries to articulate a morality-centered approach to overcome the tensions between these two theories. It thus deals with the questions of how to examine and treat the obstacles for the moral development of the individual, society and different institutions; and how to prepare the ground for constructing a social and political order based on mutual interaction and cooperation.
This article aims to examine the liberal-communitarian conception of self, society and state in general.
From a liberal-communitarian perspective, individual choices gain moral worth and are respectable only if they contribute to the moral flourishing of the individual and society. Yet such a contribution is bound to the fulfillment of a precondition: The individual choice has to be the result of a reflection on how the key values of human life (freedom, reason, authenticity and responsibility) can be balanced with each other.
According to Philip Selznick, one of the founders of the liberal-communitarian thinking, developing a sound social theory and achieving social integration depends on the level of theoretical and practical success in the following tasks: (1) Creating a reasonable balance among the key values of social life (historicity, identity, mutuality, plurality, autonomy, participation and integration), which hold the communities and the society intact. (2) Balancing the conflicting viewpoints that give social life and thought its true nature, and which are driven by either one of the contrasting poles of segmental vs. core participation, particularism vs. universalism, civility vs. piety, and critical vs. conventional morality.
In liberal communitarianism, in order to develop a policy in harmony with social structures, the state should pay close attention to the proportions of the various communities established around different elements of identity (such as language, religion, ethnicity etc.) within the society, but at the same time it should not neglect to accept each one of them as valuable in itself. The state thus should support these communities for sustaining their lives in accordance with their beliefs and values without violating the principle of equality.
The principle of benevolent neutrality is more appropriate than the idea of a strict wall of seperation for providing a framework for a sound relationship between religion and state. However, the cooperation of religion and state has in any case to take place within the boundaries drawn by the principles of state neutrality and secularity.
In this article, the unique aspects of the liberal-communitarian position on these topics will be introduced by comparing them with the statist, conservative, and universalist variations of the communitarian theory and -where helpful- with the rights-centered, perfectionist and political variations of liberalism, thereby demonstrating certain points of conflict and consensus both within and between liberalism and communitarianism. Furthermore, the article tries to clarify the position of liberal communitarianism within the Western context by bringing out examples from political and legal discourses in Germany, the United States and France.
In the concluding section, after a brief evaluation of the contemporary discussions on liberalism in Turkey, the paper will attempt to explore the question of how such discussions could be enriched with the aid of a liberal-communitarian perspective.
Muhammed İkbal İMAMOĞLU
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