Middle course doctrine

February 26, 1999

Communitarianism is a topic that has achieved the rare status of stimulating both important contributions from academic political theorists and ideas for politicians (such as neighbourhood watches, curfews for children), with the work of Amitai Etzioni an obvious example. In Communitarianism, Henry Tam draws on both strands of work to produce a scholarly overview of the subject combined with an agenda for political practice and reform.

Tam identifies communitarianism as a doctrine that charts a middle course between individualist and authoritarian organisations of society. To this end, he argues for building "inclusive communities" that will promote three communitarian principles: co-operative enquiry (the basis for judging the validity of arguments); mutual responsibility (what members of the community owe to each other); and citizen participation (reforming power structures to enable citizens to participate equally). These principles are applied to ideological debate, the reform of educational institutions, employment relations, business and the voluntary sector in respect of each of which Tam sets forth reforms.

The book is an excellent statement of the communitarian approach to politics and citizenship.

Desmond King is professor of politics, University of Oxford.

Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics and Citizenship. First Edition

Author - Henry Tam
ISBN - 0 333 67482 0 and 67483 9
Publisher - Macmillan
Price - £42.50 and £13.99
Pages - 288

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