Politics, recent, Social Science

The Communitarian Revival

“Man,” wrote Aristotle more than 2,300 years ago, “is a political animal.” Today, that seems particularly evident. The proliferation of mass social movements, the ever-present yet democratized nature of contemporary political commentary on social media, the 24 hour news cycle, and our penchant for politicizing everything all lend prima facie support to the idea that humans are helplessly activist. But Aristotle was not simply observing that we are inherently drawn towards boycotts, protests, and culture wars. He meant that we are strongly inclined towards social connection. People need collective commitment, not just individual liberty, to be fulfilled and these commitments must be forged in moral virtue. This understanding of human nature lies at the core of what was called communitarianism: a social perspective emphasizing virtue and civil society, largely transcending the traditional divisions of Left and Right. This philosophy of public life gained traction throughout the 1990s, crested with the turn of the new millennium, and then went into sharp decline. Is its moment about to return?

At the beginning of April, I participated in the 2019 Global Philanthropy Forum—an international gathering of philanthropists and social impact entrepreneurs concerned with democratic society in the United States and abroad. The keynote address on day one was delivered by David Brooks, founder of Weave: The Social Fabric Project and recently the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. As the jacket explains, the book “explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community.”

In his address, and in the book itself, Brooks argued that the vitality of our relationships with one another, and our willingness to establish and nurture social bonds with charity and affection, offer answers to the epidemics of loneliness and depression and to the struggles of our political society presently afflicting our embattled nation:

The problem with relationship[s] is they happen slowly, and they take time and they don’t scale. But norms scale. If you can change the culture you can change behavior. If you can change how people think they should live then you can change the whole society. Social change happens when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy them. That happened in the 1960s, that happened with the feminist movement…and so what Weave is about is trying to change the culture around the Weavers that are already existing. There are millions of them. They’re a movement that doesn’t know they’re a movement.

Although he now stands outside the increasingly populist mainstream of the American political Right, David Brooks took the stage as a conservative, and spoke to a room full of left-leaning global travelers (both foreign and American) about the values of community at its most local. Yet the reception with which he was met was rapturous. His head seemed to snap back at the enthusiasm of the applause.

Weave: The Social Fabric Project seeks to draw attention to those in communities across America who have dedicated themselves to the hard work of relationship building—whether that be through gang intervention in inner cities, assisting single mothers in North Carolina, or community building in Tennessee and Montana. Books like The Second Mountain recast these efforts in terms of a larger, albeit decentralized, movement of the American people in response to the self-absorption and social balkanization of American society. From politics to commercial culture, the United States has become tremendously “me” oriented, and consequently the American people are bleeding social capital by forsaking meaningful relationships with one another. This balkanization manifests in alarming rates of loneliness, a spike in suicides, rising social distrust, and political tribalism.

Tribalism, Brooks argues, is appealing because it helps forge a type of community. But “it is actually the dark twin of community. Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on common foe.” Americans everywhere are seeking relationship. But “weavers” do so by embodying the virtues of empathy, generosity, “radical hospitality,” and “deep mutuality.” In Brooks’s view, a powerful communitarian ethos is swelling across America, challenging the blights of isolation and polarization.

He is not alone in identifying, and encouraging, this development. An acknowledgement of tribalism’s relationship to the problems of social isolation and civic and institutional decline are increasingly recognized across the political Right and Left in the United States. Responses to the existential crises of hyper-polarization and chronic disconnection are appearing at the academic, literary, governmental, and grassroots levels in ways that engage the culture of politics without being limited by the conventional constraints of partisan ideology.

On the Right, outgoing president of the American Enterprise Institute Arthur C. Brooks (no relation to David) has written eloquently about the need for a renewed spirit of interpersonal connection in America as a means of saving us from our poisonous politics and the preceding scourge of isolation. In his recent bestseller Love Your Enemies, he confronts what he terms our “culture of contempt,” and spills a fair amount of ink recounting the stories of Americans left and right reaching far across the divide to do so. Although his political reputation as a free market conservative precedes him, Arthur Brooks only draws upon the tenets of his policy philosophy insofar as he offers the “competition of ideas” as a means of stimulating “national excellence,” and requiring that “we compete to live up to our own ideals and make the country better for all.” Such virtuous competition, however, requires the transcendent virtue of love, which Aquinas defined as “to will the good of the other.”

This communitarian consciousness is also re-emerging in the right-leaning sectors of government and academia. Republican Senator Ben Sasse has built a formidable political brand largely on a commitment to reducing polarization and restoring civil society. More significantly, a much lauded joint committee of Congress chaired by Republican Senator Mike Lee has launched a multi-year endeavor named The Social Capital Project “that will investigate the evolving nature, quality, and importance of our associational life [ie: ‘civil society’].” Meanwhile in the conservative academic sphere The American Project, (an initiative of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, one of the sole right-leaning premier policy schools in the US, for which this author is an adviser) seeks to reorient the conservative movement away from a theology of unremitting individualism and towards an ethos of community and civil society. Its leading thinkers include the likes of Tim Carney, author of the recent Washington Post bestseller Alienated America, which uses a thorough examination of the available data on social connection to explore the prosperity and decline of American communities.

Even among the conservative pundit class, a zone which one might justifiably think of as a major source of societal division, polemicists such as Glenn Beck and Ben Shapiro, perhaps surprisingly to some, increasingly advocate a culture of reconciliation and virtue as a means of restoring social fabric and community. And they do so in terms that (sometimes) reach across conventional political divides.

Similar activity is visible on the Left. Princeton Professor Cornell West, long an icon among leftists from the academy to the street, has taken to touring the country alongside conservative professor Robert P. George, modeling civil disagreement, empathy, and the power of shared virtue to forge civic bonds. Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome (about whom Arthur Brooks writes at length) and former Obama administration official Van Jones have spoken across the country and to conservative audiences about the need for empathy and understanding across party lines.

At the grassroots level, organizations dedicated to political depolarization through community dialogue have spread across America. For all that may be said about the rising intolerance towards inter-party discourse on the progressive Left, it happens to be true that these groups typically are founded and run by progressives. Virtually all these organizations draw inspiration from the scholarly output of liberal social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who has become increasingly preoccupied with the question of how best to promote viewpoint diversity and civil discourse as bedrock elements of a healthy civil society. (Better Angels, for which this author works, is one such organization, although our leadership is evenly bipartisan).

The rising star of Pete Buttigieg—a young mayor of a blue collar city whose political message leans heavily on the importance of faith and community and away from political orthodoxy—is a powerful testimony to the emerging market for applied communitarian thinking on the political Left. As Buttigieg himself has said, it is unlikely that, under ordinary circumstances, a 37-year-old mayor of a relatively small city would receive serious attention as a candidate for president of the United States. This is obviously true. But a large part of Buttigieg’s unique appeal hinges on his focus on the very values of localism that in other times might make a politician seem too parochial for federal office. “We need,” he has argued, “to rally people around the sense of identity that we’re building each other up, because community is part of how people explain how they fit in to the world.” Without this positive sense of community, Buttigieg argues, people are left to turn to extremist ideologies such as white nationalism for their sense of belonging.

There are reasons to think that we may be on the cusp of a communitarian revival. But the phenomenon at the close of the 2010s is different from the one that emerged during the 1990s. The differences between the two eras provide hope that, unlike in the ’90s, the impact of communitarianism this time around may be lasting.

One clear difference is that the word “communitarianism” is not actually en vogue today, even if the substance of the perspective is increasingly affirmed. As Fareed Zakaria put it in a critical piece in July of 1996, “Sometime over the last two years, someone somewhere must have decreed that the intellectual buzzword of the ‘90s was to be ‘communitarianism.’” From liberal scholars like Michael Handel and Amitai Etzioni on the Left to conservative thinkers like William Bennett and The Heritage Foundation on the Right, the term “communitarian” captured a variety of perspectives all intent on tethering our conception of political and social life back to civil society. Political figures like Hillary Clinton (who contributed to the zeitgeist with her memoir It Takes a Village) and even cultural icons such as Barbra Streisand amplified these themes. The substance of communitarianism arguably peaked in popular consciousness during the presidential campaign of 2000 with the “Compassionate Conservatism” of George W. Bush and the appearance of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, a work that holds nearly religious significance for students of modern American community to this day.

But the communitarian spirit and the intellectual forces gathered around atrophied with the turn of the new century. One of the likely causes of this shift was the trauma of 9/11, which refocused the conservative movement and the country as a whole away from parochial matters of community and towards a War on Terrorism, a development that would consume our national consciousness and further polarization for years to come.

But for all the focus on the tearing of social fabric during the 1990s, polarization was almost certainly a less serious problem than it is now. While the crack cocaine epidemic disappeared during the 90s, the opioid epidemic has surged during the 2010s. This is apparently fueled, at least in part, by climbing rates of loneliness in the US (particularly among young people). While crime rates fell during the ’90s, the perception of police brutality against African Americans has spiked in recent years, leading to broad social upheaval and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Trust in major institutions (from the church to Congress to business and the media) has substantially declined in every single category measured by Gallup with the exception of the military. Around 20 percent of Democrats and Republicans held “very unfavorable” opinions of each other in 1994, compared to over 55 percent today. While the ’90s saw the rise of cable news and talk radio, the rise of social media has only contributed further to social isolation and political polarization. This is to say nothing of the candidacy of Donald Trump.

Social isolation, racial distrust, distrust of institutions, extreme political polarization—these familiar problems have arguably become existential challenges. But they have also opened up space for a renewed focus on matters of personal and civic virtue, civil society, social capital, and community. These concerns have arisen not just as matters of interest but as matters of necessity. With 60 percent of the American people describing current American politics as “the lowest point in US history that they can remember,” and with the 1960s receding in the rearview mirror and the 2020 election looming before us, many Americans are coming to the conclusion that a re-forging of common bonds is what is necessary to preserve society in the midst of its present social decline. This is what is nourishing the communitarian revival. Long may it continue.


John R. Wood, Jr. is a former nominee for Congress. He is Director of Media Development at Better Angels and hosts the Better Angels Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnRWoodJr

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash


  1. GregS says

    On election night in 2016, I watched the returns come in on PBS. There sat David Brooks, the closest thing PBS allowed to a conservative. He scowled and frowned, and generally showed his displeasure and disgust that the unwashed elected Donald Trump. But that was to be expected.

    What shocked and disgusted me, is that a community resource like PBS, could not find and give voice to one person who reflected the political desires of half the nation.

    Before you talk about cleaning up the house, clean your room.

    • Ed says

      Buttigieg had no trouble trashing Pence…

  2. E. Olson says

    “There are reasons to think that we may be on the cusp of a communitarian revival.”

    What creates a community? Answer: A common sense of values and purpose, and a widespread trust in fellow community members to do the “right” thing most of the time.

    What are we seeing in Western culture that suggests a common sense of values and purpose, and trust in fellow community members? Answer: we aren’t. The Left is intent on bringing masses of “diversity” across our borders who by and large don’t share “American” or “Western” values and are coming in such large numbers that they will likely never assimilate and instead try to force their cultural values (Sharia, Islam, socialism, cronyism, tribalism, criminality, etc.) on their hosts. The Left sees the melting pot as a dirty word, and often states a desire to replace/displace “deplorable” citizens who voted for Trump and Brexit (mostly white, middle/working class, Christians) with people of color or non-Christians who they hope will vote reliably Left. How do you build community when Leftist leadership frequently calls half the citizenry deplorable, racist, sexist, and expresses a desire to see them die and be replaced?

    This Leftist desire for immigrants is also driven by the below replacement fertility rates of the citizens, particularly among the Leftist coastal/urban elites, which means Ponzi scheme welfare programs are in jeopardy as fewer young/successful citizens are expected to pay for the welfare and retirements promised by the Left to the larger numbers of older/non-successful citizens. Unfortunately, most of the new immigrants end up being takers from the welfare system rather than contributors to it, which is further accelerating budgetary pressures.

    Scarce resources are another element that leads to reduced communitarianism, as it becomes impossible to bribe splinter groups to behave with “free stuff”, and it becomes more likely that people in power will steal scarce resources for themselves and their tribe, further reducing trust among community members. The Left’s concern about global warming and sustainability also means that their policy preferences will further slow economic growth and create hardships among certain segments of society who work with or use increasingly taxed and banned fossil fuels, and create more community dissent and less revenue to bribe the dissenters. Spreading the wealth around to build and maintain a community is much easier when annual growth rates are 3-4% rather than 0-1%.

    Finally, trust in your fellow community members is not enhanced when the leadership fails to walk the talk. Leftist political, academic, and celebrity leaders famously and continuously talk about helping the poor and working class, and about the need to save the environment, and to believe women, but studies consistently find they are not generous with their own money and time in contributing to community charities (see 1st link), often fail to pay their taxes (see 2nd link), have huge carbon footprints in their own lifestyles, and seem to treat women in their lives with very little respect behind closed doors (see Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, Jeff Epstein, Ted Kennedy, Justin Fairfax). And does the mainstream media or the “mainstream” Left ever call out or punish these Leftist violators of community standards? Nope, they instead urge them to run for President or give them a podium on CNN or MSNBC. So forgive me for being pessimistic about the prospects of a communitarian revival.



    • JamieM says

      Pare of the problem is that communities cannot be forced into existence. They develop over decades, and from around people that have known each other and their families for that long.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      “who they hope will vote reliably Left”

      It is comical that anyone would suppose that Muslims, when they have sufficient power, are going to support the party of gay marriage and omni-gendered bathrooms. They may vote Dem right now because that keeps the immigrants flowing in, but once numbers are sufficient that the Sharia Party can have their way, we’ll see typical Islamic values and open-door immigration (of Muslims) as well. I must admit tho that there are times when I’d almost rather live under Sharia. It is barbaric, but at least it is sane.

      • E. Olson says

        Ray – sounds about right as in: I’ll vote for the party that gives me open borders and “free stuff” until there are enough of us to literally or figuratively slash their sodomite loving throats.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          I do tend to fixate on the European situation. If anyone can pull off Muslim immigration it is the US. I expect you’d share my concerns for Europe tho. With every other group, there is a rate of assimilation but with Muslims there is also a rate of dis-assimilation, that is, we see the children of immigrants more fundamentalist than their parents. Oz has had major trouble too. Anyway, if the US does pull it off I’ll be the first to congratulate you. But didn’t I read something just a couple of days ago about some kids reciting some jihadi creed to the effect that all infidels must be beheaded? And this in some supposedly mainstream Muslim organization? Keep vigilant, it is not beyond imagining that the fate of France and Sweden could befall you. But more likely that you’ll become part of Latin America. They say Spanish is fairly easy to learn, and there won’t be rivers of blood in any case.

        • E. Olson says

          K – so it is ok if only 15-30% of Muslims support extremism (i.e. 1 million people), assuming the polls are accurate on these politically sensitive issues? National level Sharia is not happening soon, but it is certainly possible/likely they will/can enact Sharia at the local government level since they tend to congregate in segregated neighborhoods.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            The naivety is indeed shocking. You monkeys are prone to mass panic attacks on the one hand, and on the other there are clear and present dangers that you refuse to believe are real. When we dolphins see a shark we don’t delude ourselves that it’s a sunfish. Dunno, I honestly believe that if any country can assimilate Muslims it’s you, but even then I myself would not risk it. Why? Keep their numbers below 1% and you might pull it off. 3% is enough to spark rioting in Oz. 6% – 9% in Europe is enough to gravely strain the social fabric. But we’ve not seen a major jihadi attack for a while now, I’m holding my breath. Let’s see what happens in Dearborn.

        • Alan Gore says

          This is probably statistically true, but they could certainly be more vocal about it. Currently it’s as if the Rev. Phelps (godhatesfags.com) were to proclaim being the representative of all Christians, and all the other Christians were to keep quiet and let him get away with it.

    • David of Kirkland says

      The spirit of community is lost once government coercion via ever more restrictive laws come into place (other than those that punish/tax actual harms to others, either directly or indirectly — all externalities). You can’t legislate love, humor, compassion or friendship; but you can add more laws and force everyone into tribes to protect their interests at the expense of others.

    • SFWC says

      “What creates a community? Answer: A common sense of values and purpose, and a widespread trust in fellow community members to do the “right” thing most of the time.”

      Beautifully stated. Without an overhaul or civil war, this will never be possible again in the multicultural United States of America or any European nation.

  3. Fred says

    I take issue witg Brooks’ assertion that we found a “better way of life” in the 1960s. The reason the changes in our way of life were so successful so quickly in the 1960s and 70s was not because they were “better” in any moral or practical sense but because they appealed to some of our most base yet most powerful instincts: lust, hedonism, pride, selfishness, laziness, and unrestrained emotionalism. We have paid and continue to pay a very steep price for thsat “better way of life.” I’m convinced that future historians will see 1968 as the watershed year when America’s decline became irreversible and its collapse inevitable.

    • E. Olson says

      Fred – I’m sure that what Brooks is talking about with regards to the better life in the 1960s is the fact that US population was 90% white, virtually everyone was Christian or Jewish, almost everyone was married with children (even 75+% of black children were born to 2 parent families). Schools were full of well-behaved kids, and college was dirt cheap. Well paid union jobs were plentiful because all our economic competitors were still rebuilding from WWII, and Cesar Chavez supported strong borders with Mexico. The stock market was also roaring due to the Kennedy tax cuts and the ramp up of government spending on Great Society, the Vietnam war, and NASA (which gave us Tang for breakfast), whose ill effects on the deficits and societal health wouldn’t be felt until the the very end of the 1960s and 1970s. John Wayne was the top box office attraction, and California Beach Boys and clean cut English kids topped the pop charts, while even the druggie hippies in San Francisco could afford reasonable priced housing and didn’t need to watch their step to avoid stepping in human feces.

      • Fred says

        Maybe E., but I got the impression that he was talking about the unfortunate changes to that way of life that began with a “vanguard” in the mid to late 1960s.

      • Fred says

        Maybe E., but I got the impression he was referring to the changes wrought to that way of life, changes begun by a “vanguard” in themid to late 1960s.

        • E. Olson says

          Fred – sorry I was being satirical – Brooks is an idiot and he certainly would not have looked back fondly at a time as I described it (except perhaps the heavy unionization, Great Society, and the Beatles).

      • Though those ‘Clean cut English kids’ had haircuts that were widely condemned as a threat to Western Civilisation…

        • E. Olson says

          johntshea – most of the criticisms came only after they were no longer clean cut and were comparing themselves favorably to Jesus.

          • SFWC says

            Yes, The Beatles were changed by the dark anti-western forces that still plague us today.

      • Peter from Oz says


        I think ”human ordure” has a much better ring to it.

    • SFWC says

      Yes, and on the heels of the immigration Law of 1965 that opened the floodgates. At the time, white European peoples were 92% of the US population. The immigration radicals at the time told us this would never change. Today whites are 65% of the population, in a declining American community.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Could I ask a question? Aren’t hispanic people white? The last time I looked Spain was in Europe.

        • sestamibi says

          Most of the Latin Americans invading the US are hardly white. The vast majority are mestizo mixture of local Indian blood with a bit of white ancestry. Spain may still be in Europe, but it’s not sending migrants to the US.

  4. Morgan Foster says

    It appears that by “weavers” Brooks is actually talking about an avant-garde of political activists who attempt to control the development and direction of a new “community” on a preplanned basis.

    Nothing organic about it. Nothing that develops naturally, without premeditation.

    Brooks says: “If you can change the culture you can change behavior.”

    We’ve heard that kind of talk before. Millions died creating those communities.

  5. E. Olson says

    Three sentences from the article: can you spot any differences in language?

    “Even among the conservative pundit class, a zone which one might justifiably think of as a major source of societal division, polemicists such as Glenn Beck and Ben Shapiro, perhaps surprisingly to some, increasingly advocate a culture of reconciliation and virtue as a means of restoring social fabric and community.”
    “Similar activity is visible on the Left. Princeton Professor Cornell West, long an icon among leftists from the academy to the street…”
    “Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome (about whom Arthur Brooks writes at length) and former Obama administration official Van Jones have spoken across the country and to conservative audiences about the need for empathy and understanding across party lines.”

    If you still aren’t sure, let me give you a hint with a quote from Van Jones:

    Van Jones CNN comments on Trump’s victory election night 2016:
    “You have people putting children to bed tonight, and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of ‘How do I explain this to my children?’ …”We haven’t talked about race. This was a ‘white-lash’ against a changing country … against a black president in part. And that’s the part where the pain comes.”

    Does this quote describing half the electorate racist (many of whom voted for Obama) sound like it could be a source of societal division? Similarly, Hawk Newsome has made a career out of falsely accusing police of racism as leader of BLM, which is not supported at all by any rigorous statistical analysis or arrest rates or police shootings.

    Why does Wood not describe these “radical” Leftists as “polemicists” or show “surprise” that they are now advocating reconciliation and virtue? Why is West described as an “icon”? Why are “divisive” and “negative” terms only used to describe “conservatives”? If you want to appear balanced and unbiased, it is important that you don’t let bias slip into your language use and editorializing descriptives.

    P.S. by the way, David “perfectly creased pant leg” Brooks in a Conservative only by the standards of the New York Times, and most real Conservatives also have serious doubts about the Conservative bonafides of Glenn Beck.

    • John Wood, Jr. says

      It’s a fair enough point I suppose.

      I mention West as being an ‘icon’ not because I share his politics more than Shapiro’s (certainly don’t) but precisely because there is a sense that there are no leftists pursuing reconciliation. I wanted to emphasize his bona fides in that context.

      Far as Beck and Shapiro vs. Jones and Newsome, you’re right they’ve all been divisive. Beck and Shapiro are pundits though with audiences of millions, part of an elite group of conservative hosts that dominate right leaning media with a collective following in the upper 8 digits (Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.)

      As a matter of scale then, it’s easy to argue that this collective group, of which Shapiro and Beck are a part, has been be a source of polarization for the nation broadly making it a bit surprising that you might have a couple of its leading figures beginning to speak in a communitarian direction. That was the point. Van Jones and Hawk Newsome are comparatively little known (they have reputations but not household names), and haven’t had the cultural impact the others have had. So my sense was that there would be less surprise there because there might be less awareness of who they.

      Obviously many people do know Newsome and Jones though which is why they were worth mentioning at all, so I do take the point. But no prejudice intended. I’ve had some interaction with all these people and I have reasons to praise them all.

      • CA says

        Virtually everybody says they’re are for reconciliation and community but there can be no reconciliation or community without a common understanding for what the rules are. In the US our common rules are called the US Constitution which amazingly recognizes and allows for the existence of conflict.

        But how can those who reject this traditional common understanding of dealing with conflict be reconciled with those who still value the Constitution?

        Academia has been propagating for decades that its all about ideology and power – the rules exist to further some particular political interest. But there can be no reconciliation and community without a common faith in the rules.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      “This was a ‘white-lash’ against a changing country … against a black president in part.”

      Virtually everyone with a public presence agrees that White Supremacists, such as myself, are the very worst people on the planet. I dunno why, but I don’t feel evil and the fact is that I wept with joy, really, when Obama was elected (I couldn’t vote for him, being a Canadian as I am). But I note that almost all of the world’s decent countries are ‘white’ and I suspect that is not a coincidence — it’s really my way of life, my culture, and the decency of my country that I want to preserve. Mind, I wouldn’t really object to the continuation of the white race too, but that is secondary. If Somalis and Haitians can ‘do’ civilization better than whitey can do it, well then, let them have the country.

      But can they? The Correct will almost admit, after a few drinks, that Somalia isn’t a very nice place, but they are adamant that that is no reflection on Somalis who are invariably the most progressive people you will ever meet. AOC looks to them for inspiration. Maybe I really am evil, because I’m not sure that’s correct. I suspect that Somalia is like Somalia because Somalis are like Somalis. Haiti is like Haiti because that’s the best that Haitians can do. I’d prefer not to import it. I’m not sure I can build community with them. Canadian Canadians are already a minority in Vancouver, and in some neighborhoods they are now almost entirely gone. Like myself, they wish to live with people who at least speak their language. Immigrants, astonishingly, are just the same — they move into those areas where their ethnic group already predominates. But it’s ok when they do it.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @Ray Andrews

        You need not merely suspect. The people of Somalia and Haiti, per your examples, are not living under the boot heels of foreign occupiers. The governments of Somalia and Haiti are corrupt because the people of Somalia and Haiti are corrupt.

        We could say the same of the people of New York City, but then we are discussing a matter of scale.

      • K. Dershem says

        Somalia is undoubtedly a mess, but that doesn’t mean that individual Somalis are irredeemable or incapable of assimilating to Western societies. To the contrary, I live in an area that has seen a significant influx of Somali immigrants in the past decade. Despite some unavoidable tension, overall they’ve integrated well into my majority-white community. Except for their skin color and religious affiliation, Somalis brought here as children or born in the U.S. are virtually indistinguishable from European-American kids. That said, I agree with David Frum and Reihan Salam that legal immigration needs to be limited to numbers which society is able to absorb.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @K. Dershem

          ” legal immigration needs to be limited to numbers which society is able to absorb”

          That’s just it. The issue is discussed in a binary way, but the real issue is how many, how fast. I do think it very likely that Somali immigrants will carry Somali culture and I myself would be up-front in saying I’d rather not have Somali culture in my country. But if numbers are limited, then assimilation can work. Even then, all else equal, I’d prefer immigration from more compatible countries. Why not pick people who are more likely to fit in rather than less likely?

        • E. Olson says

          K – I am sure you are correct that there are some people from all the hellholes of the world who are capable of assimilating and being productive citizens of Western societies, but what happens to the hellhole countries when all the cream of the crop are in the West?

          Is reform and economic/social progress more likely when a country is entirely comprised of the low IQ, the lazy, the illiterate, the sick, the criminal, the violent, and religious fanatics? None of the “open border” types EVER talk about this, and I can only assume it is because they secretly hope that entire shithole populations will eventually migrate to the West.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            This is a real dilemma. On the one hand a country might reasonably prefer the best immigrants, on the other hand, as you say, if the best and the brightest are constantly leaving home for the West, what chance does the shithole have if there’s no one left in it with an IQ over 70?

  6. K. Dershem says

    Tribalism, Brooks argues, is appealing because it helps forge a type of community. But “it is actually the dark twin of community. Community is based on common humanity; tribalism on common foe.” Americans everywhere are seeking relationship. But “weavers” do so by embodying the virtues of empathy, generosity, “radical hospitality,” and “deep mutuality.”

    I’m glad this piece was published here. Based on the comment sections, Quillette mostly appeals to members of the “anti-SJW” tribe, which caricatures and demonizes people on the left (mostly via the tactic of “nutpicking”). SJWs do the same to folks on the right, vilifying them as reactionaries and racists. Conversations are much more constructive if we steel-man opposing positions instead of setting up and knocking down straw men. It might even be possible to find some common ground, instead of deepening the divisions and intensifying the worrying trend of polarization.

    • E. Olson says

      Welcome back K – Ray has missed you.

      • Ray Andrews says

        Yes, he very much has. K demonstrates that not all lefties are SJW nutbars. He is the most consistently reasonable person here.

        • Jean Levant says

          “K demonstrates that not all lefties are SJW nutbars.”
          No evidence required in my case. The problem is, in our era, to manage that peoples who see themselves as “progressives” understand conservatives are not WS nutbars. And it’s a big challenge for them.
          The main flaw of progressives is that even when they condescend to reach to (real) conservatives, with some rare exceptions like K Dershem, they can’t help feeling their virtue superiority, as revealed in this article. That can’t work out this way. I’m pessimistic as for the builing of this “communitarian” bridge on a large scale if they don’t look first to their own vices.

          • Ray Andrews says

            @Jean Levant

            “they can’t help feeling their virtue superiority”

            It seems to me that all fundamentalists do this, but perhaps the lefties, having the upper hand, are more sanctimonious. Besides, virtue would, all else equal, be presumed to attach to the sharing and caring side of the floor as opposed to those miserable people on the other side who are always asking difficult questions and who don’t even seem to care if you think they are virtuous.

          • K. Dershem says

            @Jean, conservatives can be equally unfair and condescending, as illustrated by several commenters on this site. Neither side has a monopoly on virtue or vice.

          • Stephanie says

            Yes, some commenters on this site certainly are unfair and condescending, particularly in the way they always make snide comments about unnamed fellow commenters. Isn’t that just annoying?

        • K. Dershem says

          Thanks for the kind words, Ray. I’ll try to live up to your expectations!

          • Ray Andrews says

            @K. Dershem

            To be quite honest, whereas at one time I considered myself to be admonishing you, I think you’ve passed me. I still do end up being a bit acerbic at times.

          • Jean Levant says

            Sorry, the reply button disappeared somewhere. This is perhaps more an answer to Ray. In politics, I’m a kind of Contrarian. In our day, and especially in my country (France), politics are overwhelmed by progressives or lefties in the politic parties, unions (obviously), big medias (without a single exception in France), education, public offices, ads, movies and so on. The cultural flow is almost completely to the left. Most peoples know it and have to deal with it. One of the results is that lefties are prone to think of themselves as the only truth holders, the good men in (future) History books, and their behaviour is generally, at best, condescending. This is my answer. That’s become a sort of rule of life, unwritten but followed to the letter that you are not authorized to speak out in public if you are conservative (a bad guy) or with the most careful fashion. I know there are some good arguments to be progressive or leftist on several topics but the problem is that the good opposite arguments are never or rarely heard of on public arenas. and when they are heard of, it’s almost always biased by intentionally picking up the weak or the nut among conservatives (medias are sort of masters for that). But in my view, the weak and the nut always tend to go with the mainstream, hence they are now much more likely to appear to the left side of the political spectrum. In another time, or another place, I would stand for progressives, not this time, not in this place.

          • K. Dershem says

            Stephanie, I’ve learned that it’s futile to try engaging with ideologues. There’s no point in naming them, since their identity is obvious to anyone who doesn’t share their biases. I simply ignore them. If you think I’m an ideologue myself, I’d encourage you to do the same to me.

    • John Wood, Jr. says

      Thank you very much K. I would like to think the appeal of Quillette goes beyond opposition to social justice warrior culture. But your point is well taken.

  7. GL says

    As a manager with a large staff I can’t demonize any political party. I can’t demonize any religion. I have to walk the line of acceptance between all kinds. I can tangentially address politics, but only to say that each party or persuasion needs to question their own assumptions and refrain from defining as evil the assumptions of those on the other side.

    I don’t do any real work. I depend on staff for that. Viewpoint diversity is imperative; demographic diversity in and of itself is useless, and is a poor proxy for viewpoint. It is imperative that I earn the trust of all kinds of different people. Divisiveness is counter productive. Of course, my success depends on real output, not the outcome of elections. Unfortunately, divisiveness is often a useful tool when running for office.

    What I see is turmoil and existential dread in the media, but community and (on balance) a lack of divisiveness at work and in my personal life. This isn’t in a bubble, this is in a large metro area at a large and well known (by 100% of the population) employer. I don’t think the end is nigh. I believe much of the “bad things” in the news are real, I just don’t think they are representative of the majority of our waking lives.

    • E. Olson says

      GL – wrote: “As a manager with a large staff I can’t demonize any political party…This isn’t in a bubble, this is in a large metro area at a large and well known (by 100% of the population) employer.”

      It is safe to guess that you don’t manage a large staff at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or any mainstream media company? I’m sorry to say that I feel compelled to commend you on your desire to maintain a politically neutral workplace environment. Neutrality shouldn’t ordinarily be something worthy of praise, because you are absolutely right that most people don’t care or think about politics very often, and certainly don’t want or need to hear their supervisor’s political viewpoints, but such neutrality is unfortunately all too rare these days. It is also nice to hear of a manager who hasn’t sucked down too much of the HR diversity kool-aid that seems to define diversity solely based on skin color, ethnicity, and gender, and who actually gives staff credit for the work done by your unit. I expect you are very successful, and I hope your 100% known employer recognizes your talent.

      • Morgan Foster says

        @E. Olson

        I hope the HR department of his 100% known employer doesn’t figure out who he is.

        • GL says

          Ha. They know who I am, at least as far as it relates to my management strategy. I don’t feel the need to “be my authentic self” at work, so they aren’t fully up to speed in that regards. As long as I don’t descriminate, enforce a meritiocracy, and lead a happy productive staff, they leave me alone. I suspect the market will push people back to this model eventually.

          • Rev. Wazoo! says

            Yes, markets have that.tendency but competition is needed for that so (functional) monopolies invite rent-seeking behavior. Places like Google, Facebook some educational institutions can host large numbers of such parasites using ideology to justify patronage of their in-groups.

  8. molinas says

    I think a reason for the breaking of the social fabric is the need and desire for mobility. Mobility has it’s economic advantages, but also breaks your community ties.
    I grew up in a place where people lived in the same place for generations, I had the same friends through high school and university. My friends were like family. We helped each other in many ways. I knew all the neighbors, as a kid some of the neighbors would help with cooking while my parents were at work.
    Compared to the US, once you finish high school there is a pretty good chance that people go to colleges all around the country. After you finish college you find a job wherever you can. A couple of years later you might find a better paying job on the other side of the country. There is no way to establish any kind of community. In the big cities you don’t know the neighbors, most people don’t even look at you in the elevators or say HI.

    This is just an observation on my part, not sure what the solution is. Also the city I grew up in had about 150K people, so of course scaling will be a problem and the US is much bigger both geographically and population wise.

    • E. Olson says

      Molinas – you raise an important point, but it isn’t as hopeless as you think. In my experience, the NE US is the place where people avoid eye contact and don’t say hello in elevators, but as you head West or South there is generally a much more welcoming and friendly reaction to strangers. I currently live in a somewhat “unfriendly” to outsiders place, but whenever I visit my hometown in the Great Plains of the US I am pleasantly (re)surprised to find people I have never met give me a friendly hello in grocery store aisles or when out exercising, and even start up conversations!!! Similarly, when renting a vacation home in Florida I have had longer conversations with the neighbors than I have had with my neighbors in my current home after several years. Such friendly encounters rarely happened when I was going to graduate school in the NE US, which was exactly as you described with eye contact avoidance and few hellos from strangers (who would often look at me with suspicion if I initiated the hello). People do move around a lot more than in Europe, but I think there is still a strong sense of being part of the American community (and being proud of it) in many parts of the country.

      • Shawn T says

        Great sport when I travel to DC: give everyone a nod and a warm, “Good morning” or “Hello.” You would think they’d just been slapped!

      • K. Dershem says

        I had a similar experience in grad school in the Northeast. I’ll take Midwestern niceness (even if it’s sometimes fake) over East-coast brusqueness any day.

    • EK says

      @ molinas

      The atomization you described happened in the US between 1930-50. It was caused by the Great Depression, which seems to have been worse in the US and Germany. It was amplified by WW II and effected chiefly the US’s wage earning immigrant population that arrived between 1890-1920.

      These people, my people, had no desire for mobility but the circumstances of the Great Depression and WW II forced it on them.

      Further, after 1942 the US Supreme Court began its unrelenting attack on state and local autonomy and the freedom of association.

      The end result was to transfer the people’s loyalty from their state and local governments to the vastly less representative central government.

      N.b. to E. Olson

      Eastern Massachusetts was very much like Northern Ireland between 1950-70. You were born knowing who was and who was not a member of your tribe. I suspect that your cold reception was because you had no idea that you were dealing with at least seven distinct and mutually antagonistic tribes: the old Codfish Aristocracy; the generally low church and working class Yankees, Scots-Irish, Germans and Scandinavians; the generally Catholic Irish, Italians, Portuguese and Polish; the Jews and the Blacks. The only thing they had in common was that they all hated New York.

      I remember explaining this to a German and a few people from New Jersey and the Mid-West over a few beers in the BU Student Union in 1975. The people from New Jersey understood immediately. The German and the Mid-Westerners were baffled.

    • Stephanie says

      I can’t speak to the US but I found within a year or so of moving to Sydney that for the first time I know everyone on the floor of my apartment building, have neighbours I BBQ or hit the pub with regularly, and a separate surrogate mom and surrogate dad. It took me much longer to achieve the same in my old Western Canadian adopted home. Being full of newcomers and transients isn’t the most pivotal factor for community-building, I think it’s attitude and culture.

  9. Farris says

    For the first time in history people can be both isolated and connected at the same time. People can pick and chose with whom they communicate and bond without in interpersonal interaction. People are currently building communities with others who they may never meet or see. These cyber communities can also isolate themselves from others they may find disagreeable. This is not an anti device rant but rather and observation.
    Formerly people congregated at local Fairs and Festivals. Local communities in my area still hold a Strawberry Festival and Catfish Festival among others. These are community gathering events where politics are set aside and community is the sole purpose. Parades use to hold a similar function.
    Today much of the language is apocalyptic. Venerating a confederate statue is not a call to return to slavery nor does it make one a white nationalist. Renaming Main Street Martin Luther King Avenue is not to disregard history and culture. Everything is now nationalized and communities must reflect national values or be denigrated. Most want to talk the talk but few wish to walk the walk. There is no consistency. Years ago a high school held separate proms for black and white students and there was much outrage, yet now an Ivy League school holds separate graduations for black students. One can not support a Christian Baker refusing to bake a gay wedding cake and be outraged when a restaurant refuses Trump supporters. Leave the outrage at home and just don’t patronize.
    You may disagree with your neighbor but chances are he is not a SJW or white nationalist. SJWs and white nationalist are a lunatic fringe who receive too much attention and air time. Most people are not conspiring against you. They are too busy paying bills, working, with home projects, kids and brushing their teeth to be concerned about you. You don’t know everything there is about someone based upon the color of his skin, the thickness of his wallet or the cut of his jib. Avoid the negative types all they have to offer is a downward spiral.

    • K. Dershem says

      You may disagree with your neighbor but chances are he is not a SJW or white nationalist. SJWs and white nationalist are a lunatic fringe who receive too much attention and air time.

      I completely agree. Right-wing and left-wing media outlets often operate as “outrage machines.” In contrast to what Twitter might lead you to believe, the vast majority of people are decent and sane.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Well said, K.D.
        However, I would make one point. I suspect the right wing media would turn off the outrage in a minute if the left became reasonable. However, the opposite isn’t true.

  10. Shawn T says

    Communitarian in the BLM sense: admit you are a low life piece of white garbage basking in all the benefits of white privilege, sit down and shut up, leave the room when told and never speak the words “law and order,” and we will happily allow you into our presence.

    This is pretty standard on the left, occasionally on the right. Stepping across the aisle nearly always means stepping toward the left.

    What is with the throw-away Trump line? As if that is, in itself, some sort of self defining argument about divisiveness and societal woe. He is a brash, harsh, blow-hard, New York billionaire with all the personal negatives that entails, but what he has done is actually good for our national community. Hire Americans. Appoint constitutionalists to the bench. Bring manufacturing into our country rather than pushing it out. Energy independence. Measured, accountable immigration for those who wish to BE Americans via citizenship and work opportunities. Restricting illegal immigration by people with few skills and many needs. Strong job market with low unemployment across all demographics. The only thing really divisive about him is he fails to roll over, apologize and capitulate when directed by his progressive betters (a habit for the Bush and Brooks types). He has been more transparent than any president in my lifetime – more accessible and complying with every request from Meuller. His great failing is not obeying the “rules” like those spelled out above for BLM cummunitarian interaction.

    • Daniel V says

      Oh come on now. You talk as if the right doesn’t include the people trying to impose theocracy and is defined by their desire to impose order in the world. You have people responding to BLM with crap about needing to appreciate what slavery did for them and how women should stop complaining because at least they’re not living overseas.

      It’s a human problem and it’s bipartisan.

      • E. Olson says

        Daniel V – there is a huge difference. BLM was based on a false premise and unfairly blamed cops and white in general for being racist, which has been used to lobby government for further affirmative action in police hiring/lowering hiring standards, letting mostly black criminals out early from prison, reductions in statistical policing (i.e. stop sending more cops to high crime areas), and slavery reparations – all of which would/do increase criminality and decrease police effectiveness and public safety. And in response to getting falsely accused of racism and unfairly getting their pockets picked from higher crime and taxes to pay for all these BLM policies, “white nationalists” accurately tell blacks they should be grateful they aren’t still in shithole Africa? How is that comparable?

        If you still don’t understand, I’ll try to explain it even more clearly. The Leftist solution to almost all political, social, or economic problems is to blame someone (usually wealthy, white, male, Christian/Jewish) and then legislate a “solution” that uses government coercion to take money and freedoms away from the “perpetrator” and give some of the proceeds to the “victim”, which almost never actually solves the problem.

        The Right solution to almost all political, social, and economic problems is to give everyone more freedom to pursue their own best interests as long as the freedoms don’t interfere with the life and liberty of others. The Right believes that people working in their own best interest (i.e. free markets) will almost always find economical and effective means of dealing with or solving problems. Thus instead of raising taxes, the Right usually wants to let people keep their own money, and instead of regulations, the Right usually wants to let markets decide and keep government regulation to the minimum necessary for public order and health. The Right also believes in free speech, and uses words and debate rather than coercion and deplatforming to solve problems.

        Leave the Right alone and chances are very good they will leave you alone. Leave the Left alone, and they will almost certainly find a problem that can only be fixed by not leaving anyone alone.

        • Daniel V says

          E Olson – How are you so certain that all the complaints of BLM are baseless? Humans are naturally racist and suspicious of others who don’t appear to be part of their in group. Since blacks and whites in America each have distinct cultures and since it wasn’t that long ago that lynching was still a thing I find it hard to believe racism doesn’t exist in America anymore. You can see it pretty clearly bubbling under the surface of right wing rhetoric and I’m sorry to say I don’t play the game of taking political rhetoric at face value. Good rhetoric will not leave the message out in the open to be taken at face value.

          Which isn’t to defend BLM either. But to suggest that American blacks should feel grateful for their ancestors being used as slaves, then freed to live in a society where they were legally defined as second class citizens, is absurd. Particularly when the fact this historic injustice caused lasting damage to present day blacks is being ignored or trivialized. People around here like to point out black culture is the real problem with blacks and that’s true. However part of the reason why their culture is in the state it is has to do with that history of slavery and segregation.

          How you’re characterizing the right and left is too narrow. Social Conservatives are part of the right too and they almost always want laws that reflect their own moral potions imposed on people. If my daughter was raped and we found a doctor willing to perform an abortion how is the state just leaving us alone by not allowing that? How are we not being subjected to an ideology when that law is based on the argument a human life begins at conception?

          Let’s also not forget the right has always represented the side supporting the establishment and ruling class. They work for the interest of the powerful. So often the promise to let people be free to keep their own money is more about letting the rich and powerful keep their own money. They often argue against the idea the ruling class has an obligation to the people and rationalize this by saying the free market can provide everything. Unfortunately sometimes that’s not the case and if the establishment falls short on their duty to ensure the security of the lower classes tensions will rise.

          The left might be quite like you defined but part of this is about enforcing the social contract. As above if the establishment doesn’t live up their obligation to provide safety and security to the people then tensions rise and in time will boil over. The old guard will be torn down and replaced because they lose their right to rule. The left are the voice of those people.

          So you could see calls to distribute wealth back down as limiting freedom or theft but keep in mind trickle down economics was a promise that would happen naturally instead of needing to be force. Except it didn’t actually work out that way and the sensible thing to do would be to tweak the system so that happens.

          Finally despite how some college students and new media pundits talk or behave the left is very much about supporting a free and open society. Hence why so many on the left and center are concerned. How these people are behaving, and their desire to impose social order, is shocking because it’s so similar to how one would expect the right to behave. It’s worth noting the political parties that represent the left now mostly deal directly with the capitalist class instead of influencing them through unions from the bottom up like they would in the past.

          • E. Olson says

            Daniel V.

            The link below shows why BLM claims are baseless, and I might add the Hands Up Don’t Shoot narrative in the Michael Brown killing was thoroughly investigated and found to be a total lie. The legacy of slavery is also not an excuse when other groups have faced similar or worse difficulties in more recent times, including indentured white servants, Chinese coolie laborers brought over to build railroads, Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, and Vietnamese boat people who have all overcome their poor treatment to do very well in America. And as terrible as slavery no doubt was, it is not inaccurate to say the the great, great, great grandchildren of American slaves are far better off economically, politically, educationally and all other social measures of progress than those left behind in Africa by the slave traders, as Muhammad Ali once said: “thank God my granddaddy got on that boat.”

            It is also unclear to me why those who have legally and fairly earned large fortunes should be coerced to give their earnings to those who have not worked as hard, not invested in their own educations and businesses, and just don’t have million dollar ideas. Governments that heavily tax, redistribute, or otherwise try to control economies in the name of fairness almost always end up making everyone poorer (see Venezuela). If everyone legally gets the same chances, and they should live with the consequences of their own life choices, which for the poorest and unluckiest in a free market economy is still going to be a very comfortable life.


      • cfkane1941 says

        Could you specify ways the right is attempting to impose theocracy? I hear that argument all the time. I frankly don’t see it. Do you have any examples?

        • K. Dershem says

          *Restrictions on access to abortion (although secular arguments can be made against abortion, most activists and legislators are religiously motivated)
          *Bans on assisted suicide
          *Attempts to allow or require the teaching of creationism in public-school science classes
          *Opposition to comprehensive sex ed in public schools
          *Efforts to undermine the separation of church and state
          *Opposition to embryonic stem-cell research
          *Resistance to equal rights (marriage equality, legal protection against discrimination) for gays and lesbians

          All of these issues can be debated on their merits, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that these positions are supported primarily (sometimes exclusively) by conservative Christians.

          • E. Olson says

            K – so it is a theocracy to promote family values and sanctity of life, particularly when there are non-religious arguments to support all of those positions. Furthermore, a theocracy is based on a dominant religion that has total political control and always gets its way, and most of what you list are the mainstream viewpoints of several religions including Orthodox Jews (the only religious Jews), Muslims, and Christians, they are also not the law of the land, but at best enacted in some regions, so at worst all you need it a bus ticket to get your abortion, assisted suicide, or more explicit sexual education.

        • Daniel V says

          Cfkane1941 – Today it’s not as a prominent because demographics have shifted and, at least in the west, the religious groups that want to see a state acting in the name of religion. In fact in America they’ve all but given up trying to have “Christian” values directly imposed via the state and instead would like to see the state just not deal with areas they want to control like education, healthcare, and charity.

          However they still exist even if their voices are not as loud and you can find our more by digging into the various movements within Evangelical Christianity. Also note evangelical Christianity goes hand and hand with the western right and is even exported to spread right wing ideology in the same way Saudi Arabia uses whabbism.

          Which leads to the best example of what happens when the right has absolute power: Saudi Arabia and Iran. These are not left wing states. They are not interested in moving their nations forward. They are interested in conserving tradition and making sure order is maintained. And they’re theocratic. It’s my understanding that theocratic states are always right wing.

      • Stephanie says

        Whatever pale idea you have of theocracy on the right is laughably trivial compared to the theocracy the left is importing en masse. Let’s try to keep perspective.

        • Daniel V says

          Stephanie open markets also means allowing labour shortages to be made up by immigration. Christianity values helping the meek and Western values have taken the appearance of helping those displaced by war for decades. Are you arguing we should be selective about what religions are permitted when applying the above?

          • Stephanie says

            Daniel, yes, we should look at the available opinion research polls from the countries we draw our immigrants to decide if we want people with those values in our countries.

            I don’t think Christian values require suicide. If the West were to take in everyone from unstable countries, the West would not be the West any longer. That approach doesn’t benefit anyone long term.

            Mass immigration exhasterbates labour shortages by suppressing wages, making it unaffordable for middle class families to have more kids.

  11. Farris says

    Yesterday was always better than today, is a common generational theme. In the 60’s and 70’s Merle Haggard wrote “Are we rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell?” and some believed a race war was eminent.
    The truth of the matter is we are healthier, have a long life expectancy, more affluent, comfortable and free than ever. In 20-25 years, these will be the “good ol’ days.” People seem predestined to believe they’re living at the end of times. I guess one generation will be correct. The past is fixed and unchanging the present and future are chaotic and scary.

    • E. Olson says

      Yea but Farris don’t you know we are all going to boil to death in 12 years unless we all start living in solar powered caves? And what about the .04% of the population that is unsure what bathroom they should use? And who can forget about the Trump collusion with Russia and Mueller’s attempt to cover it up – thank God Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler on are the case. Sure we might be living longer than ever, but you know some people still don’t have free healthcare or college – what about them? How can you be so complacent when the world is going to Hell?

  12. Serenity says

    Farris: “SJWs and white nationalist are a lunatic fringe who receive too much attention and air time. Most people are not conspiring against you. They are too busy paying bills, working, with home projects, kids and brushing their teeth to be concerned about you… Avoid the negative types all they have to offer is a downward spiral.”

    Radical SJWs is a minority but the most proactive and ruthless. How long, do you think, it will be possible to avoid their insanity? They started to criminalise dissent, to legitimize and aggravate the psychopathic behaviour of some and to silence the majority by fear of persecution.

    For example, in June 2017 legislation passed by the Canadian province of Ontario has granted authorities the right to take children away from parents who refuse to accept their children’s “gender identity.”
    It deprives parents of their earlier right to direct the child’s education and religious upbringing.

    The family is now only allowed to direct the child or young person’s education and upbringing, in accordance with the child’s or young person’ creed, community identity and cultural identity.

    This law allows anybody, particularly in a position of authority over the group of children – teachers, social workers, youth service volunteers – to persuade a bewildered child to change the gender and to proceed with hormone therapy and surgical interventions. Thus, creating a playground for psychopathic mindsets, considering that eight out of 10 trans young people have self-harmed and almost half have attempted to kill themselves, according to a significant new study … in schools and colleges across the UK.


    • E. Olson says

      Serenity – scary stuff – I guess the only silver lining are the long lines for the national health service mean that the confused kids won’t actually get their hormones or surgery until they are well into adulthood and probably grown out of their transgender phase – or do they get to skip to the front of the line ahead of cancer patients and heart attack victims?

    • Farris says

      @E.Olson & Serenity

      My intent was not to argue for complacency, though I can see how that may be inferred from my posts. I not generally prone to keeping my opinions to myself. I was attempting to argue against hysterical apocalyptic forms of debate. Those who argue thusly generally do so due to a lack of supporting evidence and self control.

    • SFWC says

      The SJW is merely the lead soldier on the Progressive march. Theirs has always been a long war to destroy western civilization. Conservatives have not stopped them. They have barely tried because of imposed white guilt and misplaced altruism. A guy like David Brooks facilitates the Left. They have no interest in cooperation. White consciousness is the answer.

  13. Sydney says

    Such a disingenuous and dishonest post. Author writes as though he’s offering olive branches to build ‘community,’ but he’s actually just using these branches to whip at people and social currents that he dislikes and disagrees with.

    On black-American issues, I kept thinking that black conservatives like Larry Elder and Thomas Sowell would destroy this post with one [Charles M.] blow.

    As an aside, does he know that we’re aware (out here in dumb, knuckle-dragging, and bigoted Populistland) that the NYT bestseller list is rigged so that favoured books show up on it? I got tired of seeing, ‘…#1 NYT bestseller…’ as some sort of marker of excellence and community-approbation. It’s NOT. NYT’s own racism and bias is evident in everything it touches.

  14. Lightning Rose says

    “Communitarianism” is not a requirement of life; it’s a class marker for post-religion social climbers trying to gain entry to the “elites.” Around 6 years ago, the conversation at cocktails changed; instead of the traditional pigeonholing of one’s peers via career, firm, college, family it became absolutely necessary to overtly and conspicuously pitch one’s “cause.”

    You can drive a BMW, own a mansion and a yacht, be bone thin and filthy rich with a closet full of Louis Vuitton luggage, but if you haven’t been out in Ebola country doing “service work” or weaving grass huts with the natives of Bali you’re no longer “cricket.” The more arduous, dangerous, banal, cliche and unproductive the “service,” the better. Virtue-signaling is the new competitive conspicuous consumption and one’s ticket into Society–hence the raft of celebrity bimbos suddenly Earnestly Concerned about bizzare, far-flung and obscure “causes.” Plus, foundations are a good way to hide money.

    Meanwhile we Deplorables are just fine with personal liberty . . . and we aim to keep it!

    • Harbinger says

      …bang on the money there Rosie. I was bemused when this trend first became apparent amongst members of my own extended family, who are very successful professional couples. At first I was even a bit concerned that they were signalling ‘can’t cope’ or ‘this is my limit’ but no, as you say, its part of the Rules Based World Order rat race now.

  15. Hi all. I’m a Brexit supporting Brit. It was so interesting to read both the article and the comments and get an insight into American cultural politics. It is virtually the same here, with a tawdry liberal left catastrophising everything that doesn’t neatly conform to their well controlled bubble. Of course, being a communitarian populist means both the liberal left hates you (yes #socialsorting is their trademark) and the right views you with suspicion as to whether their Corporate state is going to be dismantled from within.

    What the author omits from his otherwise very interesting article is that communitarian was ruthlessly smeared by the liberal intelligensia who saw communitarianism as a threat to their stranglehold over individuality, from which they could rouse manufactured discontent in all the ways described in the illuminating comments. Communitarianism was smeared and demeaned in the usual SJW way by citing C as authoritarian and repressive with particular references to the evil regimes in South East Asia, all of which we know as Muslim.

    The smearing ended when Journals refused to publish Communitarian articles any longer with the exception of Amitai Etzioni who on the one hand began his own Journal and on the other infused C with sufficient liberal rights to make him generally acceptable. Hence the era finished with liberal Communitarianism.

    Now it seems that the mistake of entirely removing ‘community’ from the social sciences is being realised. However the problem, as I see it, is that the consequence of entirely removing community from the social sciences for at least a decade or so is the cynicism and activism that has since emerged around individualism and in particular around individual rights, otherwise known as identity politics.

    Therefore in my mind a communitarian Revival is not only desirable, it is absolutely essential in order to balance what is a very unbalanced, and in many ways, a deranged set of affairs that besets large parts of the Western world.

    For me, populism is a direct result of the liberal intelligensia discrediting and removing the notion of community from social science discourse and Western civilisation has been made much the worse for it. Therefore it is essential to reclaim community and reweave it back into cultural politics.

    As I write this, a cynical voice is telling me that the liberal intelligensia sought to destroy community in order to then appropriate it for itself since if there is one solid foundation to any true rendition of conservatism and for that matter society, it is community, whether in the form of civic associationism or civic society.

    Perhaps it was necessary for traditional more socially conservative notions of community to be deconstructed so that they could be reformed into more liberal notions of community. So perhaps the underlying intent was for good reason. However the unintended consequence was deep polarisation which has uncontrollably been forced upon everyone by over bearing liberalism, otherwise known as liberal authoritarianism.

    The difficulty as I experience it, is that liberal authoritarianism has reached such a sociopathic level that it is no OK, to lie, to deceive, to smear and to distort any information in order to maintain liberal authoritarianism. Somehow we truly have created a monster called liberal authoritarianism that uses every conceivable form of sophistry and logical fallacy in order to try and maintain power.

    Whether viewpoint diversity and communitarianism can help cure this social malaise is another matter but we definitely need something to bridge the sane with the insane.

  16. Geofiz says

    You had me right up to the part about Pete Buttigieg. Mike Pence has had nothing but complimentary things to say about him. He had never made a comment about Buttigieg’s sexual preference. And yet Buttigieg felt it necessary to attack him for his personal beliefs despite the fact that Pence has never tried to impose those beliefs on others. Buttigieg’s idea of community is that everyone thinks the same way he does. That what the SJW’s want and that is tribalism. Community should mean accepting the fact that we may walk different pathways in life and that is OK.

    I get it! Buttigieg is a media darling who is running for president. He wants to play the gay card. But if he is your model of communitarianism then your “revival” is DOA

    • Morgan Foster says


      Pete Buttigieg is a gay man from Indiana. Mike Pence is the former governor of Indiana.

      Buttigieg’s deep and personal animosity dates from Pence’s time in the governor’s mansion.

      The hatred of every Hoosier Democrat for Pence is, if anything, even more insanely berserk than their hatred for Trump.

      You would have to do some Google research to really understand where it’s coming from.

      • Geofiz says

        Morgan Foster suggested that I do some Google research on Mike Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana so I did. K Dershams’s response to my post is more that a bit disingenuous. Before 2012 the vast majority of both democrats and republicans were opposed to gay marriage. That famously include Barrack Obama, who said he believe that marriage is between a man and a woman and Hillary Clinton. Pence’s views were well within the mainstream. The same was true as regards gays serving openly in the military. Don’t ask, don’t tell was seen as a reasonable compromise by both groups. In the 1990’s, many gay organizations were very highly concerned about the spread of HIV and a massive effort was made within the community to encourage safe sex. It was the gay community was discouraging behavior that facilitated spreading of AIDs

        The momentum towards acceptance of gays really began to change when Obama in 2012 came out in support of gay marriage. Pence still opposes it. I disagree with him but I respect his right to hold that opinion.

        The shit really hit the fan when Pence signed the RFRA in 2015 and here a bit of perspective is also necessary. The Federal RFRA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. But it only affected the Federal government. The bill was introduced by Schumer (D) in the house and Kennedy (D) in the Senate. Only three senators voted against it. As the RFRA only covers Federal law, 21 states passed similar measures without controversy. Ten other states, including liberal Massachusetts have similar laws. There have been no controversy about these laws

        The RFRA laws states that legislators shall not substantially burden and person exercise of religion even if that burden results from a rule of generally applicability. An example of this was the use of Peyote by specific native American tribes. Peyote is against the law, however it is allowed for use in religious ceremonies by the RFRA. However, by 2015 the political winds had shifted when Indiana initiated a similar law. It passed the Indiana house with a huge majority (40-10). But it was felt by many that the law was designed to discriminate against gays. A huge national lobbying effort was directed against Indiana by both political organizations and large companies that wanted to burnish their PC credentials. Short-lived boycotts were initiated by the states of Washington, New York and Connecticut. All lasted only a few months.

        What Dersham fails to mention is that at the same time the RFRA bill was being debated, a second bill intended to provide protections for LGBT customers, employees and tenants was proposed was passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Pence.

        It is easy to support gay marriage. Two gays getting married has exactly zero effect on anyone’s life beyond those two individuals and their circle of friends. However, when we start asking whether people should be forced to do thing that they believe are immoral we run into a huge gray area. Should a black commercial seamstress be required by law to sew robes for the KKK? I believe that Dersham would enthusiastically argue no. Therefore, should a baker who sincerely believes that gay marriage is immoral be forced to make a custom cake for a gay couple? He cannot refuse service when it comes to selling items in his store. But custom services are different. I ran a geophysical services company for many years. I refused to offer service in on several occasions for a variety of reason. Sometime it was because I felt I could not ethically come up with the results the client wanted. Should I have been forced to come up with those results? Should a baker be forced to decorate a cake when he feels he cannot ethically design the cake the clients want? What is the difference?
        We need laws to enforce behavior. That include anti-discrimination laws. But when either side tries to legislate morality, it becomes a very slippery slope.

        • Geofiz says

          Shoot!!! Way too many typos. Never post in hurry (Grin)

        • K. Dershem says

          Businesses that provide a service to the public are not allowed to discriminate against people because they belong to a protected class. If I open a restaurant, I can’t legally post a sign declaring that blacks (race) and Jews (ethnicity/religion) can’t eat there. In some states — including Colorado, but not Indiana — sexual orientation is a protected class. Just as a baker isn’t permitted to tell an inter-racial couple that he won’t bake a cake for their wedding because he’s morally opposed to miscegenation, he can’t refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation. Membership in the KKK is not a protected class. If you’re offering a service to the public in a state that protects gays and lesbians from discrimination and you’re morally opposed to homosexuality, you may need to either relocate or change careers.

          • Geofiz says

            So your view is that you can refuse service to someone who is gay, but only if he is a white supremacist ????? Actually, you are wrong on both counts. Masterpiece Bakery won its court case and legally, you cannot refuse service to someone for his or her political views, protected class or not. But that is beside the point. You are expressing YOUR moral views and you want laws to enforce them. You do not care about my moral views. That is precisely my point.

            What is a protected class? Are heterosexuals protected? Are men? Are whites protected? How about Christians? or Jews? Asians? Why are they not protected? Who gets to define who is a “protected class”? Why are some groups protected classes and some are not. Isn’t that racism?

          • Geofiz says

            A clarification to the comment below: You cannot discriminate against someone for their political views. However, businesses generally have the right to reject work that they find offensive. So the black seamstress would be required to hem pants for the Klansman, but not sew his robes. This was the basis of the defense for Masterpiece Bakery.

          • K. Dershem says

            Geofiz – in the U.S., “protected classes” are defined by statute. Less than half of states include sexual orientation as a protected class. The Masterpiece Bakery case was decided very narrowly — the Colorado law was not declared unconstitutional.

          • Geofiz says

            1) I KNOW what a protected class is. Again you missed my point. When you protect a certain class of people from employment discrimination, instead of protecting ALL people from discrimination, you descend down a slippery slope as you institutionalize racism. As you point out, one of those protected classes is religion ( which would include conservative Christians).

            The Masterpiece Bakery case was decided in Jack Phillip’s favor on two points:

            1) The store owner had latitude to decline to create specific images that he felt to be offensive

            2) The Colorado Civil Rights Commission endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust.

            We agree, as did Phillips before the Supreme Court, that he must serve gays. However, he was under no obligation to design a cake that was offensive to him. That is the point I was making about the black seamstress. She has the right to refuse to sew the Klansman’s robes but not the right to hem his plain grey pants.

            Freedom of religion is embodied in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution . Although I recognize that amendment is unpopular these days with some on the left as it also includes freedom of speech, it remains the law of the land. Both sides of the political spectrum should be very cautious about trying to abrogate it. Anti-religious bigotry, even that which is disguised as a defense of minority groups, has no place in the United States.

          • Geofiz says

            You state: “In some states — including Colorado, but not Indiana — sexual orientation is a protected class.”

            This again is not true!!

            On April 2, 2015, Governor Pence signed a measure into law which was intended to be a clarification of the newly enacted RFRA. Specifically, the new language says the RFRA does not authorize a provider — including businesses or individuals — to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, employment, housing or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service.

          • Geofiz says

            Last post on this!

            The saddest example of government persecution of religion is the continuous litigation directed against the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Little Sisters of the Poor is exactly what their name implies, a group of nuns who take care of elderly poor. You would think that the left would support such an organization. But that is not the case. As Catholic nuns, they are opposed to contraception, so they refused to include it in their health plan. The government exempts multiple organizations from the HHS contraceptives mandate, including large corporations like Visa and Exxon who self-insure. The government’s own military family plan is exempt. But not apparently, the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Obama HHS sued the Little Sisters of the Poor. After a long grueling court fight the Supreme Court in 2016 decided unanimously in the Sister’s favor.

            Was it over ???? Noooooo!!!!

            The decision had a loophole which has allowed states to sue the Little Sisters of the Poor. They are currently are defending themselves against lawsuits from the States of California and Pennsylvania. The cases will likely once again wind up in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Sisters are having to spend time defending themselves against punitive lawsuits instead of helping the poor. The plaintiffs state that they are “protecting the rights of women”. Newsflash!!! Nuns ARE women!! No one employed by the Little Sisters of the Poor has complained about the lack of free contraceptives. Nuns do not have a compelling need for them. And AFAIAA, no one has a “right” to free condoms.

            California is rapidly becoming a third world country. It has the largest percentage of poor of all the states in the union. San Francisco already is a third-world country. Tech billionaires hide behind high security in gated communities while large numbers of homeless, eat, sleep and defecate on the streets. It is Calcutta in 1934. You would think that California would have a better use for their scarce dollars than suing a charitable organization that has been in existence for 175 years. And you would be wrong. This is this precisely the type of persecution by unelected bureaucrats that the RFRA is designed to stop.

            K., You should fear this this kind of power as much as I do. If left unchecked, it will only not be used against organizations that you disfavor. Sooner, rather than later, it will be used against you.

            When the Nazis came for the communists,
            I remained silent;
            I was not a communist.

            When they locked up the social democrats,
            I remained silent;
            I was not a social democrat.

            When they came for the trade unionists,
            I did not speak out;
            I was not a trade unionist.

            When they came for the Jews,
            I remained silent;
            I wasn’t a Jew.

            When they came for me,
            there was no one left to speak out; Martin Neimoller

        • Morgan Foster says


          Thank you for taking the time and trouble of seeing for yourself.

          The lies of omission coming from the left and the Democratic Party tend to suffocate any attempt at a rational discussion of Pence and gay rights in Indiana.

          Look for that to increase exponentially, should he ever seek the the Republican nomination for president.

    • K. Dershem says

      Pence has “never tried to impose those beliefs on others”? The fact that Pence ultimately failed doesn’t mean that he never tried. To the contrary:

      2000: During his congressional campaign, Mike Pence said, “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.”

      2000: Pence also supported the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only if federal dollars were excluded from organizations who “celebrate” and “encourage” behavior that facilitates spreading of the HIV virus. Further, Pence supported this reauthorization only if “those institutions provided assistance to those looking to change their sexual behavior”, an off-the-cuff endorsement for ex-gay conversion therapy.

      2004: Mike Pence co-sponsored a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define marriage as solely between one man and one woman.

      2007: Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

      2010: Mike Pence voted against the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal which allowed LGBT Americans to openly serve their country in military service.

      2012: Pence refused to say on the record if he supported a same-sex couple raising a child together.

      2014: Gov. Pence supported HJR-3, a bill to add an amendment banning same-sex marriage to Indiana’s Constitution.

      2015: Governor Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in a closed-door ceremony surrounded by special interest lobbyists.

      2015: Governor Pence said on ABC’s “This Week” that it was “absolutely not” a mistake to sign RFRA, throwing Indiana into a $250 million economic panic and putting Indiana’s “Hoosier Hospitality” reputation in jeopardy.

      2015: Even after his approval rating plummets from RFRA, Mike Pence on July 22 told the media he is “studying” the issue of LGBT rights and whether or not he’d support across the board protections for the LGBT community.


      • Denny Sinnoh says

        K der Sham.

        Well, shit-on-a-dick — that would be terrible if two creepy guys don’t get the chance to play pretend “marriage”.

        Otherwise it’s really adorable.

        • K. Dershem says

          Hmmm. Not sure that a homophobic slur responds to the point I was making, but YMMV.

          • Peter from Oz says

            I think you better look up the meaning of the suffix ”phobic” It means an irrational fear.
            Denny’s remark revealed a disgust of homosexual behaviour. That had nothing to do with fear.

      • Peter from Oz says

        WHat protections do the Qwertys need, KD? From what I can see what is happening is that the activists are out to get privileges for their constituents. To do this thay continually have to find some new way that they are being persecuted. It’s all lies of course. But that’s how the activists give their lives meaning and how they make their money. they thus have a vested interest in ensuring that QWERTYs are always seen to be persecuted.

  17. Interesting, though:-

    “This philosophy of public life gained traction throughout the 1990s, crested with the turn of the new millennium, and then went into sharp decline. Is its moment about to return?”
    Really? Who says? I remember the 1990s, but not any great flowering of communitarianism. Likewise any ‘sharp decline’ on the 2000s.

    Tribalism the dark side of community? Depends on the tribe. I do wonder what Native Americans and other tribal people would say about that judgement.

    The author also seems to ignore the nation as a community.

    The link to The Social Capital Project is broken.

  18. Communitarianism necessarily implies limitations being placed by others on each person’s individual autonomy. Atomized individualism is the antithesis of communitarianism. Yet atomized individualism, emancipation from all unchosen bonds, is the very essence of the modern Left. (https://theworthyhouse.com/2018/08/04/analysis-equality-liberty-ultimate-ends/) Therefore, the Left and communitarianism are, and always will be, totally incompatible.

    As Robert Nisbet noted sixty years ago, the inevitable result of unbridled emancipation, and also the end goal of the Left, is to destroy all intermediary institutions, and to leave nothing between the individual and the State, which performs, badly, the functions formerly served by the community, but can be controlled to achieve Left ends. See Robert Putnam, among many others: https://theworthyhouse.com/2016/08/02/book-review-bowling-alone-the-collapse-and-revival-of-american-community-robert-putnam/

    People like David Brooks and Sasse are tolerated, or even lionized, by the Left, for now, because they do not actually suggest, much less insist upon, any areas, any at all, where individual choice should be limited. Rather, they offer bromides about love, and are therefore no threat, while being a useful propaganda weapon with which to beat conservatives who actually threaten Left hegemony. Love unites communities, sure, but shared mandates and prohibitions are required as well. A community where each person does exactly as he pleases and faces no consequences for any action is no community at all. Expectations of the community are what create the community.

    Thus, all this talk of “shared virtue” carefully avoids any definition of virtue. This is symptomatic. No definition can be offered, because that would set limits on behavior, which the Left cannot permit. Not to mention, Buttigieg is puffed in the public eye for one reason and one reason only—that he is homosexual. A bonus is that he claims to be a Christian as well, such that his demand to have no limits placed on his behavior can be cast as compatible with Christian belief, which is, of course, completely false. That he makes the claim that he can re-define Christianity as “what I want to do” gives the lie to any claim of communitarianism being compatible with Left thought.

    • K. Dershem says

      ** Yet atomized individualism, emancipation from all unchosen bonds, is the very essence of the modern Left.**

      I disagree. I think you’re describing libertarianism and the philosophy of Ayn Rand, which have some connections to the Left but fit more comfortably on the Right. What is Socialism but extreme and coerced economic communitarianism?

      • Socialism is ownership of the means of production by the state. It is wholly compatible with emancipation from all non-chosen societal bonds (although as I say some of those are replaced by the commands of the state, but with different commands). In any case, you are empirically not correct–the modern Left is very open about so-called emancipation being their overriding goal.

        • K. Dershem says

          Libertarians want to maximize individual freedom. Are they unambiguously on the left? Not in my view. People on the left are far more likely to subscribe to the views of John Rawls than Robert Nozick. You’re stipulating a definition of “the Left” that I don’t share, so I suppose our disagreement is semantic and not worth pursuing further.

          • Perhaps. But Rawls agrees with Nozick on this; Rawls’s Liberty Principle is exactly this. They part company on whether the state may take actions to limit liberty for reasons unrelated to emancipation, namely the achievement of equality of outcome. Those are not communitarian limitations or ones opposed to emancipation from unchosen bonds. So yes, in this sense libertarians are on the left.

    • Stu says

      You’ve got it completely backwards.
      Communitarianism is the basis of the repulsive contemporary left. They absolutely revile individuality. They claim victimhood by collective membership in groups (see the ‘LGBT community’, the ‘Black community’, etc ad nausium.

      Think about leftist policies.
      Affirmative action- because one ‘community’ is suposedly disadvantaged. Individuals? Best candidate? Specific individuated circumstances? Not relevant.

      How well does the left think of a truly ‘atomistic’ individual (a self sufficient, tax resistant, self protecting gun owner) It’s the ultimate villain to the left.

    • jsmith says

      “People like David Brooks and Sasse are tolerated, or even lionized, by the Left, for now,…”

      That’s only because they are both vile anti-Trumpers. The amount of vitriol that comes out of them is matched by the venal anti-white, anti-American Democrats. They have disqualified themselves with their divisiveness and should never be trusted. Sasse was one of the Tea Party supported candidates and has proven to be a traitor. There are plenty of others like Van Jones and Shapiro who have tarnished themselves as well. This is a situation where those who have always been able to moderate themselves should take the lead. These immoderates should sit on the sidelines and STFU for now.

  19. neoteny says

    movement away from a theology of unremitting individualism and towards an ethos of community and civil society

    If such a movement were to happen in Western societies, wouldn’t that make them resemble African societies, were clan ties are of prime importance? African public servants expected to practice a high level of nepotism: their relatives and clan members all line up for jobs, contracts, even they lay claim to some of the salary received by the successful one who had it made. And I can see the point in such a culture: but I definitely don’t want to live in one.

    I’ve never been in Afghanistan, but I expect there’s a strong ethos of community and even civil society among Afghanis living in the provinces. At the same time, their standard of living is definitely lower than of similarly situated people in the West. So if there’s a trade-off between individualism and an ethos of community & civil society, and such a trade-off also means choosing between higher or lower standards of living, where should this line be? And who should decide it?

    I’m all for civility & good will toward each other and I wouldn’t deny anybody the right to freely associate. But the right to free association also means the right to freely not associate; without the latter, the concept is meaningless. I understand that my stance is still one of individualism as I’m talking about an individual right, but I’m a great believer in the concept of the consent of the governed: if I find the expectations of a community too high, I must be able to opt out. I don’t claim a right to an entirely costless opt-out (I might be shunned — personally boycotted — by the rest of the community which might motivate me to move), just the right to a financially non-punitive separation.

    • Stephen Phillips says

      I suspect that you are correct. My experiences in Papua have been the same, with nepotism at first family, then clan, then tribe, then language group. In that order; and all having precedence over anyone outside their community group.
      It is called “Wantok” and is the ruin of Papua.

  20. Outraged says

    No thanks. The biggest fear of the elite right now is that people will simply start unplugging from the Matrix and realizing that belonging to a community is not, in fact, the most important thing, that plenty of meaning can be found outside of it, and that communities are made for humans and not the other way around. Shock and horror will be the response, with the epithet “individualism!!!” Yet all progress, by definition, involves departure from established norms.

    • Rev. Wazoo! says

      @ Outraged
      Yes. Progress exists in time also, however, and as an individual it’s also my right to and together with other people to pursue some joint goals across time. In fact, this is what moat people do with their individualism.

      Short-term goals gratifying you are excellent so enjoy them, just don’t pretend they have much shelf-life after your death – or even in 10 years.

  21. Sydney says

    I’m sorry. I originally came from the left, and even I just don’t know how anyone in 2019 can write stuff like this with a straight face:

    “Political figures like Hillary Clinton (who contributed to the zeitgeist with her memoir It Takes a Village) and even cultural icons such as Barbra Streisand amplified these themes.”

    Seriously? Or is this a parody…?

    • E. Olson says

      Sydney, yea I got a laugh out of that sentence as well. Communitarian Hillary “it takes a village of deplorables”, and Barbra “I’m moving out of the country if Bush, McCain, Romney, or Trump gets elected” (but is still residing in the people’s republic of California).

      • Sydney says

        @E. Olson

        Pink-pussy hat communitarian, basement-server aficionado, and married-to-a-rapist Hillary contributed so greatly to the zeitgeist that despite everything (DNC rigging the nomination for her, untold campaign millions…), ordinary voters turned their backs on her and voted for Trump – yet she was still on a stage complaining about the election having been ‘stolen’ from her as recently as LAST WEEK.

        As for iconic Babs, she should have retired after her best work (30 years ago) and spared us both her cosmetic surgery and incisive political commentary. Oh, and last month she offhandedly dismissed fellow pop-star Michael Jackson’s child sex abuse as a sort of benign choice any ordinary adult might make.

        Just two of the left’s moral compasses. Why didn’t the author celebrate the similar communitarianism of fine, zeitgeisty new congresswomen Tlaib and Omar…?

      • Rev. Wazoo! says

        @E Olson
        And Streisand’s name (and jealousy over her residence) is now now eponomously linked to Jordan Peterson, Bret Weinstein, Ben Shapiro et al.have all been rocketed into the limelight by the Streisand Effect; attempts to suppress awareness of s. omething leading to widespread publicity of it.

  22. Mick Sheldon says

    This was well written . Also is quite insightful . We are tribal , yet we use those tribes to win political battles . We also yearn for community, which is undermined by our Politics.

    I agree with what the writer stated about Mayor Pete , he shared community . faith and that we are all in this together appeal that brought him into the national spotlight . But yet he used his faith to go against the more conservative and traditional concepts of it . He united his tribal faith with the presently more secular non faith to insert his tribalism . New Atheists were agreeing with him because he was attacking the more traditional beliefs of Christianity . I am new to Better Angels but this is an example of uniting political sides not all of us . Preferably I would have loved to see Mayor Pete share that Faith strengthens families, communities , promotes positive outcomes and stronger communities where we look out for each other. . We can share differences without being my faith or the highway which he unfortunately did , bringing the usual rhetoric associated with differing value systems and beliefs .

    Yes communities over tribes , but not at the expense of choosing one religion over another .

  23. Stephanie says

    It’s amusing that a piece on the need to build community and bridge social and political divides exhibits such a naked political bias. The disparaging treatment of Glenn Beck and Ben Shapiro compared to the adulatory treatment of David Brooks and Pete Buttigieg is stark and telling.

    Of course David Brooks was going to be warmly greeted by a left-leaning crowd: his politics are indistinguishable from the rest of the NYTimes editorial team. And of course Pete Buttigieg was going to be popular among Democrats, he’s gay and as light on policy as Obama was. Compare his popularity to that of Andrew Yang, a policy-heavy Asian-American, and you can see the left’s demographic and ideological preferences in action.

    Community feeling will not arise from politically-tainted pieces like this one, political actors trying to implicitly (or explicitly) call Trump divisive, or top-down leftist solutions. It will come from people individually choosing to make the effort to chat up their neighbours and organise social gatherings.

    I’m lucky enough to live in a place with great community feel, but it would help if people would stop assuming I must hate Trump as rabidly as they do, and quit venting about him at BBQs, over dinner, at work, and during carpools. If it’s this bad in Australia I can only imagine what it’s like in the US. Maybe people wouldn’t feel so divided if we’d stop acting as if everyone in our surroundings thinks the way we do.

    • Just Me says

      Brooks popular with the Left?? They despise him! Comments from the Left about Brooks are always dismissive and insulting.

    • John Wood, Jr. says

      It’s a strange comment to me, because I’m on the right, I’ve talked to Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck and am fans of them both. I am 100% confident that neither of them would take issue with this article.

      The point in saying that their articulation of communitarian sorts of themes is perhaps surprising is because they gained fame as conservative talk radio show hosts (now podcasters as well) and the hosts of those shows tend to be polarizing. That’s not a comment on whether or not they are right or wrong with respect to policy. I agree more with Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck on policy than I’m likely to Pete Buttigieg.

      The other thing worth mentioning is that each of them has described themselves as having been polarizing, and each of them has apologized for it and has committed to doing better. (Shapiro did so in response to an article I wrote about him for this site).

      I agree with you regarding the hatred of Trump too, by the way.

      • Stephanie says

        Thank you for the response, John. It is not clear to me why Beck or Shapiro are characterised as “polarising” but not Brooks or Van Jones. Anyone expressing a strong opinion can be characterised as “polarising.” It is also unsurprising that people on the right talk about community, when they are the ones espousing traditional religious values. “Individualism” does not preclude having meaningful relationships, but simply implies you should not primarily identify as a member of a tribe and should certainly not be treated that way by the government.

        You may agree with Ben Shapiro more than Pete Buttigieg, but your choice of descriptors throughout this piece reveals a persistent bias in favour of the left. I can relate. Education and the media indoctrinate people into disliking the right, and those feelings aren’t immediately deprogrammed as you move to the right. I’d suggest if you want to fight tribalism, first take some time to deprogram the tribal impulses you’ve likely been accumulating subconsciously for decades.

        • K. Dershem says

          … or maybe you could read the article more charitably instead of being hypersensitive to supposed slights. SJWs aren’t the only snowflakes.

          • Morgan Foster says

            @K. Dershem

            … or maybe you could let the ladies have a go, mate.

          • Stephanie says

            K, I don’t know where you read an emotional meltdown in what I said. I simply think if you’re going to write about communitarianism bridging political divides, you should be careful not to fall into the same us versus them pattern you condemn.

      • Geofiz says

        Personally, I enjoyed your article and think that much of the criticism was unfair. We can agree to disagree about Buttigieg. The key is in your definition of communitarianism. If there was a weakness in your piece it is that you failed to adequately differentiate between communitarianism and tribalism. Much of the criticism you have received is IMO a reaction to the tribalism of the left, not communitarianism. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of your message. In fact, many of the posters who panned you, likely consider themselves to highly patriotic. That is communitarianism as you have defined it. A better term than communitarianism may be civic nationalism. The opposite of civic nationalism is ethnic nationalism, or tribalism, which has surfaced recently as identity politics. Ethnic nationalism/tribalism is older than the human race. Homo neanderathalis was tribal. We are genetically programmed to be tribal. The tribe was the key to survival for primitive man and those who lacked a sense of tribal identity ended up as worm food. Ethnic nationalism has typified the human race for most of its existence.

        Civic Nationalism was an outgrowth of the enlightenment. It is embodied in the concept that people can shed their old identities and forage a new common identity. The “Melting Pot” that used to be emblematic of American culture is a textbook example of civic nationalism. Civic nationalists want to make the pie bigger. Today, they include both classic liberals and most conservatives. Civic nationalism/communitarianism is the key to the success of the American experiment. That experiment is threatened today by tribalism, which unlike civic nationalism, is a zero-sum game. Progressives/ethnic nationalists/tribalists are by their very nature exclusive and competitive. You have something I want. You don’t deserve it because you belong to the wrong tribe so I am going to take it. I wish you spent more time delineating tribalism from communitarianism. If so, I believe that your article would have received a far more favorable reception.

        At any rate, I enjoyed the article. Well done!

  24. dmm says

    “Even among the conservative pundit class, a zone which one might justifiably think of as a major source of societal division…”

    The bias and assumptions in this phrase are astounding. Had to force myself to continue reading.

    It wasn’t worth it.

    If you’re not advocating a wholesale devolution of power (and taxation) from the national to the local level, you’re hopelessly naive in hoping to rebuild communities. What do you think sucked the life out of them to start with?

    And if you think that people with different fundamental values being forced to live together by the “democratic majority” (or even worse, plurality) of a large nation-state, with micromanaging laws and regulations, will result in community, you’re simply insane.

    • John Wood, Jr. says


      Sorry the conservative pundit class comment rubbed you wrong. I’m a Republican, and a major fan Shapiro and Beck.

      I wrote that though because it seems objectively true to me that conservative pundits (was particularly thinking talk radio show hosts) have been a major source of polarization. Doesn’t mean Hannity, Limbaugh, Levin etc. are not right on a million different things. But the point was to emphasize the fact that, even in that space, more unifying voices are emerging. I would have said something similar about liberal pundits, except that I wasn’t aware of liberal pundits making these same points (the people on the left that I mentioned were largely activists, academics, organizers and politicians). There may be some who have really reflected on their own habits like Shapiro and Beck and spoken about the need for depolarization, but I’m just not aware.

      I do think that the stronger civil society is, the less expansive the state has the opportunity to be. Bureaucracy enters the void of community. Eliminate the void, I say.

      • dmm says

        @John Wood, Jr.

        I appreciate the engagement, Mr. Wood. Regardless of how strident some conservatives may be, it is the Left, who have shifted even more left by embracing egalitarianism as their highest value and authoritarianism in support of it, who are responsible for almost all of the increased polarization. In doing so, they have necessarily rejected reasonable debate, because they know their position cannot withstand it. So I think there’s no way conservatives are a major source of division.

        The time is past for “unifying voices”. They are part of the problem, trying to keep people with increasingly different fundamental values living under a one-size-fits-all roof. This is THE problem, more fundamental than most people can see (or are willing to deal with). The Left should not be given the chance to drag the rest of us down with them. Only decentralization will allow us all a chance of (separate) happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunately, almost no one on either side wants to give up power at the national level, so I’m not holding my breath.

        On your last point: we seem to have differing views on the direction of cause and effect. My point, if it wasn’t clear, is that there was no “void of community” before the nation-state forcibly took over the functions and destroyed the interdependencies that held them together.


  25. the gardner says

    In my view the most divisive force in American life has been the media, and the 24 hr news cycle to be specific. The media literally make up news to support a narrative. The actors (they are not reporters or journalists) on CNN and MSNBC are brainwashing their viewers, telling them what to think. FOX has been the reactionary to these leftist forces. And shows on FOX — Gutfeld and Carlson— are stealing the ratings away from other Fox shows and even CNN and MSNBC (or maybe some of their viewers are just tuning out) so there is some indication the no BS style, debunk the lefty lies of these two news/opinion shows is appealing.
    I cannot imagine a return to a sense of community when one has to deal with so many people whose brains have been parasitized by a virus that deprives them of the ability to think for themselves (hat tip to Gad Saad)

  26. Stu says

    Communitarianism is what got us here.
    The “the dark twin of community” is a conjoined twin. Highly valuing the role of collectives always entails conflict between collectives, and unfairness to individuals.

  27. E Taph says

    Bears a mention that “communitarism” is essentially a term to sell mutual self-policing and other kings of authoritarianism as an upside. It’s easy to describe both fascist and communist societies as “communitarian”.

    In case you disagree on the definitions, a good writeup by a mathematician trying to come up with a better political compass(and ending up, admittedly, with nothing new in particular):

    And it probably bears a mention that ‘atomisation’ is frequently just a negative sell for redundant societal systems that’ll operate no matter who’s involved.

  28. Lightning Rose says

    Brooks is past his sell-by date. The last time he had something new to say was his book “Bobos in Paradise,” “Bobo” as shorthand for Bohemian Bourgeoisie. They were the prototypes of today’s lockstep Left; ideological descendants of the 60’s radicals we just can’t seem to lose.

    What he seems to want now is a return to the 1950’s, when we all gathered ’round the grill at the Kiwanis Club and the Elks (of course, the “little woman” was home with the kids) where white men were Men. You didn’t see any “diversity” there, because there wasn’t any. They had their own neighborhoods you see, and didn’t mix with Suburban White Bread Corporate Dad. Yes, of course these guys fought a war or three together, Yalies and commoners bonded in foxholes, everyone went to the same church (of COURSE they did!) and most of them worked at the same company which basically owned the town and your life (IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Standard Oil of New Jersey) so it was all very clubby and close and everyone thought alike, or if they didn’t you’d sure be the last to know. Everyone Knew The Rules.

    The 60’s, street demonstrations, civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, assassinations, Watergate, gas lines, Reaganomics, the Blue Dress and 9/11 pretty much killed that scene dead.
    So did 35 years of functionally open borders. Social media drove the stake through the heart of that world, because now we know what everyone, including our friends and neighbors, REALLY thinks, and the women, blacks, etc. have plenty to say. Indeed, they now own The Narrative.

    After all, if you’re a righteously-indignant member of the Resistance in good standing, are you really parking your Prius next to the Deplorable owner of that Ford F-150? Do you trust him not to dent your door? If you’re the Ford man, you really want to break (organic, fair-trade, gluten-free) bread with the man-bunned cat who thinks buggery is something the schools should teach your kindergarteners? You see these two bonding over bowling, golfing or duck shooting, really?

    Well, Mr. Brooks, that’s why the 1950’s world of Kumbaya at Kiwanis ain’t coming back. And I’d be willing to be YOU’RE not sharing your table with the folks from the other side of the tracks, either unless something they’re about to blurt suits your editorial purposes.

    The “press” is missing the Big Story: It’s own impending irrelevancy. We’re kind of over being told what and how to think by stuckup self-referential twits in hornrims and bowties.

  29. I think in the current context of globalism, nationalism and localism and the liberal and conservative divides that exists within each of these scales of social organisation, communitarianism does offer a bridge.

    Not a type of communitarianism that is in opposition to individualism because we have moved on from that debate but a type of communitarianism that seeks viewpoint diversity. That to me is the point of this article.

    Essentially then, the communitarian revival (or some permutation of fraternity, whether strong or weak) is meant to bridge the ongoing divide between liberals and conservatives. Of course in the centre the divisions are not so apparent because people mix their liberalism with their conservatism but as we move to the extremes then the divisions become much more apparent because groupings adopt one much more than the other. This extreme is typified by conservative religious groupings and liberal identitarian groupings.

    The answer being offered by the author is viewpoint diversity and so the context of the communitarian revival is not already existing communities that function largely within the middle but a means of bringing together the more dramatic vocal extremes.

    Thus, how do you bring together Black Lives Matter with the Klu Klux Klan. Or pro-life conservatives with liberals who advocate the freedom to abort.

    In this respect, it is difficult to discern what type of ethics or virtues that can be promoted that helps generate fraternity beyond tribalism. Maybe it is not even possible or even natural to try.

    Viewpoint diversity is a feasible starting point from which to bridge divides and I guess if the extremes try then that would help viewpoint diversity at local community gatherings too.

    So in a sense yes the author is calling for self-limitation on our individuality, whether in the form of not virtue signalling or not being openly prejudiced. It probably also means not being overly critical and having a generosity of fraternal spirit.

    So I guess it all depends on how emotionally invested we are in our virtue signalling, prejudices and our criticisms of others that will decide the extent to which we have a generosity of fraternal spirit.

  30. San Fernando Curt says

    As long as white people remain the common foe, tribalism will remain ascendant. There is too much to gain, either in money or self-congratulation, to turn from it now.

  31. Pingback: The Communitarian Revival – Quillette – Snapzu Politics

  32. Andrew Miller says

    A genuine sense of community and individual liberty aren’t in opposition but are symbiotic. The reason being, that both a rooted in a sense of a common humanity and that whatever divides pales compared to what we have in common. The enemy of community is not really individualism but identity driven politics of both the left and right. Reductive thinking that sees us as merely our group identity based on some immutable trait, or that certain people of certain backgrounds can’t ‘share our values’ which in reality is almost always identity driven again make claims about the importance of immutable characteristics.

    • K. Dershem says

      Excellent comment, Andrew — very well said!

  33. ALAN WHITE says

    Islam and democracy are totally incompatible. n any struggle between Islam and a democratic government, Muslims are obliged to support Islam.

  34. sorethumb says

    Didn’t they invent the “celebrate diversity” meme to facilitate immigration from unlike cultures?

    Flowing from that comes “an institutionalisation of public discourse” – political correctness?

  35. Hmmm says

    Genuine question, not snark: I don’t understand what “former nominee for Congress” means in the blurb about the author. Once ran for Congress? As the nominee of a party?

  36. SFWC says

    I signed the communitarian platform in the late 1990’s, believing that this was the third way. Today I am an ethno-nationalist who still believes in the third way. In the Dissident Right we oppose radical individualism, international Marxism, and turbo-capitalism equally. We are the new communitarians.

  37. SFWC says

    I signed the Communitarian Platform in the late 1990’s, believing it was the third way. Today I am an ethno-nationalist because I have seen the anti-community effects of anti-white multi-culturalism. In the Dissident Right we oppose radical individualism, International Marxism, and unregulated capitalism equally. We are trying to rebuild a sense of community one state at a time. We are the new communitarians.

  38. Peter from Oz says

    Dear Quillette
    I would like to make a request. Could we have a week with no articles about American politics and issues?

  39. Kevin Herman says

    Pete Buttigieg is a fraud. I mean really to put that guy out as some kind of bastion of moderacy and reaching across the aisle. Buttigieg is perfectly willing to be cordial until you say one thing he disagrees with. Then you are a unenlightened phobic regressive hillybilly. He says Mike Pence uses religions as a cudgel and then says I’ll tell you one thing Jesus wouldn’t be a Republican! We need less Pete Buttigieg’s not more. Mike Pence actually is much more of a model of how to try people decently.

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