Communitarianism is a philosophy that emphasizes the connection between the individual and the community. Although the community might be a family unit, communitarianism usually is understood, in the wider, philosophical sense, as a collection of interactions, among a community of people in a given place (geographical location), or among a community who share an interest or who share a history. Communitarian philosophy is based upon the belief that a person’s social identity and personality are largely molded by community relationships with a smaller degree of development being placed on individualism.
The philosophy of communitarianism originated in the 20th century, but the term “communitarian” was coined in 1841, by John Goodwyn Barmby, a leader of the British Chartist movement, who used it in referring to utopian socialists, and other idealists, who experimented with communal styles of life. However, it was not until the 1980s that the term “communitarianism” gained currency through association with the work of a small group of political philosophers, mostly American. Their application of the label “communitarian” was controversial, even among communitarians, because, in the West, the term “communitarian” evokes associations with the ideologies of socialism and collectivism; so, public leaders and some of the academics who champion this school of thought usually avoid the term “communitarian”, while still advocating and advancing the ideas of communitarianism.
The term communitarian was coined in 1841 by John Goodwyn Barmby, a leader of the British Chartist movement, who used it to refer to utopian socialists and others who experimented with unusual communal lifestyles. It was rarely used in the generations that followed.
The term is primarily used in two senses:
Philosophical communitarianism considers classical liberalism to be ontologically and epistemologically incoherent, and opposes it on those grounds. Unlike classical liberalism, which construes communities as originating from the voluntary acts of pre-community individuals, it emphasizes the role of the community in defining and shaping individuals. Communitarians believe that the value of community is not sufficiently recognized in liberal theories of justice.
Ideological communitarianism is characterized as a radical centrist ideology that is sometimes marked by leftism on economic issues and centrism on social issues. This usage was coined recently. When the term is capitalized, it usually refers to the Responsive Communitarian movement of Amitai Etzioni and other philosophers.