A Whole Greater Than Its Parts?

American individualism draws fire from a new intellectual movement that re-emphasizes social obligation

The word stumbles awkwardly off the tongue, all 16 didactic letters, sounding like a fuzzy echo from a long-ago college lecture. Communitarianism. Was it a late-medieval religious heresy, a 19th century utopian philosophy or an aesthetic theory that predated socialist realism? The correct answer is none of the above. But if a new group of centrist academics -- sociologists, political scientists and law professors -- has its way, the term will soon take a place among the important isms that shape the U.S. political dialogue.

Communitarianism, loosely defined, is a fledgling and provocative effort to temper the excesses of American individualism...

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