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Etzioni, Amitai. The Spirit of Community. New York: Crown Publishers, 1993 (323 pp.). Etzioni is the communitariansí principal spokesperson, and this is an early bible of their philosophy. Etzioni is trying to find a balance between individual rights and the common good, and he thinks the pendulum has drifted too far toward a rights-based society. Heís certainly not alone in this: like Walzer, Elshtain, Sandel, Bellah, and others of the same stripe, he bemoans the loss of community and the rise of rampant individualism. However, unlike Bellah and the others, who talk so much philosophy and political science, Etzioni offers tangible (read "political") solutions, which also makes him more controversial. During their administration, Clinton and Gore attended his training seminars, and at least one discipline (William Galston, author of Liberal Purposes) was a White House advisor. Etzioni seems to appeal to a lot of peopleís basic common sense, until you extend his recommendations (especially those that deal with "readjusting" individual rights), then his platform starts to sound, as some critics contend, like the "thinking manís Moral Majority." There is not as much history here as in other criticisms of Western liberalism, and the philosophy is not as "deep" (although itís certainly more readable than some), but reading groups could use the text as a conversation starter for discussions on the nature and definition of "rights" and "responsibilities" in their communities.


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