The Communitarian Veiw of Common Good

In the middle of the last century there was a certain revival of classical liberalism also referred to as neo-liberalism, which advocated values away from those of the positive liberalism of the early decades of the twentieth century. Partly as a reaction to this there arose a revival of the idea of the state as a political community in the 1980s and 1990s. This school of thought is known as Communitarianism. The most important thinkers of this school have been writers like Charles Taylor, Michael Sandal, Walzer etc. The communitarian view advocates the necessity of attending to the community along with individual liberty and equality because they feel that the value of the community is not sufficiently recognised in the individualistic liberal theories of politics. Usually the community already exists in the form of social practices, cultural traditions and shared social understandings. It is important to take the reality of existence of this community into account and protect it. Unlike free-for-all Liberalism or revolutionary rebuild-it-all Marxism, in contrast  Communitarianism asks that what already exists be valued and protected and within it the common good be identified and promoted without an obsession for individual political and economic freedom. In fact the communitarians suggest the rights of the individual should be replaced with the ‘politics of common good’ and common good should mean that which is in conformity with the natural way of life of the community.

The Common Good should conform to the three tests:
(a) it should help build a cultural structure that is determined not by the individual or the market economy but by the community’s values as a whole,
(b) the individual’s judgement of the good is replaced by the shared vision of the community and
(c) political legitimacy in the community should identify with the common good. 

The communitarians like the Positive Liberals or the Marxists also believe that man is a social being and true freedom of the individual is only possible in the community. The task of politics they argue is not the good of the individual or the protection of his rights but the good of the society as a whole. Politics should be an activity that encourages the cultural concept of a good life for the community in a participatory social set up. 

Gandhiji had also proposed what must be regarded as a communitarian notion of the common good in his notion ofSarvodaya. He meant by sarvodaya a harmonious welfare and goodwill to all. He also suggested the purpose of politics is to create a society based upon the principle of Samanvaya, i.e., harmony among classes, groups and individuals and insitutions, idea and ideologies. This common good can be achieved through six principles: Equanimity, non-violence, decentralisation, satyagraha, synthesis and world peace. 

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