Sunday, June 8, 2014

Find out more about: Communitarianism

Communitarianism: A New Agenda for Politics & Citizenship explains why and how we should pursue the development of inclusive communities. It sets out the three key communitarian principles of cooperative enquiry, mutual responsibility, and citizen participation, and applies them to policies in support of the education, employment and protection of citizens. It also examines the implications these will have for the state, business, and third sectors.

Nominated by New York University Press for the 2000 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, Communitarianism has been widely praised by academics and policy commentators:

“Communitarianism is a topic that has achieved the rare status of stimulating both important contributions from academic political theorists and ideas for politicians. ... Henry Tam draws on both strands of work to produce a scholarly overview of the subject combined with an agenda for political practice and reform. ... The book is an excellent statement of the communitarian approach to politics and citizenship.”
- Desmond King, Professor of Politics, University of Oxford, Times Higher Education Supplement, 26 February 1999.

“Philosophically and social-scientifically literate, Tam's mind is a galaxy of bright ideas, at once general and pragmatically specific. He writes as one attuned to the pitfalls of communitarian thinking as much as to the disasters of capitalist-statist ideologies and practices. ... Those studying contemporary political philosophy will be aware of the gap between academic abstraction and such political reality as may be connected with it. What Tam's book does is supply a grasped context for such thinking to get some life and purchase. Moreover, such is Tam's erudition, that in any area the reader is put onto a reference network of progressive and creative thought.”
- Tony Skillen, University of Kent, Radical Philosophy, Issue 97, Sept-Oct 1999.

“Henry Tam brings a refreshing new perspective to the well-worn debate between communitarianism and individualism, derived from practical experience as well as moral commitment. He writes with passionate urgency, without sacrificing intellectual rigour. The result is a clarion call for a tolerant, democratic and pluralistic vision of community, as far removed from the moral authoritarianism that sometimes flies under the communitarian banner as from the hyper-individualism of free-market fundamentalism. This book should be compulsory reading for the Blair Cabinet.
- Professor David Marquand, Joint-Editor, Political Quarterly, 1998.

“Tam, an elegant and thoughtful writer, states that his aim is to bring together different strands of communitarian ideas that have been developing in Europe and America … [He] points eloquently to market-individualism’s ‘cancerous effects’ on community life … [and] argues that a sense of community has to be created.”
- Bernard Crick, Tribune, Friday, 11th September 1998.

“Henry Tam’s book is to be welcomed on several counts … He provides a readable, thoughtful and exhaustive exposition of what communitarianism actually is. … The value of this book is in putting forward genuinely innovative ideas and contributing generously to the debate on different ways of doing things in politics and administration.”
- Chris Sladen, Teaching Public Administration, (volume XVIII, No.2) Autumn 1998.

“Tam explains that an active participatory state is necessary to bring communitarianism into reality. Privatization of state functions reduces citizens to the status of consumers. He argues that a ‘sweatshop economy’ interferes with the autonomy and dignity of workers, while team approaches to workplace and firm organization support these values. … [H]e claims, civil society must grow new, more inclusive community groups, instead of merely addressing the decline of traditional community groups, which often justify subordination of certain social groups to others. … This book should help dispel important misconceptions that the Left has had of communitarianism.”
- Jan Flora, Iowa State University, Politics, Social Movements, and the State, 1999.

“Tam’s work demonstrates that communitarians can be concerned about values while recognizing the importance of equitable distribution of power … [Few communitarian writers] that I have read have been so adamant in their condemnation of market forces and their effects on communities as Tam. … [His] book also adds to the existing literature on deliberative democracy by demonstrating how the principles associated with deliberative democracy should be applied not only to intra- and inter-community deliberations, but also to relations between governmental, business, and voluntary organizations and their stakeholders. … Tam’s book is an admirable treatment of communitarian ideas and how those ideas can be implemented to address issues of common concern.”
- Professor Steven Jones, University of Charleston in West Virginia, The Responsive Community, Volume 10, Issue 2, Spring 2000.

“Tam combines, in a remarkably successful manner, a first-rate command of the philosophical issues with the experience of a communitarian practitioner. He writes with clarity and conviction. A 'must' for all who care not only about communitarianism, but about community and indeed a good society.”
- Amitai Etzioni, author of The Spirit of Community, 1998.

“Though often associated with sociologist Amitai Etzioni's assessment of contemporary market society, Tam shows that communitarianism is rooted in an older, larger set of problems in political theory: finding a means of organizing authority in liberal-democratic societies without relying on either rights-based doctrines that leave the individual alone and insecure or authoritarian methods that submerge liberty to the 'needs' of the larger polity. The text is ambitious in scope, fair-minded, and well-written.”
- Choice, January 1999.

“Henry Tam's book is a timely reminder that much of the thinking that has kept conference organisers employed recently is rooted in communitarianism. ... The great strength of Tam's book is that he not only offers a clear conceptual framework for communitarianism - grounded in the three principles of co-operative enquiry, mutual responsibility and equal participation by empowered citizens - but also a practical agenda for how theory can be translated into action in schools, workplaces and the voluntary sector. … [H]is enthusiasm for a co-operative and caring society which still guarantees diversity and personal autonomy is highly seductive. Recommended reading for those looking for something more substantial than a new Labour soundbite.”
- Iain Byrne, Citizen, Autumn 1998.

“Henry Tam has produced a stimulating and quietly sharp-edged synthesis and analysis of communitarianism. Publication at this juncture is particularly fortuitous, given a Government prepared to face up to the galloping complexity and insecurity of society.”
- Lord Phillips of Sudbury, Chairman, The Citizenship Foundation, 1998.

“Henry Tam is an outstanding exponent of communitarian ideas, grounding his work both in a deep understanding of political theory and experience in local government. His approach to communitarianism emphasizes citizen participation, co-operative enquiry and mutual responsibility, mounting an effective challenge to market individualism.”
- Professor John Stewart, School of Public Policy, University of Birmingham, 1998.

“Admirably succinct and cogent. I am sure it will enjoy wide success.”
- Professor S.A.M. Adshead, University of Canterbury, New Zealand, 1998.

“This concept [communitarianism] is explained thoroughly and thoughtfully in this book by Henry Tam. Fully referenced and tightly argued, … it goes beyond political principles to describe their application to the worlds of education, work, crime, the state, business and the ‘third sector’.”
- Adrian Barker, Local Government Management, (Issue 25) Summer 1998.

. What is Communitarianism
. Re-mapping the Ideological Battleground
. Education for Citizens
. Work for Citizens
. Protection for Citizens
. The State Sector
. The Business Sector
. The Third Sector
. Criticisms of Communitarian Ideas
. The Challenge to Build Inclusive Communities

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Further Reading:

'Communitarians: an introduction' (2014): a guide to communitarian writers and their ideas.

'The Radical Communitarian Synthesis' (2014): a short historical account of the evolution of communitarian thought.

Communitarianism Revisited’ (2013): jointly written with Jonathan Boswell to restate our shared views on what communitarianism should mean under prevailing political conditions.

Cooperative & Communitarian: a common heritage’ (2012): a short piece on the common social and intellectual roots of the cooperative movement and communitarian critique of society.

Progressive Politics in the Global Age (Tam, H. ed.) (Cambridge: Polity, 2001): this book brings together European and American academics and policy experts to discuss the role of progressive communitarianism in guiding political development.
• "This symposium comes nearer to anything I have yet read to stating a coherent and convincing case for a progressive politics that is neither market liberal nor socialist. There is not a dud or tired contribution on board." Bernard Crick, Emeritus Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, London University (2001).
• "Henry Tam has put together a stimulating collection of articles that seek to create a form of progressive politics skeptical of both free market utopias and all–powerful states" Derek Wall, Democratization (2003).