This biographical and, in part, phenomenological anthropology of older people in post-industrial England illuminates a local and generationally specific communitarian critique of and form of resistance against the process of individualisation. Rather than presenting communitarianism conventionally as an abstract political ideology or set of ideas about locality, it is conceptualised as emerging from and being reinforced by experiences of ageing, especially bodily ageing. It these respects, the article responds positively to Tatjana Thelen and Cati Coe’s call to take the anthropology of ageing out of its current condition of relative intellectual marginality, by recognising ageing and its related care arrangements as key structuring features within societies and political organisation and by treating them as a window onto understanding broad-scale social and political processes.
An Article on the African Philosophy of Rights
A common communitarian criticism of rights discourse picks at the individualistic picture of rights which is said to presuppose a society where persons are conscious of their separateness. In contrast, an African communitarian society is said to put less emphasis on individual interests; it encourages harmony, not divergence of interests, competition, and conflict. Thus, preoccupation with rights would be incompatible with and even hostile to the possibility of community. This article argues the opposite; it submits that rights and community are mutually constitutive. To this end, I explore T. H. Green’s social recognition thesis which reconceptualises rights and obligations in a teleological framework. When conceived in this fashion, rights transcend antithetical relations between individuals and society as typified by classical natural rights thinkers. I argue that, considering a normative significance of the common good, a compelling account of rights in African philosophy is better conceived in a teleological framework.
In this article I argue for a model of Deweyan 'critical pragmatism' as a therapeutic alternative to traditional models of deliberative democracy that have been crippled by their inheritance of the threadbare liberal/communitarian debate. By orienting my discussion here with respect to the most serious radical democratic challenges to deliberative democracy, I hope to show how Deweyan critical pragmatism may help us develop new approaches to the theory and practice of deliberation that are both more attuned to power relations than traditional models and make more inventive use of everyday life to pursue more meaningful deliberative opportunities for citizens.
Nicholas J. Long
The metaworld Ultima Online was designed to foster 'tight communities' of inhabitants. So ware users frequently say it has done just that. Yet many users spend most of their time online alone, engaged in practices of self-realization, individuation, and skill maximization. Drawing on Wilde's utopian writings, I suggest that Ultima Online has fostered an emergent sociality of sympathetic individualism - but that characterizing this as 'community', 'friendship' and 'camaraderie' also allows users to engage with seemingly opposed communitarian tropes of the good life. This affords insights into how ethical imaginations influence emergent forms of human sociality.
Language, Truth and Politics
You might think that British socialists have cause for rejoicing, given the 1997 landslide Labour victory and the end of nearly two decades of corrupt, divisive, and morally repugnant Conservative rule. However, there are clear signs already that the Blair ‘administration’ – note the shift to U.S. policyspeak – is in the process of dumping what little remained of its socialist values and principles. On a whole range of issues – taxation, education, social welfare, health care, union laws, market deregulation, the supply of British arms to repressive regimes – it is now plain to see that the government has decided to adopt the maxim ‘business as before’, with just a few minor face-saving adjustments. What we are getting, for the most part, is a fashionable strain of communitarian talk (‘social markets’, ‘ethical investment’, ‘welfare to work’, ‘tough on crime and on the causes of crime’, etc.) as a cover for policies that have scarcely changed since the heyday of Thatcherite orthodoxy.
Beyond Morality in the Anthropology of Africa?
The suggestion that the anthropological study of morality is theoretically undeveloped carries with it the risk of caricaturing ideas of moral obligation in mid-twentieth-century social anthropology. The need for recovering aspects of these ideas is demonstrated by the tendency of moral philosophers to reduce the issue of world poverty to a question of ethical choices and dilemmas. Examining the diplomatic tie that had existed for almost 42 years between Malawi and Taiwan and an ill-fated project of Taiwanese aid in rural Malawi, this article maintains that honoring obligations indicates neither a communitarian ethos nor rule-bound behavior. As the mid-twentieth-century anthropology of Africa theorized ethnographically, the moral and existential import of obligation lies in its contingent materiality rather than in social control. Such insights, the article concludes, can enrich debates on world poverty with alternative intellectual resources.
The Postsocialist Myth of Capitalism and the Ideological Suspension of Postmodernity
There is a widespread tendency to see the perils of postsocialism in the revival of the ghosts and myths from the past—namely ethnocentrism, nationalism, exclusiveness, bickering, collectivist-authoritarianism, expansionist chauvinism, and victimisation. I suggest that postsocialism's perils rest with a myth from the future, namely, the myth of capitalism. Those perils, I argue, are rooted in the fetishisation of capitalism by the postsocialist societies as a reflection of their deeply ingrained teleological way of perceiving the future. Political leaders are taking advantage of this situation by putting themselves in the position of those who would lead toward such a utopia. As a consequence, individual freedoms are sacrificed at the altar of communitarian bliss. I suggest that the only hope that we have to secularise the newly re-religiosised postsocialist societies rests with intellectuals.
A Study from Northern Ontario, Canada
Jane H. Roberts
While Putnam's communitarian conceptualization of social capital has significantly influenced our understanding of community cohesion, the concept of social capital is highly contested. Questions have been raised about the ways in which agency and power operate in a community's sense of connectedness. Within this critique, little attention has been paid to the conceptualization of cultural identity when framed in dominant constructions of social capital. This paper contends that Bourdieu's critical perspective on social capital is better placed to examine the complex relationships between multiple, conflicting and overlapping positions of cultural identity with a sense of belonging. In addition, a Bourdieurian analysis acknowledges that the dynamic relationships of habitus, capital and field produce multiple identities associated with conflicting notions of connectedness which are contextually contingent. The paper argues that ethnography is best placed to offer a different perspective to de-contextualized data, and supports any examination of identity and belonging as best viewed within the context in which such concepts develop and are situated.
Communitarianism and Beitar Jerusalem
This article explores the opposition expressed by fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football club to the presence of Arab players on their team. I suggest that instead of suspecting that fans’ behavior originates in false consciousness, we suspend suspicion and reconstruct the meanings they bring to their actions. Narrative analysis of fan interviews reveals the communitarian logic underlying their points of view. By appropriating sacred spheres in Judaism that demarcate the boundaries of the Jewish community, and identifying them with Beitar as opposed to signifying Arab players as defiling Beitar, fans delineate boundaries between Jews and Arabs. Through the sanctification of Beitar, the fans define Jewish collective boundaries and thereby preserve their worldview and identity while maintaining a hierarchy that grants Jews advantages in Israel.
Goodness, justice, civil society
This comment focuses less on the three hopes expressed in Nigel Rapport’s title than on the conception of individuality and its relation to the aspirations of the social sciences that underpins his case for cosmopolitan politesse. First, I want to say that Nigel Rapport’s industry is astonishing. He reads widely, across many genres, and has written a great deal aimed at persuading us of two things: that the social sciences suffer from fundamental shortcomings, and that they are implicated, if not complicit, in communitarianism and other worrying tendencies of our age. Possibly social anthropology’s most ardent, resilient and ‘poetic’ reformer, he offers us here a digest of one of his many publications concerned with establishing the central importance to anthropology – and to the possibility of a decent world – of what his friend, Michael Jackson, calls ‘the human microsphere’. Because of Rapport’s many different journeys through this microsphere, it is not possible here to cover more than a little of the terrain.