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Sample text

The communitarian challenge is diverse, but common themes can be identified. Buchanan (1989: 852–853) summarises fundamental communitarian criticisms of neo-liberal political philosophy. That community – a ‘fundamental and irreplaceable ingredient in the good life for human beings’ (Buchanan, 1989: 852) – is undermined or undervalued. That neo-liberalism does not account for – or is incompatible with – those obligations and commitments which are not linked to market mechanisms, such as those to one’s family, friends, community and country.

It was in this context that Madison advocated the federal, representative state. He believed that a large, diverse electorate coupled with large numbers of elected representatives and regular voting would prevent the build-up of power, offset the dangers of tyranny and control the excesses of factions and in so doing provide security for all. De Tocqueville (2003 [1835]) was concerned about the potential for creativity, individuality and freedom to be stifled in the context of the development of representative democracy and its attendant bureaucratic and regulatory state.

That neo-liberalism does not account for – or is incompatible with – those obligations and commitments which are not linked to market mechanisms, such as those to one’s family, friends, community and country. That neo-liberalism fails to recognise that the citizen is embedded in, and so influenced by, communal commitments and values about which we have no choice. These criticisms have been hotly debated (see Buchanan, 1989). Many neo-liberal commentators reject the charge, arguing that they too draw on the principles of cooperation and mutuality (Arthur and Bailey, 2000) (and see Chapter 3 of this monograph).

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