When social reformers blame the current ills of Western culture on the loss of community, they often evoke an ideal past in which societies were characterized by shared values, respect for tradition, commitment to the common good, and similar attributes. Communitarians assert that community was prominent in the past, and argue that reclaiming the role community formerly played is necessary to counter the negative effects of individualism and liberal thinking. Considering the relevance of community for our moral and political life today, Derek Phillips offers the first thorough critique of the historical, often nostalgic, claims that underlie dominant versions of communitarian philosophy.
Originally published in 1993.
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"[An] intelligent and lucid study. . . . Phillips argues that the societies of late eighteenth-century America and the high Middle Ages did not enjoy a common history and shared values, widespread political participation, or strong bonds of social solidarity. . . . The merits of Phillips's approach are substantial. He brings together not only political theory and history but also interesting perspectives from contemporary sociology."--Adam Swift, The Times Literary Supplement
"A compelling defense of liberal politics and individual rights. Phillips shows the ways in which communitarians romanticize and distort the societies of the past."--Ruth Conniff, The Progressive
"Looking Backward is an interesting, intelligent, well-informed, and extremely well-written book. Its importance lies in its effort to build a bridge between the contemporary historical scholarship and the wide-ranging and free-wheeling debates by philosophers and political theorists, and in its contribution to the heated debate about our 'usable'--and abusable--past."--Donald R. Kelley, Rutgers University
Table of Contents:
Ch. 1 Uncovering the Communitarian Ideal 10
Ch. 2 Once upon a Time in America 24
Ch. 3 The Communitarian Ideal and the American Reality 61
Ch. 4 Life in the Middle Ages: An Overview 81
Ch. 5 The Communitarian Ideal and the Medieval Reality 105
Ch. 6 Community and the Good Life in Classical Athens 122
Ch. 7 Learning from History 149
Ch. 8 A Liberal Response to Communitarian Thought 175
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Derek L. Phillips:
Hardcover published in 1993