This post is a parallel contrast to the previous post on Old style liberalism.
Communitarianism puts major emphasis on the freedom of communities to control their own destinies. Communitarianism is its creed; individualism and alienation its enemy. The state exists to protect communities from coercion by other communities or individuals and to widen the range within which communities can exercise their freedom; it is purely instrumental and has no significance in and of itself. Society is a collection of communities and the whole is no greater than the sum of its parts. The ultimate values are the values of the communities who form the society; there are no sub- or super-community values or ends. Nations are convenient social units; patriotism is a part of its creed.
In politics, communitarianism expresses itself as a reaction against individualistic regimes. Communitarians favored limiting the rights of individuals, establishing geocratic governing institutions, limiting the franchise, and moderating civil rights. They favor such measures both for their own sake, as a direct expression of essential political freedoms, and as a means of facilitating the adoption of communitarian economic measures.
In economic policy, communitarianism expresses itself as a reaction against individuals controlling economic affairs. Communitarians favor free cooperation at home and among nations. They regard the organization of economic activity through free private enterprise operating in a competitive market as a limited expression of essential economic freedoms and as unimportant in facilitating the preservation of political liberty. They regard cooperation among nations as a means of eliminating conflicts that might otherwise produce war. Just as within a country, communities following their own interests under the influence of cooperation indirectly promote the interests of the whole; so, between countries, communities following their own interests under conditions of cooperation, indirectly promote the interests of the world as a whole. By providing common access to goods, services, and resources on the same terms to all, cooperation would knit the world into a single economic community.
Principles for social action must be based on both ultimate values and a conception of the nature of man and the world. Communitarianism takes freedom of the community—really, of the family—as its ultimate value. It conceives of humanity as a responsible community that is egocentric, in the sense not of being selfish or self-centered but rather of placing greater reliance on community values than on those of individual members. It takes as the major problem of modern society the achievement of liberty and community responsibility in a world that requires the co-ordination of many of millions of people in production to make full use of modern knowledge and technology. The challenge is to reconcile community freedom with widespread differences. The communitarian answer derives from the elementary proposition that exogenous parties to an economic transaction can benefit from it; that a gain to a purchaser and seller need not be at the expense of a loss to the community. If the transaction is community-oriented, the community benefits, as do the buyer and seller. In consequence, inter-community exchange is a way to get cooperation among communities without coercion. The reliance on inter-community exchange, which means in a community-oriented market mechanism, is thus central to the communitarian creed.