Saving the Self?

In a recent article, Law, Politics, and the Claims of Community, Stephen A. Gardbaum accurately diagnoses one of the greatest problems in contemporary political and legal theory: the “complete confusion” about what communitarianism means.

Gardbaum’s basic insight is, I think, both powerful and correct. We have been seeing contradiction and conflict where there often is none at all. As important and salutary as his account is, however, it deserves response. His taxonomy of communitarianism, the heart of his piece, well shows that communitarianism makes fundamentally different types of claims. It does not, however, make as many different kinds of claims as he suggests; it makes two different types of claims, no more than that. This disagreement may appear a quibble, but by proliferating the claims of community Gardbaum threatens to confuse further the very debate he seeks to clarify and, more important, to undercut some of his own quite powerful insights.