Rethinking Peacekeeping, Beyond Intervention to Mediation

July 09, 1995

Gradually, and to some extent inadvertently, the United States has been developing a new role in the post cold war world.

The Attack on Community: The Grooved Debate

July 01, 1995

“The Attack on Community: The Grooved Debate,” Society, Volume 32, No. 5, (July/August 1995), 12-17.
When an intellectual debate is stuck like a phonograph's needle in a overplayed record groove, a sociologist turns to the sociology of knowledge for explanations. For decades now communitarians have been pointing out to libertarians that individuals are not free standing agents but members of communities. (The terms "liberal," "classical liberal," and "libertarian" have all been used to characterize the critics of communitarians. These labels are confusing; for instance, many readers do not realize that the labels are not confined to or even necessarily inclusive of those who are called liberals in typical daily parlance. Most importantly, because the defining element of the position is the championing of the individual, "libertarian" seems both the less obfuscating term and the one that is substantively most appropriate.) While people survive without communities, the thinner their community bonds, the more alienated and unreasoning they tend to be. Moreover, because for communities to flourish they require that their members not be completely self-oriented, the common good has a normative standing in the same sense that life and health do: they all are essential for our physical and spiritual well-being.

Let’s Build Bridges Instead of Widening the Chasm

June 16, 1995

“Let’s Build Bridges Instead of Widening the Chasm” Philadelphia Inquirer, (June 18, 1995).
Hot-headed feminists, militant blacks, Act-Up gays and “Iron John” white males need a first-rate marriage counselor. In a marriage, the counselor would explain, one makes a basic decision: either to break it up or to fight to recast it. If you choose to stay you must learn to fight with one hand tied behind your back. There are clear rules of engagement that allow one to advance one’s interests and values without dissolving the union.

How to Combat Hate

June 01, 1995

“How to Combat Hate” Ethics: Easier Said Than Done, Issue 29, (June 1995), pp. 34-35.
The ways to counter hate range from the personal informal to the organized and institutionalized. Nat Hentoff, a nationally syndicated columnist who frequently writes about civil liberties, illustrates the personal and informal ways in the following report. Four black students were walking on the campus of Arizona State University when they saw a flyer on a dormitory apartment door. It was labeled :Simplified form of a job application. Form for minority applicants.” The form requested sources of income and listed among the options to be checked off: “theft, welfare, unemployment.” For marital status, the options were “common law, shacked up, other.” The form also asked for “number of legitimate children (if any).”

Why bother calling it Memorial Day?

May 28, 1995

We need a national contest to rename Memorial day. “Memorial-Ale” Day or “Memorable Keg” Day may not quite do, but they’re promising candidates. “First Day on the Beach” is too long. The new name will have to remind my fancy relations that it’s time to lower their boats into the water, never mid the flags.

Shift Power, But Not to States

May 25, 1995

"Devolution" is not exactly a household word. Pray it never will be.

If the large-scale transfer of monies and missions from Washington to 50 state capitals is a way to curb government, then copy machines are a way to cut paperwork. True, state governments, which have become popular since last year's sea change in Congress, are not completely without merit. They can experiment in various ways to end welfare and reduce health care costs, before the whole nation becomes committed to a new course.

Common Values

May 12, 1995

Much of the recent discussion of communitarian thinking in the United Kingdom has put those of us who speak for it in the position of social democrats who have to keep "proving" that they are not Stalinist.

The Socio-Economics of Work

May 09, 1995

Socio-economics is a discipline that combines the perspectives of neoclassical economics with those of sociology, anthropology, psychology and political science.  

What Should Congress Focus on During Its Second 100 Days

May 01, 1995

Three out of four Americans (76 percent) believe that our society is morally decaying. A study of voters by the Wirthlin Group shows that 60 percent of voters feel that the problems facing the country are "primarily moral and social in nature," as opposed to "primarily economic in nature." The growing appeal of the Religious Right reflects the yearning of Americans to address values issues (for which "family values" and "culture" have become code words). While so far cultural conservatives have largely supported the economic (laissez-faire) conservative agenda (cut government, taxes, deficits, regulations) there are signs that cultural conservatives feel that "their" issues are being neglected.

Libertarian Follies

May 01, 1995

If one looks behind the mud Tibor Machan casts about, one can discern the basic outlines of a libertarian position that has some currency in our society and needs addressing. Such issues are being seriously explored by the social sciences and in the public arena. One product of the debate is a type of communitarian thinking that is neither laissez-faire conservative nor liberal in the contemporary, American sense of the term.

Who’s To Say What’s Right Or Wrong?

April 02, 1995

“Who’s To Say What’s Right Or Wrong?” Washington Post Education Review, April 2, 1995, p. 14. (Melinda Fine, Habits of the Mind.)

Blood Simple

February 20, 1995

Gay activists were discomfited when Newt Gingrich extended a helping hand to people at risk from AIDS, writing to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to complain that they are prevented from using an HIV Home Collection Kit. The kit allows anyone who wishes to find out whether they are HIV-infected, by mailing in some blood on number-coded cards and calling anonymously for the results. Paul Weyrich, National Chairman for the Coalitions for America, spoke up for the release of the kit, adding that he feels "uncomfortable" talking about the whole subject because "of the manner in which this deadly disease can be contracted" but feels that because "this has clearly become a public health issue affecting millions of Americans, some of whom are innocent victims of this deadly virus" the kit should be approved forthwith. And William Mellor III, President of the Conservative Institute for Justice, threatened to bring a lawsuit to gain the release of the kit. They were joined during a recent press conference by a young woman who tearfully explained that she would not be destined to die from AIDS if the kit had been available to her. Quite a line-up. But why?

Nation in need of community values

February 20, 1995

Communitarian thinking has recently been subjected to some spirited criticism in this country. The communitarian call to restore civic virtues, for people to live up to their responsibilities and not merely focus on their entitlements, to shore up the moral foundations of society, is said to endanger individual liberties.

Just a Social Crowd of Folk

February 18, 1995

SO WHAT is Communitarianism? We are a social movement aiming at shoring up the moral, social, and political environment. Part change of heart, part renewal of social bonds, part reform of public life.

Too Many Rights, Too Few Responsibilities

February 02, 1995

A sociological prize of sorts ought to be given to the member of the TV audience who, during a show about the S&L mess exclaimed, "The tax payers shouldn't pay for this, the government should!"