#106 – Civil Society or Mob Rule?

Democracy is one man/woman, one vote, majority rule. Democracy loses legitimacy when the group, not the individual, is sovereign. Communitarianism, not democracy, is a power-sharing structure between three groups; the state (including its agencies), the private corporations (big pharma, weapons manufacturers, etc.), and the community.

French aristocrat, Alexis de Tocqueville, was sent to North America to examine the prison system in the United States. During his travels, he took copious notes. Upon returning to France, he published two volumes titled Democracy in America.

Tocqueville wrote of civil society. He pointed out that voluntary institutions of civil society promoted active engagement in decision making and acted as a bulwark against the excesses of centralized, governmental authority. 

Tocqueville said, “associations of a thousand other kinds -religious, moral, serious, futile, extensive, or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found establishments for education, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books … found hospitals, prisons, and schools”

However, Tocqueville warned about the potential for civil society being exploited by the powerful interest of groups when they combine. “… each of them brings great strength to the partnership, the number of its members may be very limited; and when the members of an association are limited in number, they may easily become mutually acquainted, understand each other, and establish fixed regulations.”

In 1996, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor highlighted political communitarianism in the US. A softer approach to what Tocqueville warned. Its most vocal leader was Amitai Etzioni, an Israeli-American dual citizen. The director of the Center for Communitarian Policy Studies at George Washington University. 

Amitai Etzioni’s 2011 book, The New Normal, explores a communitarian view on a post-global economic collapse world. Etzioni applied New Normal to a society suffering from a diminished economy. Today it is used to describe a post covid pandemic society. The connection is troubling.

His liberal communitarian society governments and private corporations consult with the people via the communities to form a civil society. In other words, the combination of these three communities has absorbed the individual. Group-think is when all sections of society become aligned. 

Etzioni believes that the community represents and can speak for the individual. Etzioni assumes that only single identities or homogeneous communities exist. He is guilty of imposing a broad-brush version of the community. 

Etzioni ignores any diversity of thought or dissenting opinions within the community. The problem arises that the communities he creates are in theory only. He is a utopian socialist that calls himself a liberal communitarian. 

Implicit to the communitarian theory is that dissent from the community or disagreement with their common good is unacceptable. Etzioni takes a lockstep approach to compliance. “We should not hesitate to speak up and express our moral concerns to others when it comes to issues we care about deeply […] Those who neglect these duties, should be explicitly considered poor members of the community.”

He classifies poor members as not good citizens and even offers a remedy. “Responsibilities are anchored in community […] communities define what is expected of people; they educate their members to accept these values, and they praise them when they do and frown upon them when they do not. “

His community is a control mechanism, not an egalitarian meritocracy that our forefathers envisioned. In a communitarian society, the community defines responsibilities and expectations, instills values, and demands compliance. The individual is not permitted to flourish. The non-compliant will be educated or excluded. 

The communitarian power structure has blossomed, as a result, of the covid pandemic. The shared morality of civil society has issued commands directed at our responsibilities, like arbitrary orders such as social distancing, masks, quarantines, and vaccines, all unproven directives from civil society. The new normal to make a safer society. 

Freedom of speech and expression, public protest, and freedom of choice are more important than a commitment to any prescribed community or their authorized version of the common good. Civil Society is the collective opinion of a mob, not the voice of all communities or individuals. Some communities still believe in individual sovereignty.


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