Lucknow, UP, India, 226028

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITARIANISM AS A THEORY OF JUSTICE IN MODERN TIMES

Mudit

INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNITARIANISM

To understand why we need communitarianism in modern times, we need to understand what the communitarians have set as an objective. In my opinion, it is apparent that communitarians want the well-being of human society as a whole, meaning they want the best for most of humanity, in other words, what we call the utilitarian side. In that, bearing in mind that communitarians want what is best for society, they are doing what is best for all the humans living in said society. On the contrary, the libertarian school of thought wants the best for humans, but they choose to do it at an individual level. So, the end goal is the same but the means to achieve it are different. In communitarianism they take communities as whole, and in libertarianism they take the individual as a separate entity.

WHAT DO THE COMMUNITARIANS EXPECT?

According to the Communitarians, the Libertarians have not understood who people are as individuals. The meaning of ‘self’ that these Libertarians have been proposing is completely incorrect. They also claim that the sequence of the principle, i.e., the lexical priority of the principles is incorrect.[1]

Communitarians say that one’s self is attached to the society as such. The human beings as such are attached to the community. These human beings, at a particular point in time, live together with the people in the society, making them consequently attached to it.  No matter what, the identity of the person is inevitably attached to the society.

SHOULD THE ‘RIGHT TO LIBERTY’ EXIST?

As per Libertarianism,[2] an individual finds his own salvation in these liberties and, hence, the state should not interfere. The state should interfere only if these religious ideas affect the rights of other people as such. In any other case, the state should stay neutral and provide equal protection to all religions.

As per Communitarianism,[3] if the freedom of religious expression helps in spreading peace and harmony in the society, then it should be protected. If the right is respected, a Civil Strife could be avoided and, in that way, the community might be better off.

WHAT WOULD A LIBERTARIAN AND A COMMUNITARIAN SUPPORT ON DIFFERENT SOCIETAL ISSUES?

 HOMOSEXUAL OR LGBTQ+ RIGHTS:

Libertarian

  • A libertarian would claim that, no matter what, their rights are indispensable. It is their life, their bodies, their privacy; thus, they can do whatever they want, because each individual acquires the same liberties to the same extent.

Communitarian

  • A communitarian would not deprive homosexuals of their rights; his answer would rather be contingent upon what is the conception of sexuality in that particular community.[4] But in modern times, the communities are advanced enough to understand that homosexuals pose no threat to the communities at large and, therefore, they would not deny homosexuals their rights, as a part of the community. As a result, a communitarian would also not allow the current homophobic norms to prevail in the society.

MOVEMENT OF TABLIGHI JAMAAT MEMBERS ALL OVER INDIA BREAK THE LOCKDOWN GOVERNMENTAL GUIDELINES AND SPREAD COVID-19 ALL OVER THE COUNTRY RESULTING IN 29% INFECTIONS.

Libertarian

  • A libertarian would protect the members’ right to move freely and would advocate that the member does not owe any duty to society and he is the master of his own will.
  • Libertarians take people as right-bearing individuals against the society, individuals who need protection against the society.
  • Societal morality, social security and public health cannot be the reasons to restrict or abridge the rights of an individual.
  • Any kind of cooperation can only be voluntary cooperation from his side. The rights of individuals always come prior to the good of the community.
  • Also, if we see individuals as isolated right-bearing individuals who are not a part of a community, then we should blame that particular person for spreading the virus and not the whole Tablighi Jamaat or the whole Muslim community, because libertarians do not accept the fact that group identities exist.

Communitarian

  • What libertarians fail to recognise is that, after deciding the adjourning principle on a separate individual level, they have to come back to the real world and live in the community exclusively. Humans can­­­­­not, and, are not made to survive in isolation without society; they have to live in communities, villages and societies. Thus, how can libertarians ignore this basic fact and perceive the laws from an individual standpoint?
  • A communitarian would try to minimise the total damage to the community, no matter if it costs the violation or restriction of the rights of some individuals.
  • In India, a communitarian would not just quarantine one Jamaat member; he would advocate quarantining all the members of Jamaat and testing them, so as to prevent the spreading of the virus. He will not refrain from attributing the actions of some individual to their whole group acknowledging the grave nature of the threat their whole group is posing.
  • Therefore, it is evident that we need communitarianism today in such times of pandemics. Because if we keep following liberalism blindly even in such times, when the survival of communities is at stake, the humans will eventually go extinct.

CHINA NOT REPORTING THE CONTAGIOUS NATURE OF COVID-19 AND INTENTIONALLY NOT STOPPING THE SPREAD:

Libertarian

  • A libertarian would advocate that China is in itself a sovereign nation and therefore does not owe any duty to any country even WHO norms are not mandatory to be followed.
  • Anything China will do, will be with its own will. No one can make China inform the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the virus.

Communitarian

  • He would advocate that China is not completely isolated from the other countries since its people as well as goods travel internationally.
  • Its people travel to other countries and it has trade relations with other countries; therefore it owes some minimum duty of care towards these countries as well.
  • China cannot delay such important information from the WHO when it could pose such a great threat to other countries as well.

ABORTION

Libertarian

  • He would say it is the right of an individual to conceive or not conceive and to opt for abortion or not. Therefore, a libertarian would advocate for abortion. Because with pregnancy, a lot of freedoms are taken away from a woman. Therefore, if the woman wants to abort the baby, she shall be free to do so.
  • However, there is another aspect of libertarianism which will say that even a baby in the womb has the right to live, or the father who wants the baby, has the right to bring his child to life.
  • This is where a clash of rights and liberties would happen, and the libertarians might be stuck in an inconclusive debate from both sides.

Communitarian

  • As per the communitarian view,[5] abortion can be banned if the community feels offended by it,
  • Our self is bound to, and attached to, others therefore we cannot live while offending others.
  • But in today’s Indian context, a communitarian would allow abortion, because society does not condemn abortion like it used to do before. But in any scenario, a communitarian will not allow abortion to all the women of a community. Because if there are no kids to bring to life in a community, the whole community will go extinct, which is something a communitarian would not allow.

LIMITED BEDS WITH VENTILATORS AVAILABLE IN ITALY WHILE THERE ARE TENS OF PATIENTS IN NEED OF A BED, WHO SHOULD THEY CHOOSE AND HOW?

Libertarian

  • Each person has the same extent of rights. No one is more important than the other.
  • Each life has identical value to another life.
  • If we randomly allow one person and not allow the others, it will violate basic principles of libertarianism. Therefore, no one would get the bed until everyone else contending to that bed decides to voluntarily give up their claim on that specific bed and gives their consent to that one person to actually get the bed. Which, evidently, will not happen in most cases, and a lot of people will die as a result.

Communitarian

  • He will advocate on same lines as a utilitarian would do. He would employ utilitarian methods to find out who has the highest possibility of survival and would die if otherwise not treated and will give him the bed. Because survival of one individual, is better than survival of none.
  • He would probably take in younger people, as they have higher survival rates than older people. All a communitarian would think about is how to save maximum lives for the best interest of the community. A communitarian would also think of ways to maximise the volunteering programmes and other health safety measures to protect as many lives as possible.

CONCLUSION

In all the countries where libertarianism is on its peak, people enjoy more rights than they will ever use, and people don’t care much about the interest of the community. For example, the USA, the UK and Italy are in a more difficult situation, in comparison to other countries, because they did not compromise their right to move freely, as well as other rights, when there was still time to minimize and prevent the spread of the virus. The countries where the government imposed immediate lockdown, curbing the rights of their citizens, such as India, managed to flatten the curve successfully. Because of all the above listed reasons, I believe that communitarian regimes are what modern times are in need of because of we need to implement these strict measures quickly before this situation gets even worse.

Author(s) Name: Mudit Burad (National Law University, Jodhpur)

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 [1] Rawls, John. “Justice as Fairness: Political Not Metaphysical.” Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol. 14, no. 3, 1985, pp. 223–251. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2265349. Accessed 19 May 2020.

[2] Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Basic Books (New York) and Basil Blackwell (Oxford), 1974.

[3] Sandel Michael J. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. (2nd Edition 1998) Cambridge University Press 1982.

[4]  Sandel Michael J. Public Philosophy: Essays on Morality in Politics, 2005 Harvard University Press, Ch. 21 (Moral Argument and Liberal Toleration: Abortion and Homosexuality); John Finnis, “Same Sex: Debating the Ethics, Science, and Culture of Homosexuality”, Printed in John Corvino (ed.), Law, Morality, and Sexual Orientation (Lanham-New York-London, Rowman and Littlefield 1997) pp.31-43.

[5] Supra note 4.