Communitarianism is a cargo cult

Communitarians hope to revive America by bringing back old forms of social organizations, bowling leagues, rotary clubs, etc. What they don't realize is that these forms of social organizations were consequence of, rather than a cause of social capital.

Communitarians lament the decline of community. No one is a part of bowling leagues any more, much less rotary clubs, fraternities, or lodges. The fraying of the social fabric has led to the increase in opioid use, out of wedlock births, rising death rates, and a host of other negative social indicators. Reversing this trend requires the reintroduction of civic society, bringing back the old organizations that formed the bonds which made America so successful.

Communitarianism, at least it's modern instantiation, is a cargo cult. As a reminder, a cargo cult is a belief system that a set of rituals will lead to good outcomes. It's original usage comes from Melanesian people building runways in hopes that American planes would bring them advanced technology. Communitarians are copying that method, believing that social organizations, bowling leagues, rotary clubs, fraternities, lodges, etc., are a cause of, not a consequence of social capital.

What this means is that the broader communitarian project on the right is on some margin doomed to failure. The communitarian project is backward looking, it examines the social organizations America had when historically, and assumes that recreating those social organizations will lead to success. It is also proscriptive, arguing that people should become communitarians. When was the last time someone joined a bowling league because a New York Times columnist recommended it?

Rather than looking backwards, America should look forwards. Revival will come not from attempting to ape bygone eras, but from providing genuine opportunity and respect to those who feel downtrodden. Success comes from a rebuilding of the American dream, where the small town boy or girl can move to the city and make something of themselves. Unfortunately they're currently priced out of the housing market. Success comes from developing a sense of national pride, of the fact that we're building something bigger than ourselves. Success comes from jolting people out of complacency, American moving rates are at about half their previous levels.

Civic society is the consequence of good community, not a cause of it. Rebuilding American community requires recreating the opportunities that previous generations had, not LARPing their social organizations.

See All Posts