Communitarians, authoritarians and nonconformists

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The Independent Online
From Mr Richard de Zoysa

Sir: Anna Coote's criticisms of communitarian ideas may understate what could potentially be a radical agenda and one that could pose a real problem for Labour.

For example, Etzioni in his Spirit of the Community has argued that it is vital to revive those decomposing intermediate voluntary associations - such as the family, local council and neighbourhood, if one is to restore meaning to democracy. Empowering people to form and run their own associations at the community level could well bypass local government, much of it now a Labour fiefdom.

People would learn to do more for themselves and others. They would need to know how taxes are raised and spent, involving perhaps the notion of "hypothecated" taxes geared to the purchase of particular services. This could engender a new form of citizenship politics in which professionals renounce their right to strike (as part of their responsibility to the local community and the common good). It could lead to the revamping of much of local government itself.

Tony Blair, if he seized on the radical implications of communitarianism, could move beyond rhetoric and build a different agenda for Labour. One which tries to re-connect people with government and responsibility.

Yours faithfully,

Richard de Zoysa

Senior Lecturer in Politics

South Bank University

London, SE1

4 July