Letter: More dystopia than Utopia

Joan Smith is right to warn of the authoritarian streak in Amitai Etzioni's communitarian gospel ("Should we live this way?", 22 June). Surely everyone wants to live in a safe, stable and loving community, but to put blame on working mothers for social breakdown is to miss the point. In his previous book, The Spirit of Community..., Etzioni advocates a range of "sacrifices" he feels individuals should make for the good of the nuclear family. However his vision seems to exclude Hispanics and gays who are marginalised in his core "American society". Athough Etzioni does not actually advocate mandatory HIV testing, he argues that "the community ... is entitled to encourage likely HIV carriers to be tested".

In his simplistic nostrums and homilies, Etzioni glosses over the causes of socio-economic inequalities that undermine his critique. By focusing on drunken drivers he ignores the enormous environmental costs of unfettered motoring. But then to suggest that Americans "sacrifice" their precious cars would win him few brownie points with Clinton. As for New Labour, surely it is Jack Straw's proposed curfews for errant infants that most eerily echo Etzioni's dystopia.

Alan Bullion

Tunbridge Wells, Kent