Paradise Well Lost: Communitarian Nostalgia and the Lonely Logic of the Liberal Self

Abstract

“Paradise Well Lost” offers a description and criticism of communitarian claims that in contemporary liberal society the self is in sad shape, that liberal society is out of harmony with the needs of the self, and that such a society makes the good life nearly impossible to achieve. It is argued that communitarian thought is driven by a false and deluded nostalgia for a self-world unity that never was andnever can be, that human consciousness prohibits the neatly unified communialization of self and world that seems desired by much communitarian thinking. A final argument claims that there are nontrivial connections between the communitarian desire for self-world unity, and the twentieth-century emergence of totalitarian society--connections about which it is wise to be worried.

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