The politics of limited communitarianism

Filosofia Theoretica: Journal of African Philosophy, Culture and Religions 7 (2):101-122 (2018)
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Abstract

The debate on the communitarian notion of personhood as initiated by Gyekye, in response to Menkiti, is both exhaustive and exhausted. Its exhaustiveness and exhaustion lies in the fact that, in all probability whatever can be said around it has been said, with truly nothing new likely ever being added. What is possibly left, is the potential for further additions to be more strident in their picking of sides or repeating that Gyekye and Menkiti are not sufficiently different or insisting on the authenticity of either approach to African thought. What is needed is to transcend the constraints of this debate by opening up new vistas of interpreting communitarian thought in personhood. Whatever merit there is in showing whether radical or moderate communitarianism is real, or in showing which of these two is better than the other, this discussion can be furthered by looking at implications of communitarianism to other facets of philosophy. The most plausible avenue that could be implicated in communitarian considerations is the sphere of politics. Theorising about the communitarian notion of persons, I suggest, is partly to theorise about the political. If the commitments on which the doctrine of communitarianism is founded, are used to capture the sort of relations that exist between individuals, and between individuals and the community, then this relationship has an effect on how we conceive of the political theory we think appropriate. It is suggested here that contemplating on the communitarian polity will show the shortcomings of communitarianism as conceived by Gyekye and Menkiti. Keywords: Menkiti, Gyekye, Communitarianism, Limited Communitarianism, Personhood, Classical Communitarianism

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Bernard Matolino
University of KwaZulu-Natal

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