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Debating Democracy's DiscontentEssays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy$
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Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294962

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294964.001.0001

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Moral Dialogues: A Communitarian Core Element 1

Moral Dialogues: A Communitarian Core Element 1

(p.183) 14 Moral Dialogues: A Communitarian Core Element1
Debating Democracy's Discontent

Amitai Etzioni

Oxford University Press

The literature that explores the ways collectives formulate public policies is deeply influenced by the liberal way of thinking that argues that the way a democratic people ought to proceed (or/and does proceed) is for them to dispassionately discuss the facts of the situation, explore their logical implications, examine the alternatives that are available, and choose the one that is the most appropriate as determined on the basis of empirical evidence and logical conclusions. Deliberations have been contrasted with culture wars, a term used to suggest that the public is profoundly divided in its commitments to basic values, and that segments of the public confront each other in a highly charged way, often demonizing one another and turning differences into total opposition to the other’s fundamental commitments. Moral dialogues occur when a group of people engage in a process of sorting the values that will guide their formulations of the social good; they occur often in societies that fit the communitarian paradigm of balancing autonomy and order. A major characteristic of moral dialogues is that they abide by rules of engagement that reflect the basic tenet that a participant’s words and actions should be based on the recognition that the conflicting parties are members of one and the same community. Further development of these rules can serve both as an entry point into the dialogues themselves and as a pillar for sustaining them when social breakdowns are looming or the current normative course leaves certain groups feeling disassociated or disaffected from social processes.

Keywords:   breakdowns, communitarian, culture, deliberations, dialogues, dispassionate, evidence, moral, rules, wars

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