Whatever Happened to Communitarianism?

[T]hese adults I see around me, a decade or two my junior—the famous Millennial generation—also emerged from adolescence, journeyed through their universities and apprenticeships and grad programs, married and began their families (or pointedly chose not to), moved from one place to another, and started their adult working lives, in the midst of two huge developments that couldn’t be more different from the drifting, discontented (but profitable!) year of 1995: the War on Terror, and the Great Recession. The social, political, and cultural consequences of those transformative events are many and diverse, but there are areas of overlap. Both privileged statist, nationalist, indeed civilizational narratives (obviously aided here by increasingly omnipresent, globally-interconnected technologies)—the primary community one was part of, the community which most threatened one’s choices or preferences, the community one most need to win, was a big one. If the money-making exuberance, the talk-radio squalor, and occasional overall aimlessness of post-Cold War America in the 1990s made it a little easier (for a moment, anyway) for people to hear a message which called for the abandonment of business as usual and for a move towards a different, more communal and civic, way of conceiving the political stakes around us, then 9/11, the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Wall Street bankruptcies imposed—for many of us, anyway—an encompassing and divisive rhetorical structure in its place. The United States vs. worldwide terror, Bush vs. the UN, Obama vs. the Tea Party, Red America vs. Blue America, Christians vs. Muslims, libertarians vs. socialists, the West vs. The Rest. The fact that too many communitarian thinkers perversely ramped up their discussion of the res publica to world-historical and international levels, perhaps in part because they felt themselves obligated by this revived rhetorical posture to fight a culture war, didn’t do the ideology any favors. If your typical educated American thinker in her 30s today looks back on these concerns from 20 years ago and finds it all somewhat intellectually strained, perhaps she can’t be blamed.
— Russell Arben Fox