The Dance with Community

The Contemporary Debate in American Political Thought

With a New Foreword by Susan McWilliams Barndt

Robert Booth Fowler

Contemporary intellectuals have rushed to embrace the concept of *#8220;community.” What does this tell us about American political thought? Why are intellectuals uneasy with modern liberal individualism and its institutional policy results? Why is political intellectual discourse dominated today by complaint?

In The Dance with Community Robert Booth Fowler reflects upon these and related questions. “My goal,” he writes, “is to present contemporary political thought about community for what it is—a conversation interactive, spirited, and sometimes tough.”

“Provides a comprehensive and perceptive treatment of a multiplicity of perspectives on community. Fowler promotes the idea of existential community as an alternative to both liberalism and the more standard versions of communitarian ideal.”

Review of Politics

“This is a comprehensive survey of more than a hundred theories—backed by a bibliography of more than 300 entries—in modern American political, sociological, philosophical, and even theological thought. This compendium alone would be worth the price of the book. But Fowler also has a theme that raises profound moral and religious questions. He proposes to chronicle America's discontent with liberal individualism and to reflect on the ways it may be overcome, without submerging the individual in structures that dehumanize.”

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There have been many interpretations of the much-discussed decline in community spirit. Rather than offer another, Fowler steps back to look at the debate itself. He examines from the perspective of an intellectual historian the attention to community in current American political thought and explores the setting of that attention.

He also identifies five alternative models of community integral to the current debates and sketches a clear image of each—its relationship to others, the logic of its appeal, and its emphases and problems. In each instance he places the model into the larger conversation over alternative communities and the value of community itself.

About the Author

Robert Booth Fowler is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he taught from 1967 until his retirement in 2002. His books include The Dance with Community: The Contemporary Debate in American Political Thought and Unconventional Partners: Religion and American Liberal Culture.

Additional Titles in the American Political Thought Series