There is an autosaved version of this post that is newer than the current version. Show autosaved versionJune 28, 2021
Although there are exceptions, with a rough distinction, collectivists put the concept of “good” and liberals the concept of “justice” at the center of their theories. Parallel to this distinction, “(…) liberal attitudes are moral, congregationalists are teleological, or liberals have a procedural perspective, while congregationalists have a more substantial perspective” (A. Berten, et al. 2006, p. 29).
Aristotle’s ideas are at the basis of the views of the collectivists about the priority of the good. Aristotle states in the first sentence of his work named Politics that every state was established with a good purpose (Aristotle 2004, p. 7). Good is the principle that people want to achieve and that they take as a guide for their actions in order to achieve these wishes. For this reason, all communities and the state that includes these communities aim for the good. In that case, it is clear that the desired goals cannot be achieved unless the good of the state and the good of the communities are intertwined. Therefore, the state can never be neutral. On the contrary, every state carries the best of the communities that make up it. In contrast to the communitarian belief that there are goods shared by all members of the community, liberals question what is a condition in which everyone can realize themselves and achieve their unique good. Underlying such a goal, as mentioned above, lies the individualistic attitudes of liberals. While liberals accept the individual as the only reality, they also construct it separately from any social value. In this respect, it is possible for each individual to realize his own good only under a fair condition. The only guarantee of a just condition is the neutrality of the state. Liberal belief asserts that only a neutral and equidistant state will free all individuals to realize their own interests.
These liberals’ centralist views of justice have been criticized by collectivists for creating a loosely interconnected society. The principle of justice, which offers no content to individuals in the context of the common good, provides an insufficient justification for ensuring the continuity of the community. Moreover, “(…) when justice is considered as the central concept, the value of the community in itself is reduced to an instrumental unity. However, the community participates in the existence of the individual’s individuality in a non-instrumental way” (Tuncel 2010, p. 69). As a matter of fact, the purpose of individuals to protect and maintain the community stems from the fact that they aim to protect and maintain their own existence. This justification also provides motivation for individuals to participate in the common good.
At this point, two different perspectives can be identified within the collectivist tradition in terms of participation. The first of these indicates participation in the sense of acceptance and adoption of the traditional values of the community. Such participation, especially represented by A. MacIntyre, can be seen as a natural consequence of the individual’s moral belongings. In this sense, participation ensures that the common values and good of the community are maintained. However, such a meaning of participation, which is directed only towards the common good, is not compatible with the pluralism ideals of the contemporary world, and it also causes micro-nationalisms in terms of paving the way for an essentialist ontology. In other words, the identification of the individual with the community can bring discriminatory, confrontational and totalitarian perspectives with an extreme interpretation.
Totalitarianism is a comprehensive set of political rules based on widespread ideological manipulation and terror. Totalitarianism, by establishing a power over social and individual existence, completely destroys the distances between power, society and the individual.
For collectivists, the second meaning of participation bears the traces of classical republican arguments. Participation in this form of collectivism, particularly represented by Charles Taylor, is politically valuable. In such an understanding, participation indicates a willingness to take an active role in pursuing the common good of the political community, not ethnic or cultural. From this perspective, which revives the understanding of democracy in Ancient Greece, individuals who take part in the active life of the community can realize their own existence by revealing their different identities in the public sphere. As a matter of fact, the belief that the representation of identities will bring real equality and freedom underlies the criticisms that liberal democracies should have a pluralistic structure.
As a result, the dichotomy between liberalism and collectivism leads to the questioning of many concepts that could not be discussed during the Cold War, especially by focusing on the criticisms of liberalism. This situation changes the liberal discourse. However, it is not only liberal discourse that has changed in this process. It is a big problem that collectivism started out with pure criticism at the beginning and could not put forward integrative projects. For this reason, when it comes to recent times, the collectivist discourse often takes refuge in the language of republicanism and starts to produce political projects.