Liberals, it is supposed, stand for a framework that allows individuals to choose their ends, or goals; and communitarians, oppositely, stand for a public choice of ends and goals for individuals as part of the society. Thomas Nagel’s normative language might be considered, as he words it, “cultural liberalism” (23), and therefore values the intellectual ventilation known as pluralism, which accepts a multitude of truths and ideas. Michael Sandel represents a classical communitarianism that treats civic virtue, and the republic, as the most worthy publically chosen end, and bases this on a theory of the “boundaries to obligation”. Marilyn Friedman, on the other hand, explicates and defends a “redirection” in communitarian thought toward a more congenial relationship between self and community from the feminist perspective.
As different as these articles may seem from one another at first glance, the connections between them can be read in detail between the lines. One of Nagel’s points in his piece is the control over the public sphere that envelops the cultural and ideological environments in which young people are raised; forty years ago, he claims, the “public pieties were patriotic and anticommunist; now they are multicultural and feminist” (Nagel 24). On this point, and from a feminist perspective, Friedman goes on to develop the communitarian thought of Sandel, but in a way that shifts away from gender subordination characteristic of what shall be called “classical communitarianism” that stresses the Hellenistic notion of civic virtue. Sandel clearly sees a connection between the good of a society and the concept of a social purpose like that found in the writings of Aristotle on civic virtue. These intellectual conflicts between liberalism and communitarianism, with feminism in between, clearly demonstrate the normative problem of political theory, where