The Responsive Community: A Communitarian Perspective

Presidential Address, American Sociological Association, August 20, 1995

American Sociological Review, pp. 1-11, February 1996

12 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2010

See all articles by Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni

The George Washington University

Date Written: August 20, 1995


Authentic communities, ones that are responsive to the "true needs" of all community members, reflect the appropriate balance of order and autonomy. The traditional contradiction between order and autonomy can be minimized by responsiveness that considers the community's historical position. When centripetal forces pull too much toward order, an emphasis must be placed on autonomy. When centrifugal forces pull too much toward autonomy, order must be given greater weight. The relationship between centripetal and centrifugal forces is peculiar. Like a symbiotic relationship, the forces enhance each other. However, at a point where one force gains undue supremacy over the other, they become antagonistic. This relationship, labeled inverting symbiosis, informs communitarian analysis of the current social conditions and therefore must be applied within context. As communities develop particularistic identities, boundaries between members and nonmembers evolve. To reduce the potential for conflict, layered loyalties (allegiances to multiple communities) must be fostered. Ultimately, an overarching "community of communities" must develop to respond to the needs of constituent communities as those communities are responsive to their constituent members.

Keywords: order, autonomy, conflict, communities

Suggested Citation

Etzioni, Amitai, The Responsive Community: A Communitarian Perspective (August 20, 1995). Presidential Address, American Sociological Association, August 20, 1995. Available at SSRN:

Amitai Etzioni (Contact Author)

The George Washington University ( email )

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Room 342
Washington, DC 20052
United States


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