Notes from underground

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Hijacking words: Urban Dictionary: Communitarianism

Having at one time been an editor of academic texts I am interested in words and meaning, and especially in the way words are sometimes used to obscure and confuse meaning rather than to communicate meaning. Words can sometimes be “hijacked” or “skunked”. They are hijacked when their meaning is twisted or perverted to mean something else. They are “skunked” when they are used by so many people to mean so many different things that you can never be sure what a person means by them unless they give a definition every time they use it. One example is “liberal” and “liberalism”, and that these words have been skunked can be clearly seen in the two preceding posts.

“Communitarian” and “communitarianism”, on the other hand, have apparently been hijacked, at least by some people. I’ve blogged about this before here and here.

Communitarianism is a fairly new word, but the concept was developed by Catholic anarchists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and Ammon Hennessy to distinguish Christian anthropology from modernist secular anthropologies like individualism and collectivism. Even though there wasn’t a specific word for it, the concept has been around at least as long as Christianity has, and I’ve described it, with quotations from Orthodox theologians, in Love is the measure: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker | Khanya.

I didn’t realise how bad it had got, however, until I read this: Urban Dictionary: Communitarianism:

Communitarianism

buy communitarianism mugs, tshirts and magnets

n. The belief that a society is greater than the sum of its parts, and that the members of an organization ought to work toward improving the organization. Often accused to be ‘communist’ or ‘fascist’.

Communitarianism is perceived to be evil because it opposes the individualistic doctrine of our society.

I find it difficult to see how anyone could take such a “definition” seriously. For a start, “accused to be” is illiterate. The correct English idiom is “accused of being”, and “accused to be” is a solecism. Anyone who writes English that badly is not competent to write dictionary definitions.

The next problem is that we are not told the identity of those who make these accusations, nor are we told the identity of those who “perceive it to be evil”, nor are we told which society is meant by “our” society. But I think it is safe to assume that those who make the accusations and perceive communitarianism in this way are as ignorant as the writer of the definition.

My attention was drawn to this in a blog post by James Highham, whose blog I read fairly regularly, and find interesting, though I don’t always agree with everything he says, and in this instance, of course, I emphatically disagree.

nourishing obscurity : Four Great Lies:

The Fourth Lie – the “third way” – is an attempt to bring people in by the back door to the dark side of the duality and it utilizes the First Lie to good effect. Thus we get “communitarianism”, perverting the concept of local community and having a vast number of federalist controlled local communities, each under the influence and rubber stamping power of a Common Purpose graduate. Leading beyond authority, i.e. assuming powers which are not yours to assume and being answerable only to the oligarchy in the centre.

The thought of Dorothy Day being part of an “oligarchy at the centre” really is too much.

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6 thoughts on “Hijacking words: Urban Dictionary: Communitarianism

  1. Graham Downs on said:

    I don’t think you should be taking anything in the Urban Dictionary seriously, Steve! 😉

  2. There’s nothing to agree or disagree with on this – it just is like saying Cameron or Zuma is Prime Minister. It just is. Don’t know where your Dorothy Dix came from – I didn’t write it – but as for communitarianism, yes of course it’s the new socialism under a new name.

    Perfect example of a hijacked term. Many articles on the net about it.

  3. This is positive towards it and as you can see, it is admitted to be socialism:

    http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/118/

    Instead of State socialism, it pretends that local citizen’s councils run things but they are already given their leadership who are from organizations like Common Purpose and use NLP techniques among others.

    It’s socialism by the back door in other words.

    • I only know “common purpose” as a legal doctrine; I’ve never heard of an organisation by that name.

    • I’ve just looked Walzer up on Wikipedia, where I read, “Michael Walzer is usually identified as one of the leading proponents of the “Communitarian” position in political theory, along with Alasdair MacIntyre and Michael Sandel. Like Sandel and MacIntyre, Walzer is not completely comfortable with this label.”

      Well, I’d never heard of Sandel and MacIntire either, but it seems that they all came after Dorothy Day, who does not seem to be at all uncomfortable with the term, and if Walzer et al are uncomfortable with the term, and are not prepared to acknowledge Dorothy Day, then perhaps they should disown it. But it seems that the unidentified people who “identified” them with the “communitarian” position are in fact the ones who have hijacked the term, and perhaps they should not use it either.

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