The Public Interest

Restoring our moral voice

Amitai Etzioni

Summer 1994

AUDIENCES THAT are quite enthusiastic about the communitarian message, which I carry these days to all who will listen, cringe when I turn to discuss the moral voice. One of my best friends took me aside and gently advised me to speak of “concern” rather than morality, warning that otherwise I would “sound like the Moral Majority.” During most call-in radio shows in which I participate, sooner or later some caller exclaims that “nobody should tell us what to do.” Time magazine, in an otherwise highly favorable cover story on communitarian thinking, warned against busybodies “humorlessly imposing on others arbitrary (meaning their own) standards of behavior, health and thought.” Studies of an American suburb by sociologist M. P. Baumgartner found a disturbing unwillingness of people to make moral claims on one another.  Most people did not feel it was their place to express their convictions when someone did something that was wrong.

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