“Eric’s calling from camp again.”

The Communitarian Observer

Amitai Etzioni
7 min readSep 14, 2020


September 2020


“Joe Biden’s Stakeholder Capitalism Is Not the Issue — Corruption Is”

“Consider capitalism as akin to nuclear energy. If it is well-contained in a strongly fortified capsule, it can benefit society by providing an abundance of low-cost energy (in the form of massive production of goods and services). However, if allowed to break out of its mooring, it can cause great harm (to workers, customers, the social order, and the environment).”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published in the National Interest on September 9, 2020.

“Why Doesn’t Joe Biden Have a Large Lead Over Donald Trump?”

“Above all, the election results will depend on millions of Americans of all backgrounds being willing to make the extra effort that voting will require this year — facing the pandemic, unemployment, and the hurdles put in their way — to not just vote but to bring others to the mailbox or ballot box.”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published in the National Interest on August 31, 2020.

“Biden Joins the Anti-China Chorus”

“If those concerned about the increased tensions between the U.S. and China are expecting that Joe Biden, if elected, will hit a reset button, they are likely to be disappointed.”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published in the Diplomat on August 24, 2020.

“Can Donald Trump Save His Presidency By Making China the Enemy?”

“Trump has found a way to capture the headlines and fuel criticism of China, which China inflamed through its brutal crackdown in Hong Kong. However, so far at least, this effort at wagging the dog has not improved Trump’s reelection chances.”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published in the National Interest on August 22, 2020.

“A Dove’s Call for De-Escalation with China”

“Republicans and Democrats are increasing[ly] critical of China. The U.S. is drifting ever closer to a cold war with China.”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published in the Hill on August 15, 2020.

Joe Biden’s Christmas Tree Needs Some Pruning

“If you go to Joe Biden’s Vision for America’s Future, you will get a one-line vision and then the biggest Christmas tree in Democratic politics.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as published in the National Interest on August 15, 2020.

“Donald Trump Has Set a Debate Trap for Joe Biden”

“Joe Biden should prepare for Donald Trump’s outrageous, false claims, and allegations of ‘fake news’ by asking debate moderators to sound a buzzer every time someone lies.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as published in the National Interest on August 10, 2020.

Click here to read this op-ed in Indonesian, as published in Matamata Politik on August 11, 2020.

Who Will Get the Vaccine?: “Are You a Candidate for Donald Trump’s Coronavirus Vaccine?”

“There are reports that coronavirus vaccines might be available in a few months. Thus, there must be deliberations over who will first have access to the vaccines.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as published in the National interest on August 8, 2020.

“COVID-19 Tests Communitarian Values”

“In the 1990s, I was dubbed a communitarian guru, although quite a few others deserved the title at least as much. Recently, I have followed with special interest the responses to the pandemic in various nations that have embraced communitarian values.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as published in the Diplomat on July 14, 2020 or click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as re-published in the Japan Times on July 19, 2020.

“America and the Dark Days of Social Divisiveness”

“We need national policies on how to deal with the pandemic and the economic recovery — and national leadership.”

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed, as published in the National Interest on July 13, 2020.

“Social Sciences Handicap the Moral Wrestler”

“We all carry a narrative about human nature in our minds. A major narrative, acquired from Judeo-Christian values, is that life is an unending moral struggle. We know what is right, however our flawed nature tempts us to misbehave. We try to lead a more moral life.”

Click here to read the rest of this op-ed, as published on Medium on August 5, 2020.


Virtual Arena Civil Dialogues

Please join us for our next Virtual Arena Civil Dialogue, curated and moderated by Amitai Etzioni.
Attendance is free and open to all!

When: Monday, September 21, 2020, from 4:00pm to 5:30pm EDT

Topic:Suffer the Children: Child Care and Schools if Covid Persists


  • Professor Elizabeth Cascio, Associate Professor of Economics at Dartmouth University
  • Dr. Lynette Fraga, CEO of Child Care Aware®
  • Professor Rachel A. Gordon, Professor of Sociology and Associate Director for the Social Sciences at the Institute for Health Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Brigid Schulte, Director of Better Life Lab, New America

Click Here to Register

Of Interest

“The Politics of Patriotism”

This column focuses on the Republican Party’s history of using unnuanced patriotism to rally the public and win elections. Although President Donald Trump is clearly attempting to utilize this strategy (while simultaneously disparaging the intelligence community and various military generals and otherwise engaging in acts contrary to the patriotism he tries to espouse), there has been “a collapse in national pride, a proxy for patriotism, during his presidency.” This continues a trend that began prior to his inauguration, seen in the rise of the Democratic Party’s conception of patriotism, which seeks to “us[e] America’s strengths to correct its weaknesses.” This other, more nuanced form of patriotism is particularly popular among younger people and people from minority backgrounds, and it is also gaining strength as the left attracts people who have been repelled by Trumpism and the right’s acquiescence to it. Thus, Democrats are renewing their previous efforts “to wrest patriotism from the right.”

Click here to read this Lexington column, as published in the Economist on August 15, 2020.

“Hard Choices on China,” by Nikolas Gvosdev

In this piece, Nikolas Gvosdev starts by discussing a new survey from the U.S. Global Engagement program, which only gives two options (yes or no) as answers for some of its questions. The goal is to parse opinions on difficult choices. For example, “what happens when one ethical demand is contradicted by another?” Current issues in relations with China illustrate these complex challenges, as “U.S. school districts are facing a choice between accepting embargoes on goods like Thinkpads and Chromebooks sourced from China, where they may have been assembled with slave or prisoner labor, especially by the persecuted Uyghers — or not being able to offer educational services[,] particularly to low-income and disadvantaged children.” With important values on both sides, determining the best course of action will not always be simple, and It is important to think about and discuss these challenging decisions.

Click here to read this piece, as published by the Carnegie Council’s Ethics & International Affairs blog.

“Why Edmund Burke Still Matters,” by Bret Stephens

“How did Burke get it right about the ultimate course of events in France — and, by extension, so many subsequent revolutions that aimed to establish morally enlightened societies and wound up producing despotism and terror? The question is worth pondering in light of two main ideological currents of today: the tear-it-all-down populism that has swept so much of the right in the past five years and the tear-it-all-down progressivism that threatens to sweep the left.

“At the core of Burke’s view of the revolution is a profound understanding of how easily things can be shattered in the name of moral betterment, national purification and radical political transformation. States, societies and personal consciences are not Lego-block constructions to be disassembled and reassembled with ease. They are more like tapestries, passed from one generation to the next, to be carefully mended at one edge, gracefully enlarged on the other and otherwise handled with caution lest a single pulled thread unravel the entire pattern. ‘The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity,’ Burke wrote. ‘And therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature, or to the quality of his affairs.’”

Click here to read this article, as published in the New York Times on August 5, 2020.

Carrots, Sticks, and Sermons: Policy Instruments and Their Evaluation, edited by Marie-Louise Bemelmans-Videc, Ray C. Rist, and Evert Vedung

This 1998 book includes a chapter called “Policy Instruments: Typologies and Theories” that argues, per author Evert Vedung, that “[g]overnments everywhere have three and only three power tools to use in their governing of us. Carrots, sticks and sermons. Besides organization of course.” Vedung’s work on this topic draws on Amitai Etzioni’s early classification of coercive, remunerative and normative types of power in organizations. This work is still highly relevant and under lively discussion today.


Reclaiming Patriotism Review

“For sixty years Amitai Etzioni has crafted a sociological, moral, and political vision he calls liberal communitarianism, of which his new book is a succinct summary. The term is something of an oxymoron, given that communitarianism developed as a critique of liberalism, but these days I welcome any defense of tolerance, facts, due process, transparency, the rule of law, and other basic elements of liberal societies. Etzioni’s effort will appeal to most scholarly readers, whose education and expertise are among the frequent targets of today’s global antiliberalism.”

Click here to read the rest of the book review, written by James M. Jasper of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and published in the Review of Politics.

Click here to access a free PDF version of Reclaiming Patriotism.

For a depository of much of our work and free copies (including books), visit our page on SSRN.

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Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies, The George Washington University

www.icps.gwu.edu • Phone: (202) 994–8190 • Email: icps@gwu.edu



Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and professor of international relations at the George Washington University.