Rousseau and Durkheim: The Relation between the Public and the Private

Journal of Religious Ethics 21 (1):1 - 25 (1993)
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Abstract

This essay offers a reading of Rousseau and Durkheim against the background of the current debate between those labeled liberals and those labeled communitarians. I show how the present false option of the debate (defend "the individual" or protect "the community") deflects our thought from a more promising direction that attempts to relate--not merely juxtapose--liberalism to communitarianism. Both Rousseau and Durkheim offer a middle way between liberalism and communitarianism, thereby rescuing us from the forced option. Durkheim's middle way, however, unlike Rousseau's, fails to address the contingent yet seemingly irradicable tension between the private and public in liberal society. I conclude by championing Rousseau over Durkheim precisely because Rousseau is willing to entertain such friction.

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