Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. William A. Ritchie

Second Advisor

Dr. Emily Hauptmann

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan Isaak

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The aim of this thesis is to research the role of community in liberal thought. The problem that has initiated this research is the erosion of traditional communal bonds in contemporary liberal society. This problem has been the focus of the debate between communitarians and liberals for the past two decades. The research problem will be to discover workable definitions of community and liberalism which have been plagued with multiple interpretations throughout the debate.

The method of this thesis will be to first frame in the environment of the original problem. The second chapter will address the precedents set by the debate between liberals and communitarians. The third chapter will address the problem of finding a workable definition of community that is relevant to the original problem, and applicable to a liberal environment. Chapters N, V and VI will search for the concept of community within three distinct periods of liberal history. These chapters will develop the principles of liberal thought consistent when addressing the idea of community.

Three major principles of liberal thought emerge from this research; the priority of the individual, the equality of individuals, and the goal of individual self-realization. It will be discovered that liberal thought holds community to be necessary to a liberal system; however, community is subordinate to the maximization of liberal principles and the general welfare of the larger community.