Paul Frazier

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Pritchard

Second Advisor

Dr. Sylvia Culp

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The question that divides liberalism and communitarianism is: should the state exist to protect individuals and individual rights or for the good of society as a whole? This thesis suggests that this is the wrong question to ask. Individuals are not isolated and different from their communities, but are products of social settings. This does not mean, however, that individual freedom and individual rights are compromised. Rather, the only way for an individual to be an autonomous agent and to make free choices is within a society. Rights for individuals, then, must come from within a social setting. Therefore, the individual is intertwined with a society and we cannot view a just society as simply focusing on one or the other.

This thesis examines the principles of liberalism and communitarianism as outlined in Jean Hampton's book Political Philosophy, and argues that they are not as far apart as they seem. The most defensible versions of both must move toward each other in terms of general concepts and the role of the state. This thesis also examines Hampton's "post-liberal" theory to show that liberalism and communitarianism are both after the same things: how to develop the right kinds of social institutions that guarantee individual rights for all citizens. Thus, liberalism and communitarianism are much closer than they are traditionally portrayed in political philosophy.

Included in

Philosophy Commons