ABSTRACT

My primary aim and first challenge in this essay is to outline a general frame that enables us to see the interaction and tension among the several positions that will be discussed by different authors in this book. But I also want to take this opportunity to advance some theses. It is obvious that projects such as discourse theory in Germany, communitarianism in the United States, liberation ethics in Latin American countries such as Argentina and Brazil, postmodern poststructuralism in France and feminism in these different contexts are culturally and theoretically distinct, and there is no need to stress the differences now. Therefore, I will take a different path and deal with a second challenge, namely to show that the above positions share some basic critical convictions which need to be brought to the surface. I want to underline that they refer to the idea of community and emphasize different forms of discourse as means to a critique of liberalism. Here the third challenge is to show this without reductionism, generalization or appeal to an externalist perspective. Thus we have to recognize pluralism as we deal with this triple task, which I want to discuss in light of three general theses:

There is a traditional and even conservative sense of ‘community’ which is taken up by progressive positions that develop a critique of different forms of liberalism;

This critical ‘turn to community’ is not limited to one particularistic setting, but arises simultaneously in distinct contexts and is expressed through different forms of discourse, but questions remain concerning the reach, limits, and interaction between these positions;

4The common concern with community and communication reveals a larger critical background shared by these positions, but this cannot be seen as universal, for it still mirrors a specific cultural bias.