Freedom, Community and Function: Communitarian Lessons of Medieval Political Theory Academic Article uri icon


  • The communitarian critique of liberal individualism is presently experiencing something of a decline. One of the reasons for the failure of communitarians to make a lasting impact on liberal theory may be the historical precedents to which communitarians have turned, such as Aristotle and civic republicanism. I argue that communitarian theory may more fruitfully draw upon a model of the relation between individual and community derived from the Latin Middle Ages. This approachcommunal functionalismclaims that the community is essentially composed neither of individuals nor of citizens but, rather, of functional groups or parts arranged according to their contribution to the community. I consider two variants of this framework, John of Salisbury's physiological version and Marsiglio of Padua's civic account. I close with an evaluation of the relevanceand also some of the limitationsof the communal functionalist model in relation to the requirements of contemporary communitarian theory.

published proceedings

  • American Political Science Review

author list (cited authors)

  • Nederman, C. J.

citation count

  • 8

complete list of authors

  • Nederman, Cary J

publication date

  • December 1992