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 approach—communal functionalism—claims 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 relevance—and also some of the limitations—of the communal functionalist model in relation to the requirements of contemporary communitarian theory. © 1992, American Political Science Association. All rights reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Nederman, C. J.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • December 1992