Communitarianism & Conservatism

Conversation Guide

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Image of a public park

The idea of conservatism evokes a spectrum of ideas, values and political positions. This conversation is designed to take a closer look at one point along this spectrum– “communitarianism”. This strain of conservativism involves prioritizing our local geographic identities while “conserving” our civic institutions (from the workplace to religious organizations) and what might be called “community commons” that anchor community life (parks, community centers, libraries and other common resources). The focus on community and localized public support stands in contrast to the individualism people may more readily associate with conservatism. Communitarianism suggests an antidote to the rising levels of loneliness and alienation while its emphasis on community and civic life resonates across political divides.

In this conversation we’ll explore more fully what seeing our world through a “communitarian lens” might look like.

Background Information:

This guide was created in collaboration with The American Project a multi-year program to propel innovative ideas for reimagining the future of America’s conservative movement. Check out the highlights from a recorded conversation using this guide here.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Communitarianism & Conservatism (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  • What do you love about the area/community in which you live?
  • To what extent does your community contribute to your identity or sense of self?
  • In your experience, what role do citizens play in the creating and/or sustaining of public facilities and resources or “community commons”?
  • What experiences do you have engaging in meaningful ways with your community? What did it look and feel like?
  • How does your sense of attachment to your local community compare to your connection at a national level, including political party affiliation?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
  • What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
  • How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!