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Amitai Etzioni

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Title: Amitai Etzioni  
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Collection: 1929 Births, American Male Writers, American People of German-Jewish Descent, American Political Theorists, American Political Writers, American Sociologists, Columbia University Faculty, George Washington University Faculty, German Emigrants to Israel, German Jews, German Male Writers, German Political Writers, Guggenheim Fellows, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Alumni, Israeli Emigrants to the United States, Israeli Political Theorists, Israeli Political Writers, Israeli Sociologists, Jewish American Writers, Jewish Sociologists, Living People, Men Sociologists, Palmach Fighters, People from Cologne, Presidents of the American Sociological Association, Radical Centrist Writers, University of California, Berkeley Alumni, Writers from Washington, D.C.
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Amitai Etzioni

Amitai Etzioni
Born Werner Falk
4 January 1929
Cologne, Germany
Institutions George Washington University
Harvard Business School
Columbia University
Alma mater Hebrew University of Jerusalem,
University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral advisor Seymour Martin Lipset
Principal ideas
socioeconomics, communitarianism

Amitai Etzioni (born Werner Falk, 4 January 1929) is an George Washington University.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Academic career 2
  • Work 3
  • Communitarianism 4
    • Etzioni's communitarianism 4.1
    • Criticism 4.2
  • Awards 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

Early life and education

Amitai Etzioni was born Werner Falk in Cologne, Germany in 1929 to a Jewish family. Early in his childhood, the Nazis rose to power in Germany, forcing his family to flee the country. They ventured in 1935 to Italy and Greece before finally moving to Mandatory Palestine in 1936 and settling in Kfar Shmaryahu. It was at this time that he first began to use the Hebrew first name Amitai instead of Werner. He dropped out of high school in 1946 to join the Palmach, the elite commando force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Jewish community of Palestine, and was sent to Tel Yosef for military training.[1] During this time young Amitai chose fully distance himself from his past as Werner Falk and adopted the surname Etzioni.

During Etzioni's time in the Palmach, underground Jewish groups, mainly the Irgun and Lehi militias, and to a lesser extent the Palmach, were carrying out a violent campaign against the British authorities to compel them to allow more Jewish immigration to Palestine and leave the country to enable a Jewish state to be established. Etzioni participated in a Palmach operation to blow up a British radar station near Haifa being used to track ships carrying illegal Jewish immigrants attempting to enter Palestine. Etzioni's team managed to breach the fence protecting the radar station and plant and detonate a bomb, and escaped after the British shot their team leader through the head.[2] After the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the outbreak of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Etzioni's Palmach unit participated in the defense of Jerusalem, which was under siege by the Arab Legion. They snuck through Arab lines and for the next few months, fought to defend Jerusalem and to open a corridor to Tel Aviv, participating in the Battles of Latrun and the establishment of the Burma Road.[3]

Following the war, Etzioni spent a year studying at an institute established by Martin Buber. In 1951 he enrolled in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he completed both BA (1954) and MA (1956) degrees for his studies in classical and contemporary works in sociology. In 1957 he went to the United States to study at the University of California, Berkeley, and was a research assistant to Seymour Martin Lipset. He received his PhD in sociology in 1958, completing the degree in the record time of 18 months.[4] Etzioni then remained in the United States to pursue an academic career.

Academic career


Etzioni is the author of 24 books. In the 1960s, he was concerned with the Communitarian movement in The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society in 1996.[5] Other influential books include The Moral Dimension (1988), How Patriotic is the Patriot Act: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism (2004) and From Empire to Community: A New Approach to International Relations (2004).

Etzioni frequently appears as a commentator in the media. He championed the cause of peace in a nuclear age in The Hard Way to Peace (1962), Winning Without War (1964), and War and its Prevention (Etzioni and Wenglinsky, 1970). His recent work has addressed the social problems of modern democracies and he has advocated communitarian solutions to excessive individualism in The Spirit of Community: The Reinvention of American Society (1993) and New Communitarian Thinking (1996). Etzioni has been concerned to facilitate social movements that can sustain a liberal democracy in The Active Society: A Theory of Societal and Political Processes (1968) and A Responsive Society (1991). He criticized civil libertarians' approach on privacy, claiming it had to be balanced against public order and that ID cards or biometrics technologies could prevent ID theft, and thus enhance, rather than deteriorate, privacy (The Limits of Privacy, 1999).


Etzioni's communitarianism

Etzioni's main communitarian thesis is that individual rights and aspirations should be protected but they should be inserted into a sense of the community, hence the name of the movement he created, Communitarianism. He argues that communitarian thinking developed in reaction to the "me-first" attitude of the 1980s. He has urged the movement to attempt to establish common ground between liberals and conservatives, thus bridging that division. In his book Radical Middle, author Mark Satin identifies Etzioni as a radical centrist communitarian.[6]

In Etzioni's view, the communitarian movement works to strengthen the ability of all aspects of the community including the families and schools in order to introduce more positive values. In addition, it aims to get people involved in positive ways in all levels of the community and ensure that society progresses in an orderly fashion. These works which have occurred between 1990 and the present have given Etzioni his greatest successes and satisfactions in the public realm.[5] He also articulated an early reason-based critique of the space race (in the book The Moon-Doggle) in which he points out that unmanned space exploration yields a vastly higher scientific result-per-expenditure than a manned space program. Amitai Etzioni also coined the word McJob in an article for the Washington Post in 1986.[7]


In Simon Prideaux's "From Organisational Theory to the New Communitarium of Amitai Etzioni", he argues that Etzioni's communitarian methods are based upon earlier [8]

For arguments that Etzioni's concept of community is too vague to be useful, see Elizabeth Frazer's The Problems of Communitarian Politics: Unity and Conflict.[9] For a critical overview of The Active Society, see Warren Breed's The Self-Guiding Society.[10] For an evaluation of Etzioni's functionalism, see David Sciulli's Etzioni's Critical Functionalism: Communitarian Origins and Principles.[11]


  • 1960–61: Fellowship at the Social Science Research Council
  • 1965–66: Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
  • 1968–69: Guggenheim Fellowship
  • 1978–present: Appointment as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • 1987: The Lester F. Ward Distinguished Contributions Award in Applied Sociology
  • 1991: the Ninth Annual Jeffrey Pressman Award (Policy Studies Association)
  • 2001: John P. McGovern Award in Behavioral Sciences
  • 2001: Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • Recipient of the Seventh James Wilbur Award for Extraordinary Contributions to the Appreciation and Advancement of Human Values by the Conference on Value Inquiry
  • Recipient of the Sociological Practice Association’s Outstanding Contribution Award



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ My Brother's Keeper: pgs. 28-31
  4. ^ My Brother's Keeper
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Satin, Mark (2004). Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now. Westview Press and Basic Books, p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8133-4190-3.
  7. ^
  8. ^ SocINDEX with full text. EBSCO. web. 13 October 2009.
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^

Further reading

  • Boykoff, Jules "How Patriotic is the Patriot Act?: Freedom Versus Security in the Age of Terrorism-Amitai Etzioni." Journal of Politics 68.2 (2006): 470-471 Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. web.14 oct 2009
  • Marks, Jonathan. "Moral Dialogue in the thought of Amitai Etzioni." Good Society Journal, 2005, Vol. 14 Issue 1/2, p. 15-18, 4p; (M1834886).
  • Jennings, Lane. "Who's Afraid of a Moral Society?" Futurist 35,60. (2001):52. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 14 Oct 2009.
  • Etzioni, Amitai. "The Spirit of Community: rights, responsibilities, and the communitarian agenda". New York: Crown Publishers, 1993. ISBN 0-517-59277-0

External links

  • Official website
  • The Communitarian Network
  • A Nation of Minorities? published in The Abolitionist Examiner
  • Asabiyya: Re-Interpreting Value Change in Globalized Societies (on the relevance of Etzioni's contribution to understanding economic growth)
  • The Institute for Communitarian Policy Studies
  • Faculty page on the Elliot School of International Affairs website
  • A film clip "A Golden Mean . . . Between the Individual and the Community (1991)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • A Community-Based Guaranteed Income Oxford Foundation for Law, Justice and Society policy brief
  • The Global Importance of Illiberal Moderates George Washington University Documents
  • The Fast-Food Factories: McJobs are Bad for Kids George Washington University Documents
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
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