conclusion. Beyond Individualism
One of the things that the novels of Morrison and Pynchon dramatize so
vividly is the fact that communitarian critiques of U.S. individualism are
often too negative about negative liberty. In their zeal to reconceptualize
the basis of individual identity, communitarian theorists sometimes for-
sake the real conceptual advances that have been made by liberal theory
because of its assumption of the importance of individual rights. As the
twenty-first century begins, it is hard to look at the front page of the New
York Times on any given day and not feel that negative liberty and the tradi-
tion of rights-based individualism that it underwrites represent one of the
major achievements of human culture, a conceptual leap forward yet to be
made by many societies around the world. From Europe, Asia, Africa, and
both of the Americas come chilling stories of the depredations wrought by
those who have no respect for, perhaps no belief in the existence of, the
rights of others. The kinds of outrages that Pynchon and Morrison de-
scribe in their novels occur every day in our supposedly enlightened era: in
places like the Balkans, Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, and the inner cities of the
United States, men and women live in conditions that approximate a
Hobbesian state of nature, in which the strong prey upon the weak with
impunity and without remorse.
Meanwhile, in societies that have chosen an anti-individualist course
guided by Communist doctrine or religious fundamentalism, the claims of
the individual are so subordinated to the claims of the group that individ-
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