No longer "neutral among ends" – liberal versus communitarian ethics in library and information science

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


As the concept of neutrality is under significant challenge as an ethic in LIS in the past decade from more critical approaches to social justice, the paper argues that in such a polarized world, we must seek to consider ethical approaches that do not divide us but instead have the capacity to bring people together around a common good, while also respecting aspects of group identity. Communitarianism is presented as a potential solution to that dilemma. The paper begins by exploring the philosophical debate between liberalism and communitarianism in political philosophy, and how concepts like neutrality figure in that debate. It presents the philosophies of both liberalism and communitarianism to encourage debate among the LIS community as to the potential for a communitarian ethic to develop in LIS as an alternative to the one based on liberalism. In doing so it considers what a communitarian ethic might look like for library and information science, and considers that ethical approach in contrast with both individual rights, and group-rights based philosophies. The paper adds to the wider debates within LIS related to the ethic of neutrality and its fit for modern practice and presents an alternative to liberalism that is, nevertheless, still grounded in a liberal tradition.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 14 Jan 2021
EventiConference 2021: Diversity, Divergence, Dialogue - Renmin University of China, Beijing, China
Duration: 17 Mar 202131 Mar 2021


ConferenceiConference 2021
Internet address


  • liberalism
  • neutrality
  • social justice
  • ethics
  • communitarianism

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