The Family in Civil Society

24 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2012

Date Written: 2000


The civil societarians claim the family as their domain, its salvation as their mission. The family is a foundational concept – the 'cradle of citizenship' – which teaches 'standards of personal conduct that cannot be enforced by law, but which are indispensible for civil society. Problems with the family are seen as problems for democracy, justifying legal and political responses.

This paper addresses civil societarians by examining two reports which set forth the purported diminished state of civil society and suggest proposals for civic renewal: A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America and What we can Do About It, and A Call to Civil Society: Why Democracy Needs Moral Truths. By reviewing these works, the narrow focus of civil societarians, which deflects attention away from more serious problems that the current political and economic contexts present for the family, is laid bare. Issues like wage stagnation and income inequality are overshadowed by Civil Societarians’ identification of morality as the paramount of concern.

A more appropriate and equitable scheme would more evenly distribute the burdens for inevitable dependency, with the market as well as the state assuming some up-front share of the economic and social costs inherent in the reproduction of society. There is a need for structural changes and institutional accommodation of the demands of caretaking. The real crisis is that we expect marriage to be able to compensate for the inequality created by our other institutions.

Keywords: civil societarian, equality, income inequality, wage stagnation, marriage, divorce, morality, feminism, market, caretaking, dependency

Suggested Citation

Fineman, Martha Albertson, The Family in Civil Society (2000). Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 75, 2000, Emory Public Law Research Paper, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Martha Albertson Fineman (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-2421 (Phone)

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