Symposium on Legal and Constitutional Implications of the Calls to Revive Civil Society
Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 75, 2000
Posted: 10 Jul 2000
This symposium addresses legal and constitutional implications of the calls to revive or renew civil society (a realm between the individual and the state, including the family and religious, civic, and other voluntary associations). The erosion or disappearance of civil society is a common diagnosis of what underlies civic and moral decline in America, and its renewal features prominently as a cure for such decline. To date, there has been a great deal of discussion of civil society and proposals for its revival or renewal, but not enough discussion of legal and constitutional implications of such proposals. This symposium seeks to help fill this void. The articles pursue questions such as the following. What role do law and the Constitution play in the constitution of civil society? Does civil society serve as "seedbeds of virtue" - "our foundational sources of competence, character, and citizenship" - and foster self-government? Or is civil society's more vital purpose to serve as a buffer or check against the state? Should government attempt to secure congruence between democratic values and the structure and values of voluntary associations, or would such an effort offend commitments to pluralism and diversity? If it is not possible to establish a clear link between participation in associations, as such, and the inculcation of democratic values, are there some institutions of civil society that are especially valuable for cultivating civic virtue and fostering democratic deliberation?
The family features, for civil society-revivalists, as first and foremost among the seedbeds of virtue. Is the family a seedbed of virtue or a school of inequality and injustice? What forms of regulation of the family are necessary and appropriate? Does the vitality of the family as a seedbed of virtue depend upon one particular form of family (i.e., the heterosexual two-parent, marital family) and should government seek to encourage that family form and discourage others? If business, labor, and economic institutions are within civil society, are they seedbeds of virtue that foster civic health or do current economic practices hinder civic health and put pressures on families, endangering their strength? More generally, how do proponents of renewing civil society view the relationship between systemic inequality (including racism) and civic health? Have civil rights movements and gains in equality and liberty contributed to the decline of civil society and civic virtue? Finally, would a revitalized civil society support democratic self-government or supplant it, and with what implications for federalism and the separation of church and state?
JEL Classification: K10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation