The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Rethinking the Value of Associations
70 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2004
The Article seeks a deeper understanding of the role voluntary associations play in society by analyzing the paths by which they mediate between the individual and the collective. Identifying this fundamental mediating function of associations sheds new light on the Supreme Court's handling of various cases involving associations, as it allows us to see the core associational values at stake in a given case and flesh out the individualist-collectivist tensions at play. Viewed in a more holistic light - i.e., engaging the associational interests and values at issue, rather than simply the constitutional doctrine implicated - the resolution of the cases will take on a different gloss, for the disputes are not zero-sum contests between the individual and the association or the association and the state, but rather the association in tension with both. The Article concludes that when any single anchor of the association in relationship (individual versus association versus state) is given unfettered authority to pursue its own interests at the expense of the others, the resulting disparity eviscerates the association's mediating values, thereby threatening to negate the very reasons we seek a vibrant associational life in the first place.
Keywords: Associations, First Amendment, constitutional law, civil society, religion
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