|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2009)|
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Civil societarianism is the belief that intermediary organizations and associations between the individual and the society have greater moral importance than the state. This differs from communitarianism in that it does not value such intermediary associations more than the individual. The term was coined by Arnold Kling, a George Mason University economics professor, to clear some ground between Randian libertarians and those libertarians that do not base their philosophy on selfishness.
In his article, Kling writes:
The stereotypical libertarian might cite Ayn Rand and simply exalt the individual. Instead, a civil societarian would cite Alexis de Tocqueville, and his observation that "Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations." These voluntary associations are what a civil societarian sees as the key to civilization.
He also offers the concept as an alternative to ideas that Liberals should withdraw, or try to escape, from state-dominated societies.
I think that the big challenge for libertarians is to create conditions that enable people to exit from overbearing government. Patri Friedman's idea is seasteading. I am a skeptic on that one. I think we need to boost the organizations of civil society that compete with government: private schools, private firms, charities, neighborhood associations, and groups that supply public goods using the "open source" model.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau's theory of the General Will serves as a good contrast to the civil societarian view, one in which all social groups should be ended apart from the state, so that they do not cause division and disunity. (See Robert Nisbet and his Quest For Community.)