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Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent Law School




The Article raises some questions for proponents of reviving civil society as a cure for many of our nation's political, civic, and moral ills (whom McClain and Fleming designate as "civil society-revivalists"). How does civil society serve as "seedbeds of virtue" and foster self-government? Have liberal conceptions of the person corroded civil society and undermined self-government? Does the revivalists' focus on the family focus on the right problems? Have gains in equality and liberty caused the decline of civil society? Should we revive civil society or "a civil society"? Would a revitalized civil society support democratic self-government or supplant it? McClain and Fleming largely agree with the revivalists that it would be a good thing to revive civil society, but they raise doubts about whether its revival can reasonably be expected to accomplish what its proponents hope for it, e.g., moral renewal, civic renewal, and strengthening the bonds of citizenship. They suggest that civil society is at least as important for securing what they call "deliberative autonomy" - enabling people to decide how to live their own lives - as for promoting "deliberative democracy" - preparing them for participation in democratic life. Working within the tradition of political liberalism, and guided by key feminist and civic republican commitments, McClain and Fleming also sketch their own views concerning the proper roles and regulation of civil society in our morally pluralistic constitutional democracy.

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