Acton Institute Powerblog

Civic Groups Remain Relevant

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Noting the declining participation in community and civic groups, Jordan J. Ballor assesses a different root cause than has been put forth so far. “The greatest share of blame,” he writes, “Ought to be laid at the feet of the modernist view of individuality, which minimizes the importance of community and social structures.”

Read the full text here.

Jonathan Spalink


  • George Smith

    “And so the issue appears really to be one of demographics. The antiquated and obsolete social clubs and groups are in the process of dying off, replaced by more efficient and relevant Internet chat rooms and virtual communities. The social process of natural selection is at work, weeding out the elements of society that don’t deserve to flourish.”

    I think we may be suprised to find that “real” face-to-face social networks will eventually win out over the less personal virtual networks forming from the Internet. While there is an initial surge in the popularity of virtual communities, I believe we will find that the lack of an ability to build strong ties with those we interact with prevents the friendship and trust required to maintain a community long term. If anything is contributing to the dying off of “obsolete social clubs,” it is the change in paradigm not caused by the Internet but that caused the Internet.

  • Vache Folle

    Many social clubs appear to have been havens in which to drink in a bar while maintaining respectability. Drinking in the corner tavern was not respectable, but drinking in the cricket pavilion was practically a civic duty. It is OK now to drink in the tavern with friends on an ad hoc basis; therefore, club membership declines. There is no need to join the Catholic Slovak Society or the VFW in order to socialize with a round or two.

  • The voluntary civic groups are declining in size, but the greatest share of blame goes to human laziness, and a desire to have the “good result” be achieved by the gov’t.

    My grandfather was an Elk, the piggybank slogan: “A coin a day, they’ll walk and play”, with a cool/ cheap little plastic hat that would pop up as the coin pushes down.

    Social activity requires activity — work. The politicians always promise to do “everything”, and often even start by taking over something a voluntary group is doing “because we have a DUTY to do this good thing”. Then the gov’t becomes responsible for it, and it gets done better for awhile due to a big influx of cash (from taxes), and then crass uncaring bureaucrats begin to control it and it slowly gets worse.

    The force-based gov’t activities also crowd out the (seemingly less efficient?) peace-based voluntary activities — including drinking with the boys after some effort is put in towards the “good activity.”

    Every Christian asking for more gov’t action is asking for more force to be used. This might not be as moral as trusting to a more peaceful path of voluntary action.

  • Dwight Johnson

    I think you make an excellent point about the need for intermediate organizations within society. However, I’m not sure that the old social clubs are the paradigm for the future. Rather, I think that we need local communities, permanent, religious-based, whose primary reason for being is to jointly own and operate local businesses. I have a new website dedicated to this idea.