Reflecting on civil society and our gratitude for voluntary associations this Thanksgiving Day.
Happy Thanksgiving from Philanthropy Daily!
We are so grateful for all that you do to strengthen civil society. Whether you are a giver, a doer, or a thinker your work is helping and strengthening our communities in a truly American way.
As Alexis de Tocqueville identified, civil society is particularly American:
Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing associations, in which all partake, but associations of a thousand other kinds—religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. Wherever at the head of some new undertaking you see the government of France, or a man of rank in England, in the United States you will be sure to find an association.
This role of civil society—that all-important space between the individual and the government—is what animates our work, as we strive to help anyone who loves and supports those many and diverse associations that keep our society free and flourishing. From your local parish to the neighborhood rotary club, the American Truck Historical Society to the American Horticultural Society . . . these are the institutions in American life that enrich our lives and meet our needs alongside the family and the government.
Robert Nisbet famously identified that the all-powerful state and the isolated individual are intrinsically connected. If you create a society of isolated individuals, the state will expand as they become more isolated. However, if your society is filled with associations of every kind, you have both protection against an ever-expanding state as well as fulfillment and meaning as the relational human being that you are.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, as we eat too much pie and enjoy time with our families, we can all be grateful for the blessings of civil society. Think about the organizations that have meant so much to you, given you a place to belong, and protected your freedom . . . and maybe send them a gift this Giving Tuesday!