Is an ideal civil society realy obtainable?

Sara McCuistion (lovesara@mail.utexas.edu)
Thu, 11 Mar 1999 05:09:09 -0600

"An ideal civil society can be characterized as a civic group that lives,
associates, and cooperates together, mutually agreeing what rights they
hold and how they will be governed."

I quote myself here-the final thematic words of my last paper. What I
wonder is-Is this "ideal" realistically obtainable? It seems that the only
way to "mutually agree" on say a theory of justice would be to either
start with a homogenous group or compromise amongst the opinion of the
electorate. American contemporary ideals seem to be against both of these
options; however, our government does not restrict them outright.

Allow me to discuss-

Homogenous groups-persons who hold the same ideals and can agree on
them-seem to be one way to create a civil society. America seems to be
recently increasingly homogenized in TV culture. Products, jobs, stores,
and political ideas seem to blend together into one uncreative slab of
media dictated culture.
Yet politically, to be "the same" as everyone else is demonized. The trend
is to leave political parties, be independent, to choose to live in the
particular state where your "personal right" to adopt your gay lover's
child, walk around topless, gamble, or not tell your parents about your
abortion is protected as long as you do not move to another state.

To live in a homogeneous town, (say in the Texas panhandle) with a
homogenous race of people, with the same religion, the same socioeconomic
level is seen as IN NO WAY ideal. Perhaps, though, this is the best
breading ground for a civil society (??)

As for COMPROMISE-this seems to be the preferred method of promoting civil
society. We like to weigh each side, each vote, so that every one gets say
and no one gets their way. Our justice system's legacy of checks and
balances provides a system of determining what is "just" that is so complex
and drawn out that many people have stopped paying attention…even stopped
voting. Is a person not voting or not even being able to understand
legislation mutually agreeing participant in civil society?

Someone posted a message about the Turkish elections not even being
representational of the electorate's categorical preferences. That seems
like a more drastic situation. It seems that of the 3 elements of civil
society that mentioned in my paper-- representative government, a
foundation of civil liberties, and a high density of association-every
country is lacking in at least one… As Putnam pointed out America's pitfall
is definitely the lack of association…Will this be the cause of our demise
as he predicts?

My ultimate question is-Is there hope for an ideal civil society as I have
defined it? Is it possible? Are there more creative solutions that I have
overlooked?