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Herman Dooyeweerd

Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society

Jonathan Chaplin

Publication Year: 2011

The twentieth-century Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894–1977) left behind an impressive canon of philosophical works and has continued to influence a scholarly community in Europe and North America, which has extended, critiqued, and applied his thought in many academic fields. Jonathan Chaplin introduces Dooyeweerd for the first time to many English readers by critically expounding Dooyeweerd’s social and political thought and by exhibiting its pertinence to contemporary civil society debates. Chaplin begins by contextualizing Dooyeweerd’s thought, first in relation to present-day debates and then in relation to the work of the Dutch philosopher Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920). Chaplin outlines the distinctive theory of historical and cultural development that serves as an essential backdrop to Dooyeweerd’s substantive social philosophy; examines Dooyeweerd’s notion of societal structural principles; and sets forth his complex classification of particular types of social structure and their various interrelationships. Chaplin provides a detailed examination of Dooyeweerd’s theory of the state, its definitive nature, and its proper role vis-à-vis other elements of society. Dooyeweerd’s contributions, Chaplin concludes, assist us in mapping the ways in which state and civil society should be related to achieve justice and the public good.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

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pp. ix-xii

The unusually long gestation period this book has undergone has meant that in writing it I have incurred more debts than I can possibly record here (or even remember). I am very grateful to Nicholas Wolterstorff, whose comments on the manuscript were most helpful in improving its flow...

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pp. 1-4

This book introduces a di stinctive chri stian philosophical approach to the question of the relationship between the polity and the plural institutions of “civil society.” This approach was developed by the twentieth-century Dutch Protestant thinker Herman Dooyeweerd (1894–1977), a remarkable and original philosopher...

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Chapter 1: Christianity, Civil Society, and Pluralism

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pp. 5-19

The question of the relationship between the polity and what are now called the institutions of “civil society” has recurred in the Western tradition at different historical junctures under widely varying circumstances, as the character and claims of diverse social and political institutions evolved—at times imperceptibly, at times convulsively.1 Aristotle’s questioning of the Platonic...

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Chapter 2: Dooyeweerd in Context

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pp. 20-38

I noted in chapter 1 that Kuyper formulated the idea of sphere sovereignty in the context of a concrete political struggle for religious pluralism in the nineteenth-century Netherlands. Understanding what this struggle represented is important for appreciating the sense in which his pluralistic theory of society, and that of his intellectual successor...

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Chapter 3: Religion and Philosophy

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pp. 39-54

Dooyeweerd’s conception of the relationship between religion and philosophy enters a debate reaching back even before Augustine’s monumental effort to transform the inheritance of classical thought in the light of biblical religion.1 This debate has been engaged under various headings, such as the relationship between faith and reason...

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Chapter 4: Plurality, Identity, Interrelationship

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pp. 55-70

The problem with which I concluded the previous chapter arises from Dooyeweerd’s insistence on the “unbreakable correlation” between law and subject, the claim that there can be no law without something existing under it. This problem surfaces starkly in the case of social structures, since Dooyeweerd also holds that they too are law-governed subjects and that the law governing them is rooted...

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Chapter 5: A Philosophy of Cultural Development

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pp. 71-85

Dooyeweerd’s ambitious project to construct a comprehensive philosophy of social pluralism was conceived in the 1920s and 1930s and achieved mature formulation in the 1950s. The task of envisaging a social philosophy grounded in the notion of a universal order of reality was challenging enough at that time, and subsequent developments in social theory, especially the ascendancy of social...

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Chapter 6: A Philosophy of Social Pluralism

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pp. 86-109

I have shown how Dooyeweerd conceives of social structures as emerging out of a dynamic enterprise of human cultural formation. It has become abundantly clear that the process by which such structures emerge cannot be accused of being static. But can the charge be applied to the outcome of that process? Is what historical development throws up, in spite of all its variegated manifestations...

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Chapter 7: A Medley of Social Structures

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pp. 110-155

The conclusion of the previous chapter is that the ontological notion at the foundation of Dooyeweerd’s social philosophy—“ invariant structural principles”—requires substantial reformulation. Yet it appears that much of the detailed construction he erects on that foundation yields fruitful insights of continuing...

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Chapter 8: The Identity of the State

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pp. 156-185

Perceived as a serious crisis in the academy and in the polity. The sense of acute cultural and political crisis was widespread in continental Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, and Dooyeweerd’s analysis of it reflects the sense of urgency generated...

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Chapter 9: The Just State

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pp. 186-218

In chapter 8 i investigated dooyeweerd’s account of the distinctive, irreducible identity of the state. Secured by the state’s structural principle, this identity is determined essentially by the specific relationship between power and law. I examined how the founding function of the state is subservient to, and can only be analyzed adequately in relation to, its leading function...

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Chapter 10: An Active, Limited State

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pp. 219-270

Dooyeweerd defines the state as a differentiated, organized, public- legal community, marked by a juridically qualified structural principle. Its public-legal leading function implies the norm of public justice, and this norm should direct the state in all its activities. The nuclear moment of the juridical aspect is characterized as retribution...

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Chapter 11: Civil Society and Christian Pluralism

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pp. 271-305

My aim in this concluding chapter is to suggest some contributions that Dooyeweerd’s version of normative institutional pluralism might make to contemporary civil society debates. The central proposal is that his thought can point toward (if not yet fully deliver) a richer and more coherent account than those currently...

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pp. 306-310

I noted in chapter 10 that although dooyeweerd entertains a qualified notion of a Christian state, he nevertheless clearly rejects any discriminatory treatment of religion on the part of the state. It is one thing, however, to support a nonsectarian public policy toward religion but quite another to supply a genuinely public philosophy...

Appendix 1

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pp. 311-317

Appendix 2

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pp. 318-320


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pp. 321-411


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pp. 412-441


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pp. 442-452

E-ISBN-13: 9780268076894
E-ISBN-10: 0268076898
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268023058
Print-ISBN-10: 0268023050

Page Count: 464
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2011