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eleven Civil Society and Christian Pluralism 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 on offer. My analysis of his contri­ butions is organized around the three core problems in such debates identified in the first chapter: the definition and scope of the concept of civil society, the relationship between civil society and the state, and the utility of the concept of civil society for the project of social critique. I proceed as follows. For the first problem I begin by identifying and elabo­ rating two central conceptual innovations in Dooyeweerd’s social theory. I then review a range of recent definitions proposed in civil society literature, locate Dooyeweerd’s social theory in terms of the historical origins of civil society theorizing, and, finally, propose an alternative definition of civil society drawing on the two conceptual innovations identified earlier. In the second section I prepare the ground for addressing the second and third problems by distinguishing between three prevalent models of the purpose of civil society: the protective, the integrative , and the transformative. I then deploy my proposed Dooyeweerdian definition of civil society as an analytical tool to assess and develop these models. My discussion of the integrative model occasions a commentary on Dooyeweerd’s contribution to the second core problem, that 271 272 h e r m a n d o o y e w e e r d of the proper relationship between civil society and the state. The final core problem—the relation between civil society and social critique—is addressed as I assess the third, transformative model. What Is Civil Society? Among the many components of Dooyeweerd’s complex social theory, two key conceptual innovations are especially illuminating for addressing the contested question of the definition and scope of the concept of civil society: the notion of irreducible institutional identity and the notion of the correlation between communities and interlinkages. I begin by elaborating the import of these two conceptual innovations, then criti­ cally review some recent attempts to delineate the concept of civil society, and finally propose an alternative definition appealing to a central, although undertheorized, Dooyeweerdian notion. Irreducible Institutional Identity A central conclusion of my discussion of Dooyeweerd’s social ontology was that the claim that social structures possessed invariant structural principles is untenable. The implication that the specific normative­ structures of uniquely modern institutions such as business corporations or trade unions or territorial states were contained in principle in the original order of creation only waiting for historical disclosure cannot stand and obscures the sense in which social structures like these are variable, historical channels for the communal pursuit of specific, though universal, functional capacities rooted in (created) human nature. But although the structural norms of particular types of community cannot be regarded as invariant in Dooyeweerd’s sense, his account of the irreducible institutional identities (structural principles) of these types is nonetheless highly illuminating. This account turns essentially on the qualifying function (or structural purpose) of particular social structures—the specific human functional capacity to which the structure in question is designed to give organized communal expression. Civil Society and Christian Pluralism 273 Given the evident confusions that follow from the many attempts to deny the point, Dooyeweerd’s argument that such capacities are themselves irreducible is at least a plausible working hypothesis: reasoning cannot be reduced to feeling; social interaction cannot be reduced to economic­ behavior; doing justice cannot be reduced to a mechanical balancing of interests; faith cannot be reduced to ethics. Accordingly, when humans organize institutional channels for the common exercise of such capacities , the institutions they establish possess a defining qualifying function that is irreducible to those of other types. The claim that “a state is not a family,” for example, is not a mere figure of speech. States that function as families tend to succumb to damaging distortions like nationalism or nepotism, smothering or swindling their citizens. It should be emphasized that “irreducibility” does not imply either “invariance” or “ubiquity.” It is not meaningful to suggest that the structural norms for modern institutions like schools and businesses hold changelessly, as if they were valid even prior to the actual historical emergence of such institutions. Rather such norms come to exercise cultural holding power through a...


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