Law and the Search for Community

Law and the Search for Community

Law and the Search for Community

Law and the Search for Community

Excerpt

It is hard to know exactly why old problems come back. One old problem presses upon us with increasing urgency: the precise problem -- the subject of this book -- is that of dependent people dealing with social welfare bureaucracies. But this is part of larger pressing problems -- citizen-agency relationships in the modern social welfare state and the critique of the regulatory state itself. The critique of the regulatory state, in turn, is a reflection of more fundamental issues concerning the individual and the state. It is by now banal to talk of crises -- of the state, of legitimacy, of liberalism, of law, of modernity itself. As the state has taken on new responsibilities and burdens, as it has spread to all the corners of society and penetrated the intimate relationships between individuals, and the struggle for a decent life, the old questions of autonomy and the tension between people as individuals and as social beings -- perhaps the greatest dialectic in modern political thought -- have re-emerged with a new urgency. With ordinary people now so bound up with government (and other large bureaucracies), what kind of society are we creating? How can the ordinary person maintain some sense of self in the modern state? How can the government be regulatory and caring in these large, complex, and dense undertakings? How can there be autonomy, dignity, and community in the massive modern state?

About twenty-five years ago, we thought we had answers to some of these questions. Emerging from the post-World War II Eisenhower years of normalcy, a new sense of social justice swept the American political consciousness. Spearheaded by the concern . . .

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