SITUATING THE WORKPLACE IN CIVIL SOCIETY
Social Integration, Social Capital, and Deliberation at Work
Having articulated in general terms what workplace connectedness does for a diverse democratic society, I want to sort out some discrete but related threads of the argument and link them to some old and new lines of thought about the role of associational life in a democracy. It will be useful, albeit conventional, to begin with Alexis de Tocqueville's elucidation of the role of associations in the early American republic. For Tocqueville's account contains the seeds of several modern strands of thought about the functions of associational life in a democratic society: democratic deliberation, social capital formation, civic skills, and social integration.
In his justly celebrated study of democracy in America, Tocqueville marveled at the rich collective life among the avowedly individualistic Americans. He was struck by the proliferation of voluntary political, social, and economic associations through which they engaged in a constant quest for collective selfimprovement and prosperity:
Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types— religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. 1
In Tocqueville's view, much of the success of the American experiment in democracy, as well as much of its prosperity, could be traced to the vitality of associational life.
Tocqueville's recognition of the instrumental utility of associations anticipated the modern concept of “social capital.” In a relatively egalitarian democratic society, he observed, there were no wealthy aristocrats to carry out the building of infrastructure, commerce and industry, and other large undertakings. Associations grew in America to fill the role that concentrated wealth and power played in