Civil Society and Schooling: Particularistic Voices and Public Spaces
KENNETH A. STRIKE
Much of human life is and should be lived in local, particularistic communities. Such communities consist of people we know, who value us and whom we value. They are places where we belong. Without such communities human beings may be rootless and anomic. The values of such communities are particularistic in that they may not be widely shared. Nor, in liberal societies, and insofar as the values are those of religion or culture rather than those of justice, is it the business of government to see to it that they are widely shared. It is such particularistic values and their associated communities that make most modern societies irreducibly pluralistic.
The values that form and inform particularistic groups are neither those of the state nor of the market. For example, the state and the market distort the values that bind families together by viewing the family either as based on an arm's length exchange of goods or by seeing it as a miniature polity. Such characterizations do not give enough weight to love, belonging, solidarity, or commitment. Much the same can be said about the values that form most religious congregations or cultural subgroups.
Groups informed by particularistic values are essential to human development. They are the source of views about human flourishing as well as of love, belonging, and solidarity. They are essential to the nurturance and education of children. Inculcating and sustaining the commitments and values associated with particularistic groups is a task that is beyond the province of the state and that will be done badly by the market. Yet liberal democratic and capitalist societies must permit and encourage such groups if they are not to degenerate into societies whose