Friday, November 14, 2014

Rosmini on Civil Society

It is high time for us to realise that civil society is not a universal society in the sense that it embraces all other societies and their rights. It is a particular society which exists alongside others, as it does alongside everything individual which cannot be absorbed by civil society without losing individuality.

Antonio Rosmini, About the Author's Study, Murphy, tr., Rosmini House (Durham: 2004), p. 14b. This work is the prologue or prelude to Rosmini's Introduction to Philosophy.

The point made here is quite an important one: a civil society that takes itself as all-encompassing, as if its members could not be part of any society independent of the civil society itself, is already beginning to be corrupt, since it is already usurping power and authority to which it has no right. Individuals are capable of taking part in many societies; these societies involve many ends, rights, and forms of authority that cannot be encompassed by, or reduced to, the ends, rights, and forms of authority of civil society, and thus civil society does not have any automatic authority for deciding what to do with, or about, or to these other societies. Civil society is not universal society; it is one society among a great many other societies.

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