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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 1998
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - How communities govern: the structural basis of prosocial norms



The age of commerce and the dawn of democracy were widely thought to mark the eclipse of community. Writers of all persuasions believed that markets, the state, or simply “modernization” would extinguish the values that throughout history had sustained forms of governance based on intimate and ascriptive relationships. According to the romantic conservative Edmund Burke (1955)

The age of chivalry is gone. That of Sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded.… Nothing is left which engages the affection on the part of the commonwealth … so as to create in us love, veneration, admiration or attachment.

The liberal Alexis de Tocqueville (1969) echoes Burke's fears in this comment on democratic culture in America during the 1830s:

Each [person]… is a stranger to the fate of all the rest… his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them but he sees them not… he touches them but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone.

For the socialists Marx and Engels (1972)

The bourgeoisie … has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his “natural superiors,” and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest.… [I]n place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, it has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – free trade. (p. 475)