The Public Ecology of Freedom of Association

Res Publica 20 (1):85-103 (2014)

Andres Moles
Central European University
This paper defends the claim that private associations might be legitimately constrained by a requirement of reasonableness. I present a list of goods that freedom of association protect, and argue that the limits to associational freedom have to be sensitive to the nature of these goods. In defending this claim, I cast doubt on two popular liberal arguments: One is that attitudes cultivated in the private sphere are not likely to spill over into the public arena. The other is that governmental intervention into the inner life of private associations will jeopardise attaining some associational goods. I challenge these assertions in two ways: First, I argue that the value of associations cannot be measured only in terms of the effects it has on their members. We should also pay attention to the long-term effects on society. Second, I argue that imposing some constraints on the sorts of activities associations might pursue does not necessarily threaten any associational good. These challenges are backed up by research coming from social psychology that suggests that an important part of human behaviour is automatic. I focus on the automaticity of social stereotypes and their causal effectiveness in producing behaviour. The upshot of the argument is that spillover effects are likely to happen. I argue that this is problematic for liberalism because citizens have an interest in exercising a sense of justice. The fact that racist or sexist attitudes cultivated in private spills over the public sphere provides weighty reasons to intervene in those associations
Keywords Automatic stereotypes  Freedom of association  Mental contamination  Reasonableness
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-013-9222-x
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References found in this work BETA

Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.
Rescuing Justice and Equality.G. A. Cohen (ed.) - 2008 - Harvard University Press.
The Morality of Freedom.Joseph Raz - 1986 - Oxford University Press.
Alief and Belief.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):634-663.
On Liberty and Other Essays.John Stuart Mill - 2008 - Oxford University Press.

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