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Much of modern political and social thought tends to take for granted the fact that traditional conceptions of the familywith their accompanying duties and privilegesare an inherent imposition on individual freedom. WithThe State As Parent, Laurence Reardon draws on a long philosophical tradition to explain that that assumption is incorrectthat the family remains the most effective way to balance the desire for individual freedom with the continuing need for communal obligations. The waning of traditional institutions, Reardon argues, has left the solitary individual much more susceptible to mass movements and the ever-growing power of the state. Turning a critical eye on the individualist thought of John Locke and the collectivist thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reardon shows how they facilitated departures from traditional, family-based notions of societyand how the result has led to a fundamental conflict between the historic internal obligations of the family and the egalitarian requirements of the modern state. Penetrating and sure to be controversial,The State As Parentwill be essential for students of political philosophy, ethics, and social organization.
Laurence Reardon is visiting assistant professor of political science at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina.