The recovery of tradition

in The calling of social thought
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Scholars have increasingly conceptualized American civil society as a realm of mediating structures that humanize our lives by shielding us from the power of society’s megastructures (whether the State or multinational corporations). This focus on structural position and the work of “mediation” has tended to crowd out an alternative exploration of the family, faith communities, clubs, and voluntary associations rooted in an exploration of their custodial and creative functions in relationship to the traditions through which American society persists. This chapter draws upon Edward Shils’ seminal work, Tradition, to argue that the essential function of these social institutions is to renew the patterns of belief and conduct that guide human action and enable the re-enactment of such patterns across generations. It highlights the importance of Shils’ understanding of the intrinsic value and authority of traditionality in light of the ultimate frailty and insufficiency of rationality by itself in enabling human beings to solve the important problems that confront them individually and as participants in a shared culture.

The calling of social thought

Rediscovering the work of Edward Shils

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