From Liberal Democracy to the Cosmopolitan Canopy

Jon Van Til


Liberalism is that ideology, that worldview, which values, in an ever-evolving set of intelligently intermingled thoughts:  democracy, freedom (liberty), equality (justice), fraternity (solidarity), the pursuit of happiness, pluralism (diversity), and human rights--and explores the ever-open ever-possible futures of their rediscovery and advance. The study of ways in which social movements relate to Third sector/nonprofit or voluntary organizations can be structured, if we choose, as a liberal endeavor.  That is the message I receive from Antonin Wagner’s (2012) telling of the emergence of a field that focuses its study and developmental energies on place of intermediate associational life in modern society, from Adalbert Evers’ efforts to sustain the welfare state in an era of untrammeled capitalism (2013), and from Roger Lohmann’s (1992) comprehensive vision of a social commons capable of assuring the values of liberal society.

This paper sets the theory of liberal democracy in a contemporary cosmopolitan context, drawing on case material from Hungary, Northern Ireland,  and the United States.


Full Text:



Anderson, Elijah. (2011). The cosmopolitan canopy : race and civility in everyday life. New York: Norton.

Birrell, Derek, and Arthur P. Williamson (2001). “The Voluntary and Community Sector in Northern Ireland: Political Development and New Forms of Governance, 1970-2000, in Voluntas, International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 12, 3.

Edwards, Michael (2009). Civil society. New York: Wiley.

Edwards, Michael (2011). Handbook of Civil Society. New York: Oxford.

Evers, Adalbert, and Anne-Marie Guillemard, eds. Social policy and citizenship: the changing landscape. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Evers, Adalbert (2011). Evers, “Observations of incivility: blind spots in third sector research and policy.” Voluntary Sector Review. Vol 1, no 1:113-

Evers, Adalbert (2013). “The concept of ‘civil society’: different

understandings and their implications for third sector policies.” Voluntary Sector Review.

Habermas, Jurgen (1998). Between Facts and Norms: Contributions to a

Discourse Theory of Law and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kornhauser, W. (1959) The Politics of Mass Society. Glencoe, IL: Free Press

Knutsen, Wenjue (forthcoming). The Nonprofit Sector is Dead, Long Live the Nonprofit Sector!

Lohmann, Roger A., and Jon Van Til, eds. (2011). Resolving Community Conflicts and Problems: Public Deliberation and Sustained Dialogue. New York: Columbia University Press.

Muller, Herbert J. (1952). The Uses of the Past: Profiles of Former Societies. Oxford University Press.

Parsons, T. M. (1966). “On the concept of political power.” In R. Bendix & S. M. Lipset (Eds.), Class, status, and power (2nd ed., pp. 240–265). New York: Free Press.

Pennock, J. R. (1950). Liberal Democracy. Westport, CT., Greenwood.

Pennock, J. R., and J. W. Chapman, eds. (1969). Voluntary Associations, NOMOS XI Yearbook of the American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy. New York: Atherton.

Pennock, J. R. (1979). Democratic social theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Saunders, H. H. (1999). A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts. New York: St. Martin’s.

Schwartz, B. (2005) The Paradox of Choice. New York: Harper

Sennett, R. (1971) The Uses of Disorder. New York:Vintage.

Shils, E. (1997). The virtue of civility: Selected essays on liberalism, tradition, and civil society. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

Van Til, J. (1988). Mapping the third sector. New York: Foundation Center, 1988.

Van Til, J. (2008). Growing civil society. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Wagner, Antonin (2012). “Third sector’ and/or ‘civil society’:a critical discourse about scholarship relating to intermediate organizations.” Voluntary Sector Review.

Wirth, L. (1928). The Ghetto. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Zurcher, L. (1977) The mutable self : a self-concept for social change. Beverly Hills: SAGE.



Share this article: