The Power of Grassroots Civil Society


“Civil and Uncivil Societies” by Niall Ferguson
The notable historian and Harvard professor discusses the benefits and accomplishments of private initiative in civil society in a lecture delivered at The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
French observer Alexis de Tocqueville visited pioneer America and wrote deathless descriptions of what makes the nation exceptional. The bulwark of our democracy, he discovered, is citizens who voluntarily pool their money, expertise, and labor to improve society. Read a short extract here, and visit our collection of readings in defense of private giving.

Reclaiming the American Dream by Richard Cornuelle
This groundbreaking 1965 work revived the idea, at a time of rising centralism, that individuals and communities can often solve their problems more effectively than government bureaucracies. Read a short extract from this work and an extract from a 1999 talk by Cornuelle delivered to The Philanthropy Roundtable.

“Bigger Is Not Better” by Robert Nisbet
In this extract from Nisbet’s classic The Quest for Community, he notes the benefits of smaller-scale organizations and their ability to console, soften, and enrich life—observing that larger, bureaucratic institutions can often be less socially wholesome than more modest human-scale philanthropy.