The Grand Conversation Model
The models of civil society that we have considered up to now have been defi cient, especially concerning the problem of liberal democratic political culture. The ideal concept and conception that I develop here answer this problem. As we will see, however, the account does much more than that. It also provides a novel reconstitution of democratic theory that gives civil society a heretofore unheralded importance in the political philosophy. Ideally, we should view civil society not merely as a means to cultivating liberal democratic virtues, principles, and practices enabling a fl ourishing set of political institutions, but also as the central vehicle through which citizens pursue their most important moral, philosophical, religious, and economic ends. In other words, civil society has the leading role and should not be relegated to the supporting cast. Correlatively, the political institutions of modern liberal democracy must be regarded not as the most important institutions of the state, but should instead be regarded as the key supporting cast that enables civil society to fl ourish. To be sure, liberal democratic political institutions wield tremendous power in the modern state. But these institutions are not ends in themselves and this power should in fact be used to support a fl ourishing of civil society.