As a social entity, an association is a durable union between men to attain a common goal. It is thus an expression of the human sociality that is manifested in many ways, from occasional and fortuitous encounters or more or less stable interrelations between persons, to lasting structures that can extend from the family or clan to worldwide pluralities. In every time and place that men have lived in society, human existence is social coexistence. Human personality cannot develop or express itself except within and through society; personal life has a social end just as social life has a personal end. The "life within the self" of the human person cannot be conceived without "living for others." Thus, human sociality is commonly expressed in the formation of an association to attain a common good that is beyond individual capabilities. In short, since man cannot live adequately or attain the goals of his life outside of society, his sociality must be regarded as a requisite of his human nature and the right of association must be respected as a right based on the natural law.
Classification. Given the complexity of human life and its needs, human sociality gives rise to a great variety of groupings whose names are to be found in all modern languages; one needs only to peruse any dictionary to note the richness of terminology that points to the fundamental tendency of man to associate with others. Scholastic philosophers customarily distinguish the different forms of associations according to their (1) end, (2) origin, (3) legal status, and (4) degree of perfection. According to their end associations are religious, scientific, cultural, social, sporting, commercial, etc. They are further classified as natural or voluntary in origin. Thus natural societies are those that are indispensable for the attainment of man's existential ends. Traditionally these have been regarded as the family (or clan) and the state in the natural order and the Church in the supernatural order (see church, ii), but the international society must now be included among the former. Societies that are not necessary to attain human existential ends are called voluntary or free. Reminiscent of this distinction are sociological typologies such as that of Ferdinand Tönnies, for whom Gemeinschaft (community) is based on a common love arising from natural affinity; and Gesellschaft (association), on a common interest pursued by deliberate choice. According to their legal status, public societies, regulated by public law, are distinguished from private societies arising from private rights. Last, social philosophy distinguishes between perfect and imperfect societies. Perfect societies are those possessing all the necessary means to procure their final good for their members. Traditionally the sovereign state in the natural order and the Church in the supernatural order have been regarded as perfect societies.
The development of international society makes necessary some modification of this view of the state. As Pope John XXIII remarked in pacem in terris, "at the present day no political community is able to pursue its own interests and develop itself in isolation, because the degree of its prosperity and development is a reflection and a component of the degree of prosperity and development of all the other political communities" [Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 55 (1963) 292; cf. Mater et Magistra, ibid. 53 (1961) 449]. It follows that no contemporary state can be considered a perfect society in the scholastic sense of the word. The inclusion of the international community, politically organized, is necessary to ensure to men the totality of temporal goods to which they may quite rightly aspire.
Recognition of the right of association. Although it is a natural right, the right of association is not absolute, nor has it been or is it now guaranteed by law everywhere. In the history of ideas this right is associated with individual rights, but in fact it safeguards collective interests as well; moreover, it is intimately linked with other civil liberties, such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and the right of petition. The Bill of Rights added to the Constitution of the United States in 1791 was one of the first guarantees of the right of association as well as of other liberties. In the same year in France the Le Chapelier law forbade the reestablishment under any pretext or form of the corporations (or guilds) that were dissolved by its provisions. Interestingly, it was in the name of individual liberty that the right of association and of coalition was outlawed. In the mind of the law's authors an association, as the organ and voice of a collective interest, had no reason for existence; for it was believed that there was no interest intermediate between the particular interest of the individual and the general interest of the state. Freedom to associate, by grouping collective interests, was held to constitute a hindrance to individual goals as well as a menace to the general welfare of the state, the trustee of individual welfare. In other nations also certain forms of association were forbidden in the name of the public interest. Otto von Bismarck's kulturkampf in Germany, for example, excluded the Society of Jesus (1871) and socialist groups (1878); later, the right of association recognized by the Weimar constitution of 1918 was abolished by the National Socialist regime in 1933 and reestablished in the constitution of the Federal Republic in 1952.
It is impossible to summarize the varied legal provisions dealing with the right of association in individual countries. In general this right is recognized in most and is usually made explicit as one of the personal rights of citizens. It is legally acknowledged even in Communist countries, where it is sometimes more clearly formulated statutorily than in democratic nations. But there always exists some discrepancy between the law and the spirit, between theory and practice. The right of association is required in the name of liberty; yet in every instance it is limited by the needs of the public order and the public good. To understand its real meaning one must understand the meaning of freedom and of the public interest in each case. Thus the right of association in the "peoples' democracies" is not seen as the guarantee of personal or collective liberty but as the right of a so-called socialist personality at the service of the Communist system in force.
The right of association has been affirmed constantly by the popes since Leo XIII, who insisted in particular on the right of workers to form unions at a time when this right was often denied. In rerum novarum he wrote: "Although private societies exist within the state and are, as it were, so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the state universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the state, on the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself because both the state itself and private associations are begotten of one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to associate" [Acta Sanctae Sedis, 23 (1891) 665; cf. Pius XII, Sertum laetitiae, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 31 (1939) 643]. In mater et magistra John XXIII stressed the importance of associations or intermediary bodies between the state and individuals (loc. cit. 417). In Pacem in terris he declared: "From the fact that human beings are by nature social, there arises the right of assembly and association. They have also the right to give the societies of which they are members the form they consider most suitable for the aim they have in view and to act within such societies on their own initiative and on their own responsibility in order to achieve their desired objectives" (loc. cit. 262–263).
The Declaration of the Rights of Man of 1948 includes the right of association (art. 20), as does the European Convention of the Rights of Man of 1950 (art. 11).
Moral right of association. It is natural for every being to seek its good. Man also has a natural tendency toward his own good, toward the development of his being. This development can be realized only with the help of his fellows and by collaboration with others. To attain his own good, man not only has the right but also the duty to associate with others for common purposes that are genuine and useful. This right and duty extend to association not only with contemporaries but also with successive generations, since human progress is a sacred task confided to all men and transmitted from age to age.
Man must seek in social life not only an individual profit that supplies for his personal deficiencies, but a field of action for his devotion to the common good; to fulfill himself he must surpass himself. Society is not an agglomeration of individual egos but a cluster of reciprocal attachments. To live for himself alone is one of the worst sins that man can commit. Moreover, his personal good can be realized only in and by the common good. It is necessary therefore to keep in mind the duty as well as the right to associate.
This duty, however, is not absolute and unlimited. Although there exists among all men a community of nature, of origin and of natural and supernatural destiny, one cannot conclude that a given man is bound to associate with all men. He has this duty only toward those with whom he interacts in concrete situations of life and with whom he can collaborate for common goals. Similarly, the right of association is neither absolute nor unlimited. It proceeds from human nature and provides for the normal development of man. It follows that this right exists only to serve man's true welfare, that is, a personal or common good. It is the prerogative of public authority to recognize the right of association within the limits of the common good and to respect the autonomy of associations and enact statutes permitting them to survive and develop.
Associations in contemporary society. Responding to their needs, men of all ages have united with others to form associations. Primitive man lived in such intimate dependence on his social group that his own personality was often submerged or at least diminished; he was above all a member of the clan or tribe. The modern era, beginning with the Renaissance, has given rise to the cult of the individual and of the rights of the individual and of the human person. It is the era of both individualism and personalism, the latter transcending the limitations of the former. Personalism, while proclaiming the primacy of the human person, recognizes his social dimension and social end. "One of the principal characteristics of our times is the multiplication of social relationships," wrote John XXIII in Mater et Magistra, referring to "a daily more complex interdependence of citizens, introducing into their lives and activities many and varied forms of association, recognized for the most part in private and even in public law" (loc. cit. 415–416). The increase in number and influence of associations is at the same time a cause and an effect of the socialization to which Pope John referred. It is explained by scientific and technical progress, the proliferation of needs, the increase of productivity and the growth of civilization; it is at the same time the index and the cause of increasing government intervention, even in the intimate spheres of personal life.
In the last analysis the phenomenon of increasing social complexity is traceable to natural human sociality and is therefore almost irresistible. In effect "men are impelled voluntarily to enter into association in order to attain objectives which each one desires, but which exceed the capacity of single individuals. This tendency has given rise, especially in recent years, to organizations and institutes on both national and international levels, which relate to economic and social goals, to cultural and recreational activities, to athletics, to various professions, and to political affairs" (ibid. 416). The benefits derived from associations are incontestable: they facilitate the realization of a great number of personal rights, especially those dealing with the means of subsistence, medical care, cultural values, professional formation, lodging, work and recreation. They permit individuals and groups to defend and promote their particular interests, which, although subordinate to the public good, constitute an important part of it. They contribute to the maintenance, among their members, of a sense of social responsibility, a spirit of devotion and a willingness to collaborate with public authority and other groups. They also contribute to the structuring of society by creating intermediary groups between the state and the individual, thus avoiding the two extremes of social atomism and state collectivism.
Unfortunately the proliferation of social bonds also presents problems, such as the restriction of individual liberty, the diminution of initiative and personal responsibility—in one word, depersonalization. To prevent these problems from arising or at least to ameliorate them and attain the maximum advantages from the development of social bonds in associations, it is necessary (1) that public authority be guided by a precise notion of the common good that consists in the creation of that ensemble of social conditions necessary to promote the full development of the human person, for in the last analysis the common good is the personal good of each member of the collectivity (Mater et Magistra, loc. cit. 417; Pacem in terris, loc. cit. 262); (2) that the associations or intermediary bodies enjoy real autonomy and instead of hindering or replacing the personal activity of their members associate them with organized action and treat them as responsible persons; and (3) that every effort be made through education to form men convinced of their dignity and their personal responsibility as well as of their social duty.
Bibliography: l. janssens, Personne et société: Théories actuelles et essai doctrinal (Gembloux 1939). j. leclercq, Leçons de droit naturel, v.1 Le Fondement du droit et de la société (3d ed. Namur 1947). w. mallman, Staatslexikon, ed. gÖrresgesellschaft, 8 v. (6th new and enl. ed. Freiburg 1957–63) 8:106–109. a. verdoodt, Naissance et signification de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme (Doctoral diss. Louvain 1964). e. welty, Gemeinschaft und Einzelmensch … nach Thomas v. Aquin (Salzburg 1935). m. wullaert, Maatschappelijke Ordening en Toegang tot het beroepsen bedrijfsleven (Organization sociale et accès à la vie professionnelle et industrielle ) (Doctoral diss. Louvain 1964). "L'État et les associations" in Union internationale d'études sociales, Code de morale politique: Synthèse doctrinale (Paris 1957) 124–130. d. fellman, The Constitutional Right of Association (Chicago 1963). Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 31 (1939) 643, 55 (1963) 292; cf, Mater et Magistra, ibid. 53 (1961) 449. Acta Sanctae Sedis, 23 (1891) 665; cf, pius xii, Sertum laetitiae.
[c. van gestel]
ASSOCIATION. Various "associations" were created after 1763 as a means of organizing and testing political strength. These groups were particularly important in helping the resistance movement expand and endure. American activists who opposed the imperial government's attempt to increase its control over the colonies used associations to bring together like-minded citizens and to concert opposition within and among the colonies, as well as to intimidate those who might otherwise have supported the new British measures. People who subscribed to the goals of an association were known as "associators."
Members of the recently dissolved Virginia House of Burgesses, led by George Washington, adopted on 18 May 1769 a voluntary nonimportation agreement banning British goods on which a duty was charged (except paper), slaves (after 1 November), and many European luxuries. A month later, on 22 June, the reconvened burgesses agreed that local committees would publish the names of those who had violated the agreement. On the same day, a Maryland provisional convention drew up an association that already had a provision for boycotting those who would not make a similar compact. Other colonies and individual port towns followed suit.
The first Continental Congress adopted the Continental Association on 20 October 1774 as a response to the Coercive (Intolerable) Acts; it was modeled after the Virginia Association. After expressing loyalty and enumerating grievances, the document set out a framework the delegates hoped would pressure the imperial government to abandon the "ruinous system of colony administration" it had followed since 1763: "To obtain redress of these grievances which threaten destruction to the lives, liberty, and property of his Majesty's subjects, in North America, we are of opinion, that a non-importation, non-consumption, and non-exportation agreement, faithfully adhered to, will prove the most speedy, effectual, and peaceable measure" (Jensen, Documents, p. 813). The nonimportation of "any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever" from Great Britain or Ireland was to take effect on 1 December 1774. The nonexportation of American products was delayed until 10 September 1775 to allow merchants in Britain and the West Indies time to exert pressure on Parliament. Congress threatened to discontinue the slave trade, more as an economic lever than as a moral stance, and urged Americans to practice "frugality, economy, and industry, and promote agriculture, arts, and the manufactures of this country, especially that of wool." To promote a reformation of values and assert the virtuousness of its resistance, Congress also asked Americans to "discountenance and discourage every species of extravagance and dissipation, especially all horse-racing and all kinds of gaming," and it recommended that mourning dress be scaled back to demonstrate both frugality and virtue. Congress wanted committees "chosen in every county, city, and town by those who are qualified to vote for representatives to the legislature … attentively to observe the conduct of all persons touching this Association" and expected the committees of correspondence in each colony to "inspect the entries of their custom houses" and inform each other of those who violated the agreement. By April 1775 some form of the Association was operating in twelve colonies; Georgia had adopted a modified version on 23 January 1775.
The Continental Association had an immediate and important impact. It has been estimated that the value of British goods imported into the colonies dropped by over 90 percent between 1774 and 1775. Desperate English merchants put pressure on Parliament to promote reconciliation with the colonies; they were worried not only by the decline in business, but also by the fact that if war broke out they would never collect the large sums owed them by American planters. Parliament did not comply because, in its opinion, the dispute with the colonies had gone beyond economic considerations to questions of authority and obedience. For Americans, the Association was "a major step in the development of revolutionary political organizations." Opponents of the imperial government generally controlled "the committees created in every community to enforce the Association" and used the Association to force Americans "to choose between support of the proposals of Congress and obedience to the laws of Parliament" (ibid., p. 813).
Other associations of a different nature began to be organized in early 1775. Unlike those created for commercial retaliation, these promoted armed opposition to Britain.
SEE ALSO Nonimportation.
Van Schreeven, William J., comp. Revolutionary Virginia: The Road to Independence. Edited by Robert L. Scribner. Vol. 1. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1973.
revised by Harold E. Selesky
as·so·ci·a·tion / əˌsōsēˈāshən; -shē-/ • n. 1. (abbr.: assn.) (often in names) a group of people organized for a joint purpose: the National Association of Broadcasters. ∎ Ecol. a plant community defined by a characteristic group of dominant plant species. 2. a connection or cooperative link between people or organizations: he developed a close association with the university. ∎ the action or state of becoming a member of an organization with subordinate status. ∎ Chem. the linking of molecules through hydrogen bonding or other interaction short of full bond formation. 3. (usu. associations) a mental connection between ideas or things: the word bureaucracy has unpleasant associations. ∎ the action of making such a connection. ∎ the fact of occurring with something else; co-occurrence: cases of cancer found in association with colitis. DERIVATIVES: as·so·ci·a·tion·al / -shənl/ adj.