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Group autonomy, Residential associations, Interest group pluralism, Public choice theory, Communitarianism, Contractarianism


Law and Society | Legal History | Property Law and Real Estate


We are a society of groups. De Tocqueville's observation that the principle of association shapes American society remains as valid today as it was in the mid-nineteenth century. For us, as for others, the vita activa is participation in a seemingly limitless variety of groups. The importance of group activity in our national character has strongly influenced the agenda of political questions that recur in American political and legal theory. One of the fundamental normative questions on this agenda concerns the proper relationship between groups and the polity. To what extent should the polity foster connections between associations and the larger community? Alternatively, what degree of autonomy ought the polity, in our "segmented society," recognize for social groups, "each presuming autonomy in its own domain, each requiring homogeneity of its membership, and each demanding the right to fulfill its destiny with- out interference"?

This Article considers two approaches to the question of group autonomy in the context of residential associations and examines the implications of each for the standard of review that courts should apply to the rules and regulations of residential associations. One approach is based on the theories of interest-group pluralism and public choice; the other, on communitarianism. On the surface, both of these approaches share a commitment to the importance of groups in social and political life, but they envision the relationship between the individual, the group, and the polity in strikingly different ways.

Publication Citation

Gregory S. Alexander, "Dilemmas of Group Autonomy: Residential Associations and Community", 75 Cornell Law Review (1989)