The first commandment of Leviathan is: “Thou shalt have no gods before me.” As Thomas Hobbes foresaw, modernity offers a Faustian bargain: total submission to government authority in return for order and prosperity. Yet the modern state does not necessarily deliver even these low but solid goods. Robert Nisbet, one of the most important American thinkers of the 20th century, showed that the central obstacle to human flourishing in the modern age is the centralizing tendency of the liberal state. In the world of Leviathan, political affirmation supersedes community allegiance. Disconnected from their fellow men and denied apolitical means of moral formation, individuals can no longer form meaningful communities of their own.

Among conservatives, these sociological observations often provoke mere lamentation. But might they get us somewhere, practically speaking? Duquesne University political theorist Luke Sheahan answers this question with a resounding “yes.” His ambitious and important new book, Why Associations Matter: The Case for First Amendment Pluralism, applies Nisbet’s theory to argue that freedom of association is the forgotten First Amendment right. It has been swallowed up by freedom of speech, or the right to “expressive association.” This process culminated in a 2010 Supreme Court case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The

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