In a 1932 poem Robert Frost wrote:
Don’t join too many gangs. Join few if any.
Join the United States, and join the family.
But not much in between, unless a college.
Frost, in his curmudgeonly way, captures that hostility toward communal ties and restraints which, since Tolstoy’s day, has continued to undermine our “intermediate institutions” or “mediating structures.” Toward the nuclear family and the nation, people do indeed still feel some natural loyalty; “but not much in between, unless a college.” During the last thirty years, even the nation-state has lost much of its mystique, leaving the family exposed to stresses that it can hardly support. It is my frail hope that we may find some new ways of shaping other intermediate institutions toward which we can develop a fuller loyalty and commitment: associations larger than the nuclear family, but not so large that they defeat in advance the initial presumption that our fellow members are trustworthy. For it is only in that context, I suspect, that the ethics of discretion and intimacy can regain the ground it has lost to the ethics of rules and strangers.
Stephen Toulmin, “The Tyranny of Principles,” 1981.
Those of us concerned about reviving our little platoons have a lot to learn from Toulmin.