We had a fascinating discussion in my Contemporary Christian Life and Practice class the other day. Eventually the conversation moved into questions of political order.  One way of understanding where we find ourselves is to think of two major tendencies in the modern era: a radical individualist tendency and a radical collectivist tendency.  So you might have (1) those who affirm a radical individualism (where persons are fundamentally/essentially non-social beings--and where social arrangements are simply artificial and non-essential to who we are), and you might have (2) a collectivist tendency (various forms of communism or socialism), where the fundamental reality is the centralized state which controls virtually all of reality (and the individual is swallowed up by this central power).

I was trying to illustrate for students that there are older models which have been largely eclipsed in the modern era.  Models which affirm multiple smaller and overlapping (and non-totalitarian) authorities or governments.  I had in mind the work of Johannes Althusius.  For Althusius there are these numerous  and overlapping authorities or "governments," none of which are absolute.  And particularly important, the most fundamental "sovereignty" lies at the lower levels of organization.  This kind of thinking is somewhat lost today (in a sense), but it may be that only in these older models of thinking are we going to be able to find more stable and sane thinking on the nature of political order and association.  Attached is a short piece I have written on Althusius, published in the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine.