In casual conversation, it is commonly asserted that there is, or should be, a right to associate or not to associate with whom one chooses. Societies, however, frequently induce associations people do not want and deter those they do. This article addresses the types of situations that give rise to associational issues and the considerations relevant to their resolution. It does not attempt to develop a general theory of free association because, given the unresolvable value disputes underlying all associational issues, I am skeptical about the possibility of developing such a general theory. Unpacking how differing associational issues are resolved in practice within and among societies should, however, shed some light on those values.

Part A outlines the types of situations in which associational issues arise. How associational issues are resolved greatly depends on whether a more individualistic or collective perspective is brought to bear. Part B develops this point in general through a discussion of both Locke and Aristotle. Part C illustrates the point through a brief excursion into the institution of marriage. Part D analyzes in more detail how the process plays out regarding conflicts among society's members. Part E then analyzes the process when society itself is a party.

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