To love the little platoon we belong to in society is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections.
It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it.
Reflections on the French Revolution
Burke’s insight is the foundation for much of Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and today’s vast literature on civil society, social capital, and related concepts.
It is these institutions of civil society–some formal, some informal–that create our social world, give it meaning, and stand between the individual and the state.
That is why totalitarian states begin their wholesale transformation of society by destroying these independent forms of social connection.