“Although liberalism is often criticized for being overly individualistic and insufficiently attentive to intermediate associations, such criticisms depend on shallow articulations of liberal theory. To the contrary, the strongest forms of liberalism start from premises that emphasize the significance and value of social relationships and social cooperation. To the extent that liberalism is a distinctive theory, distinguishable from libertarianism, liberalism is essentially a theory about the value of cooperative activity and the proper role social cooperation plays in shaping the identities and opportunities of autonomous individuals who engage in it. The role social cooperation plays in liberal theory is absolutely central. It is the starting place of the theory and infuses its conception of the person. Social cooperation provides opportunities for individuals to develop autonomous capacities, many of which involve capacities concerning interpersonal interaction, and creates sophisticated and unique contexts for its full exercise that would otherwise be impossible. In this way, liberal theories differ dramatically from libertarian theories: libertarian theories begin with the individual and struggle to justify and explain the conditions under which social cooperation might be acceptable to autonomous individuals. For libertarians, the conditions and value of individual autonomy are thought to be prior to and in some tension with the compromises of social cooperation. For liberals, social cooperation is an integral context in which the autonomous capacities of individuals are developed and in which the exercise of individual autonomy is facilitated and may achieve its full value.

Seana Valentine Shiffrin, Essay: What is Really Wrong with Compelled Association?, 99 Nw. U.L. Rev. 839, 867-868 (2005).