Liberalism exposed...something interesting!
I think there might be a serious misunderstanding in the liberal interpretation of the human right of "freedom of association".
For the liberal it seems to imply that any individual has the right to join any group regardless of that group's identity. Somehow the individual freedom always trumps the collective freedom of the individuals making up an existing group. This seems to be a very suspect and even dangerous conviction because it usually ends in the attempted destruction of a specific identity unit/group by an outsider or outsiders. This, in fact, is exactly the type of oppression that the universal human rights try to prevent and therefore the liberal’s misunderstanding needs to be corrected to ensure peaceful coexistence.
The consequences of this liberal misunderstanding is evident in modern societies struggling to create civilised associations/groups that is able to protect basic freedoms. But before we delve deeper into some of the insights this “liberal misunderstanding” exposed, let us first try to find a proper understanding of the “freedom of association”. The more accurate understanding of "the freedom of association" seems to be that any individual has the right to be freely assimilated into a group or not. This assimilation is mostly a contractual and relational phenomenon between more that one individual. If assimilation fails it is usually because the individual or outsider group is unwilling to associate with the behaviour and values of the existing group. There always remains the right to freely create a new association or group, but certainly not at the expense of the universal human rights of any other individual or its existing groups. Therefore, changes in the nature of human associations have to be through consent and not forced.
Let us now investigate the impact of this “liberal misunderstanding” on modern nation states - the largest and most pronounced associations. The typical nation state, as an association of people into a single identity, had its usefulness in the past, but the "liberal misunderstanding" (... of freedom of association), as described above, simply exposed the obvious flaw in modern nation states - Some might argue that the "liberal misunderstanding" caused the dissolution of nation states, but I think the end of nation states are in fact simply the outcome of resource and demographic realities - Sometimes this resource and demographic realities might in fact be orchestrated as "resource and demographic wars" and sometimes it might simply be the outcome of demographic progression and technology's proliferation through civilisations.
Modern nation states do not associate people based on their social needs anymore, modern nation states only associate people based on the most fundamental resource needs. There are still nation states with very strong shared convictions, shared by the larger collective, but this is becoming the exception instead of the rule for obvious demographical and technological reasons. It is now clear that various relational communities are the closest to the deep identity and association of people. The problem is that the modern nation state does not really care about this level of relational identity. If freedom of association is true freedom, then individuals will be freely associating based on the deepest aspects of their identity and from that association they will take care of their needs. The question about association is further answered if it is acknowledged that the modern world ensured that this level of relational existence of communities can be achieved by mobilising global/universal and not national resources.
The conclusion seems to be clear - the “liberal misunderstanding” of the freedom to associate was, among other reasons, because it misinterpreted the nature of association in national units with the association of community. The liberal’s will to destroy the nation state, as a potential oppressor, might have blurred the liberal’s distinction between oppression and freedom of association. Modern nation states have evolved into something else and the liberals and conservatives should acknowledge that freedom of association is therefore not defined by nation states anymore. People will always associate on various levels and the resources available will influence the nature of these multi-layered associations. What both the liberal and conservative must ask is if association must be forced or through consent? To me the answer seems obvious.
As an ideological republican myself, I would prefer to, first, be a moral and soulful person and only then associate with my soul-community through all the deepest historical, cultural, art, aspirations to knowledge, social, political, economical convictions and love I have available.