Idea Of Civil Society

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He believed that through governmental policies, education, gradual knowledge and development, rude society might be transformed into civil society. Thus, while rejecting the idea of social contract as the basis of civil society and the asserted Aristotelian civic tradition, Ferguson envisioned the shift of society from rude or barbaric one into civil society. In doing so, some might say he viewed civil society face to face with the state of nature or barbaric nations. Additionally, he developed a new discourse about modern commercial society, in which active participation and citizen virtue intertwine with concepts of freedom, property, and justice derived from the natural law tradition.

Kant's position differed somewhat from Ferguson's. Kant insisted on the ideas of social contract and property as the just and moral bases of civil society Kant, ; Pietrzyk, He took no position on whether humans are inherently bad, as Hobbes believed, or good. In balancing the use of coercive power by the State with individual freedom, Kant suggested the need to accept a political authority to achieve a condition of justice and rights. Accordingly, the main purpose of civil society is to force human beings to respect one another's rights. Kant might also be included among scholars who see civil society as more or less a civil state, with no sharp separation between state and society.

Regarding Kant, Pietrzyk concluded that "civil society cannot exist without the state and is often meant by him as a political society with its institutions such as a public law or the representative authority. Civil Society and Political Society Like Ferguson, Smith believed that the binding principle of civil society is a private morality, predicated on public recognition by one's peers, joined through bonds of shared moral sentiment O'Brien, ; Smith, He went further by developing the idea of civil society as a necessary "safety net" for those endangered or damaged by the interplay of market forces and the dislocation and unemployment that they generate.


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In aiming at social promotion and protection of the economically disadvantaged, Smith saw civil society as a realm of altruistic activity guided by moral affectivity Mclean, Using the invisible hand argument, moreover, Smith conceived civil society as not only a refuge from the economic realm but also a wellspring of economic abilities. Civil society emerged as a sphere in which individuals could express their human existence as well as show that commercial society has not corrupted their humanity.

Smith also recognized what Marx later called alienation, the sick condition faced by the laboring poor unless the government takes some pains to prevent it Smith, However, instead of relying on the authoritarian State, as Hobbes did, Smith believed that each individual has an innate tendency to respect the rules of natural justice. This tendency goes along with the natural human desire to better one's condition, the accomplishment of which requires some private liberty to deploy resources and skills.

The role of the government, then, is not to suppress liberties but to guarantee them. Thus, in Smith's view, liberal commercial society requires and encourages civic virtue. For him, government emerged gradually, restrained by rules.

In this respect, Smith laid the foundation for civil society as an economic society separate from the State. Hegel acknowledged the rights of individuals and stressed that those rights can thrive when they belong to the actual ethical order.

Civil society

He distinguishes, first, the family, the natural sphere of the ethical world; second, civil society, the achievement of the modern world and ethical life; and finally, the state, an objective guarantor of universal freedom. Therefore, Hegel put civil society somewhere between family and state Mclean, He considered civil society "the embodiment of universal egoism," in that, as in economic life, individuals use the needs of others to satisfy their own needs.

Civil society was seen simply as society minus the State, which meant the so-called economy was part of civil society Shaw, Primarily in the economic sphere of private affairs, individuals would seek to satisfy their needs. He considered corporations, outgrowths of the freedom to associate, essential to the structure of modern freedom. Further, he included public authorities in civil society, because they ensure the safety of persons and property.

Following Smith, Hegel underlined the importance of the conflicting nature of the division of labor Pietrzyk, Because the State represented universal freedom, civil society depended upon the State for its existence and preservation. Hegel believed that as the embodiment of egoism, civil society is unstable.

For him, individual freedom originates in the State, whereas modern-day liberals put freedom outside the State. This freedom, in which individuals and groups pursue conflicting interests, can be overcome only by an ultimate authority. Furthermore, for Hegel, civil society cannot be separated from economic society. Social conflicts over rights and needs have to be solved; this is a job for the State, society's supreme entity.

The State is an end in itself, as the highest morality, whereas civil society's ultimate end is to protect its members. Later, this idea was used by Hefner, who included business associations as part of civil society, entitled to protection of their rights and interests Hefner, Thus, for Hegel, the interests of individuals in civil society could be distinguished from the interests of the State.

Civil society might be seen as on par with the State, although if their interests conflicted, the State would prevail. Using Hegel's description of civil society, especially of the first part of the system of needs, Marx prefigured his analysis and critique of the capitalist State. He asserted, that "Civil Society embraces all the material relations of individuals within a definite stage of development of productive forces" Bobbio, In contrast to Hegel's suggestion that the state prevails upon civil society, Marx saw abolition of the state as a desideratum to be achieved after revolution.

Marx asserted that civil society is bourgeois society, in which people treat one another as means to their own ends.

Understanding Civil Society

Furthermore, he saw civil society as a means to weaken the feudal order and concentrate power in the hands of the new class, the bourgeois. Furthermore, Marx saw civil society as the arena of class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. In this way he tried to highlight how socioeconomic distinctions constituted "the differentiaspecifica of stratification of modern civil society" Colas, This differentia specifica provided a crucial precondition for the emergence of civil society: the separation of the private sphere of production and exchange from the public arena of the State.

In this way, civil society is associated with the private realm, the relations among individuals that developed in the bourgeoisie only. For Marx, too, this also resulted in the evolution of the State as an institution separate from economic society. Gramsci, also following the Hegelian approach in distinguishing civil society from the State, has located those two entities in the super-structural sphere, unlike Marx, who placed civil society in the structural sphere.

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Bobbio asserted that for Gramsci, civil society is "not all material relationship which means a base but all ideological and cultural relationship; not the whole of commercial and industrial life but the whole of spiritual and intellectual life" Bobbio, In other words, Marx saw Hegel's civil society as economic relationships the system of needs and therefore on the structural level, whereas Gramsci understood it as a super-structural concept that, along with the family, constituted the ethical roots of the State.

In this respect, both Gramsci and Marx believed the historical development of society occurred in civil society and not in the State, as Hegel had suggested. In civil society, all economic relationships shape history as Marx suggested or the interpretation of history ideological and intellectual life , which in turn influences the future. The State, "which is exist up to now, is a dialectical unity of civil society and political society. Thus for Gramsci, civil society became a complex entity, standing on equal footing with not only the state of nature and the civil state, but also the church and political society.

Civil Society as "Somewhere in Between" the Economy and the State As mentioned earlier, Gramsci portrays civil society as the arena, separate from state and market, in which ideological hegemony is contested. This implies a spectrum of social organizations as well as community organizations, which both challenge and uphold the existing order Lewis, The current revival assigns civil society various functions.

Arato notes the evolution of civil society from social movement to political party and finally to ruling party Arato, In Russia, Zbigniew Rau, as quoted in Hikam, suggests viewing civil society as a historical development that requires a public space for individuals or groups to join, discuss, or compete to advance their private interests Hikam, Reflecting on the struggle to achieve democracy in South Korea, Han Sung Joo views civil society as a legal framework that provides the following: a space to protect individual rights; freedom of assembly apart from the state; a public sphere in which people can express their views; an organized society that respects specific norms, identity, and culture; and a space for independent and responsible social movements to become the "core group" of society.

Kim Sun Hyuk, also drawing on the South Korean experience, describes civil society as independent movements and free associational groups that, through political actions, can defend their interests in the public sphere Rozak et al. This description stresses the importance of free and independent associational groups apart from the state. It also requires a public sphere as an arena for political contestation. In portraying the current movement in Japanese village areas, Suwondo similarly uses Chandhoke's theory to set forth four conditions for civil society to emerge Suwondo, : 1 civil society must be seen as a politically participatory realm that helps ensure state accountability; 2 civil society comprises representatives of free associations; 3 the state must recognize and protect human rights; and 4 all individuals must be protected by law as members of civil society.

Suwondo also asserts civil society must be positioned carefully between state and market. Otherwise, civil society may enfeeble the state and provide opportunities for the dominant class to control society Suwondo, If that class controls it, as neoliberals suggest, then civil society will be seen as nothing more than a space for promoting the dominant class's principal cause, the laissez-faire approach to markets.

Civil society will thus come to mirror the supply-and-demand characteristics of the free market. Learning from the eruption of violence in Indonesia, Suwondo also suggests a danger in promoting the civil society through maximizing individual freedoms: namely, that the dark side of human nature may turn to violence. Civil society organizations may adopt violent means for advancing their interests and settling their differences in particular circumstances: democratic values are inadequately understood; the collapse of an authoritarian regime has led to a weak state; and freedom has ignited euphoria.

Violence in turn will jeopardize democratization Suwondo, The North South Institute in Canada similarly defines civil society using "the notion of terrain, a place where the state, the people, and the market interact and where the people wage war against the hegemony of the market and the state" Institute, Whereas civil society is customarily viewed as a force opposing the state, the Institute emphasizes that it must likewise be viewed as a force opposing the market. The Institute then distinguishes civil society as structure from civil society as process.

As structure, civil society is a component of society, along with the state and the market. Citing UNDP, the Institute also notes that civil society organizations are shaped to fit their social base, constituency, thematic orientations, and types of activity Institute, ; UNDP, Though civil society organizations participate in the political arena, observes Diamond, they do not necessarily strive for political power, unlike political parties Diamond, Diamond also distinguishes civil society, which focuses on public life, from economic society the market , which focuses elsewhere.

Diamond further suggests characteristics of civil society that hold particular significance in terms of advancing democracy Diamond, First, how do civil society organizations govern themselves? If they practice democratic governance internally, operate transparently, and remain accountable to their constituency, then they are likelier to play an important role in democratizing society.

The most immediate factors are governance and leadership operations ; resources material, financial, and technical ; relevance, legitimacy, and accountability identity and representation ; and intervention scalability and reliability societal impact. The external factors are the nature of civic space open, closing, or closed , legal and regulatory policies enabling or restrictive , and foreign policy national priorities and global geopolitical positions. Drawing from these factors, the researcher is proposing the following working definition for civil society sustainability.

Civil society sustainability may be defined as the capacity and capability of organized and loosely formed citizens associations and groupings to continuously respond to national and international public policy variations, governance deficits, and legal and regulatory policies through coherent and deliberate strategies of mobilizing and effectively utilizing diversified resources, strengthening operations and leadership, promoting transparency and accountability, and fostering the scalability and replicability of initiatives and interventions.

The relationship between donors and particularly civil society in the global south needs to shift in order to guarantee its sustainability. Donors operating in the global south do not feel the obligation to support civil society in becoming established, robust, or sustainable beyond project timelines. Therefore, it is imperative for civil society, particularly in the global south, to shift focus and strengthen their abilities to mobilize resources from their own domestic constituencies and reduce the excessive dependency on foreign donors.

This new narrative would be a complete departure from the approach civil society has pursued since the post—Cold War era. This report is made possible by the generous support of the Mott Foundation and the Oak Foundation. This report is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies CSIS , a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author s.

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The Idea Of Civil Society

Skip to main content. Charles Kojo VanDyck. Media Queries. Contact H. The idea then found its modern expression during the Enlightenment when philosophers and political reformers sought once again to limit the powers of state and church, in large part by defining society as the source of political legitimacy. It is no accident that the recent interest in civil society is also linked to resistance against authoritarianism - most dramatically in Eastern Europe before the fall of the Soviet block - and within the global justice movement against the rise of corporate power and the cooptation of the state by corporate interests.

In its narrowest modern sense, civil society refers to social organizations involved in the political process, for example political parties. But in its broadest and most accepted sense, civil society is the social impulse to free and democratic association, to the creation of community, and to the operations of social life, which includes politics. This is the sense of civil society that is used by writers such as Vaclav Havel. Unlike ancient times however, civil society is now distinguished from the state as it is from the operations of the private sector.

Some writers also stress a distinction from the family as well. For Havel and a long line of writers extending back to Aristotle, civil society remains the elementary fact of human existence. It is what makes human life possible. For Aristotle it was both the means and the end of human association as the pursuit of the good life, which is in essence a social life.

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And in this sense, it is the institutions that arise from civil society the schools, the voluntary associations, the trade unions, the courts, the political parties, etc. The state is an outgrowth of this impulse. It is fascinating to read Thomas Paine in this connection, particularly with reference to the raging debate surrounding the proper role of the state and the growing demands on the social economy to fulfill social and public services.

It has its origins in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together.

In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government. Within civil society, a huge portion of civic activities are carried out by organizations created to provide goods and services through collaboration, by people acting together to realize mutual interests. They constitute that sector which is composed of non-profit and voluntary organizations, service groups, cultural organizations such as choral societies, charities, trade unions, and co-operatives.

This economic aspect within civil society has also been described as the third sector or the social economy. The value of the economic activity generated by the social economy in the western democracies is huge - and growing. It has now acquired a whole new set of meanings and consequences, some very positive for the emancipatory projects of the Left, others far less so.