The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Civil society

Civil society or civil institutions refers to the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations or institutions which form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force backed structures of a state (regardless of that state's political system). In many states, there is no such thing as civil society as almost all significant interactions are politically mediated rather than voluntary and governed by social norms. Civil society groups advocate and take action primarily for social development and public interest.

While there are a myriad definitions of civil society, the London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society working definition is illustrative:

Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women's organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy group.

Examples of civil society institutions:

The term is currently often used by critics and activists as a reference to sources of resistance to and the domain of social life which needs to be protected against globalization. However, within the United Nations context, the phrase "civil society" has been a source of some controversy, as its meaning also includes businesses as well as private voluntary organisations – see United Nations: Partners in Civil Society.

On the other hand others see globalization as a social phenominon bringing classical liberal values which inevitably lead to a larger role for civil society at the expense to politically derived state institutions.

See also

External links

Last updated: 10-13-2005 04:04:35
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