Civil Society and Putnam

Civil Society and Putnam - Civil Society and Putnams...

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Civil Society and Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” Social Capital and Political Participation
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What is “Civil Society”? Civil society refers to the arena of un-coerced 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 organizations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organizations, community groups, women's organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.
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A Brief History of the Concept The concept of civil society in its pre-modern classical republican understanding is usually connected to the age of the “Enlightenment” in the 18th century. However, it has much older history in the realm of political thought. In the classical period, the concept was used as a synonym for the good society, and seen as indistinguishable from the state. Generally, civil society has been referred to as a political association governing social conflict through the imposition of rules that restrain citizens from harming one another. For instance, Socrates taught that conflicts within society should be resolved through public argument using ‘dialectic’, a form of rational dialogue to uncover truth. According to Socrates, public argument through ‘dialectic’ was imperative to ensure ‘civility’ in the polis and ‘good life’ of the people
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For Plato, the ideal state was a just society in which people dedicate themselves to the common good, practice civic virtues of wisdom, courage, moderation and justice, and perform the occupational role to which they were best suited. It was the duty of the “Philosopher king” to look after people in civility. As far as Aristotle was concerned, polis was an ‘association of associations’ that enables citizens to share in the virtuous task of ruling and being ruled. His koinonia politike as political community preceded societas civilis introduced later by Cicero. Due to the unique political arrangements of medieval feudalism, the works of the classical thinkers were downgraded during this period. The domination of the church and feudalism was absolute. Nevertheless, the developments in some parts of Europe since the fourteenth century further stimulated the revival of the concept of ‘human rationalism.’ This influenced to a great extent the shaping of political relations until the end of the Renaissance.
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Civil Society and Putnam - Civil Society and Putnams...

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