Civil Society and its Discontents
 
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University of Potsdam
Publication date: 2006-06-30
 
Polish Sociological Review 2006;154(2):167–186
 
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ABSTRACT
The article departs from the discussion of the sources of the scholar interest in civil society and proceeds to the functional expectations about it. It claims that the concept of civil society, as it is frequently used in scientific and political debates, has specific cultural roots, which makes a trans-cultural analysis difficult or perhaps even impossible. Furthermore, the article addresses three conceptual problems of civil society, namely the issue of what constitutes civil society, its autonomy and impact as well as the challenge of civil society to the state. The central argument of the article is that in order to examine the impact of civil society on governance and democracy, it is recommendable to include three levels of analysis, namely the structure and functions of civil society (including also the possibly negative impact of civil society), the type of state co-existing with civil society as well as the character of the relationship between state and civil society.
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