The Civil Society Reader (Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives)
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Virginia Hodgkinson and Michael Foley have assembled a definitive collection of 24 readings from the writings of thinkers who have shaped the civil society tradition in Western political thought through the ages. Their clear, intelligent introduction establishes a framework for understanding the complex and perennial debate over conditions of citizenship and the character of the good society. The text moves from the origins of the debate, a consideration of Aristotle’s vision of political order, the polis, through the “civic republicanism” of Machiavelli and his English and American followers. It also discusses Hobbes’s and Montesquieu’s conceptions of natural law and the social contract, Immanuel Kant and Adam Ferguson and the emergence of the modern notion of civil society in the late 18th century, and the thoughts and theories of Hegel, Marx, and Gramsci.
Contemporary discussion of civil society in the US started with Berger, Newhaus, and others who addressed the role of intermediary institutions and the political process. In the 1980s, especially as the Cold War ended, writing on civil society exploded. The anthology tracks the key works that have influenced public dialogue in this era. Chapters by Walzer, Barber, Putnam, Almond and Verba, Shils, and others describe the role of association in civil society and its role in democratic governance. As the concept of “civil society” grows ever more prominent in academic and public considerations of politics and political organization, citizen participation, political alienation, voluntary organizations, privatization, government deregulation, and “faith-based” charities, Civil Society: A Reader is the essential historical and theoretical text.
more detail later, it will be of major importance in determining the relative effectiveness with which a group asserts its claims upon other groups. This approach affords all the advantages and none of the disadvantages that once accrued to the sociologists’ concepts of “primary groups” and “secondary groups,” meaning by the former face-to-face interaction as opposed to indirect contacts such as those made through the media of mass communication. Before the enormous expansion and development of
impracticable. The error of Socrates must be attributed to the false supposition from which he starts. Unity there should be, both of the family and of the state, but in some respects only. For there is a point at which a state may attain such a degree of unity as to be no longer a state, or at which, without actually ceasing to exist, it will become an inferior state, like harmony, passing into unison, or rhythm which has been reduced to a single foot. The state, as I was saying, is a plurality,
the concerns of the Aristotelian synthesis, but it has its roots, nevertheless, in an intellectual tradition that can be traced back to the Greek polis. From the Middle Ages, it inherited a pessimistic view of human nature, a preoccupation with the rule of law, and a diminished notion of what governance might accomplish. In many respects, this heritage is more Stoic and Augustinian than Aristotelian; but all three come together in the work of Thomas Aquinas. 6. Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses
theological. The Jew finds himself in religious opposition to the state, which proclaims Christianity as its foundation. This state is a theologian ex professo. Criticism here is criticism of theology. And so we move always in the domain of theology, however critically we may move therein. 7. Ibid., p. 71. [Marx] 8. Bauer, Die Judenfrage, p. 66. [Marx] 9. Ibid., p. 97. [Marx] 10. Bauer, Die Judenfrage, p. 3. [Marx] Hodgkinson: The Civil Society Reader page 100 100 • The Civil Society Reader
regarded as a species-being,20 man is the imaginary member of an imaginary sovereignty, divested of his real, individual life, and infused with an unreal universality. The conflict in which the individual, as the professor of a particular religion, finds himself involved with his own quality of citizenship and with other men as members of the community, may be resolved into the secular schism between the political state and civil society. For man as a bourgeois21 “life in the state is only an