civil society

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civil society

(as used by HEGEL and MARX) market and economic relations (in contrast with the activity of the STATE); a realm intermediate between the family and the state. More generally, the realm of wider social relations and public participation, as against the narrower operations of the state or of the economy.

The earliest usages of the term in political and social philosophy were to contrast both ‘civil society’ and ‘civil government’ with ‘natural society’ or the ‘state of nature’. In the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam FERGUSON used the term in contrasting Western CIVILIZATION, and its associated forms of government and politics, with non-Western forms of society and their more ‘despotic forms of government (see also ORIENTAL DESPOTISM). The economic and political freedoms associated with civil society are regarded by Marxists as sometimes apparent rather than real (e.g. protecting the interests of private property and capital and enshrining significant freedoms, but instilling selfish individualism and masking underlying economic exploitation, ALIENATION, the loss of earlier community, etc). However, within Marxism, as well as in sociology generally the historical significance of the differentiation of civil society from ‘nature’, the family, and the 'S tate’ is acknowledged on all sides. Distinctions in any of the above senses between civil society and the state operate, even if, as emphasized by GRAMSCI, the state plays a role in the establishment of civil society, and the establishment of civil society also plays a part in protecting or in changing particular state forms (compare PUBLIC SPHERE). See also CIVIL RIGHTS, PUBLIC SPHERE.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
These coordinators familiarize participants with good reporting behavior, run the district's citizen network, forward news from the police, and communicate with the police as necessary.
Bucknell University sociologist Carl Milofsky put it well in summarizing the accomplishments of this citizen network: "The Active Citizens Network is a remarkable personal effort by Giovanni Moro (son of the assassinated political leader Aldo Moro) and Teresa Petrangolini over 25 years to create a civil society sector where one did not exist in Italy.
Chair of the World Court Project, an international citizen network that helped bring about the 1996 International Court of Justice ruling.
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The solutions will enable communication service providers, enterprises and citizen networks to realize the full potential of web-scale Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI) platform, for their network automation and Software Defined Network (SDN) initiatives.
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