Inter-disciplinary workshop

What Civil? What Society?

hosted by the

Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law (CISRUL)

at the

University of Aberdeen, Scotland

Committee Room 2, University Office

Monday 25th – Tuesday 26th June 2012

Academic coordinator:            Trevor Stack (


We propose to examine the workings of the concept of ‘civil society’ not just in contemporary Europe and North America but historically and in contexts across the world as well as across academic disciplines. We will seek not to define ‘civil society’ but to identify the consequences – political, legal, social, moral, epistemological – of particular ways in which ‘civil’ and ‘society’ have been defined in different times and places. In so doing we will pose five overarching questions:

1. What has been held (in different times and places) to make a society (or part of it) civil as opposed to uncivil (or barbarous)? What have been the consequences of such a distinction?

2. How and to what effect has civil society been distinguished as a domain or sphere of society from domains considered non-civil (if not necessarily uncivil) such as politics, the economy, the ecclesiastical or religious, the military, family and law?

3. What distinctions have been made between civil and civic, and to what effect?

4. What notions of society lie behind or are associated with notions of civil society? How have notions of society shifted from the medieval and early modern periods to the 19th-century birth of social sciences to contemporary debates about whether society exists or not?

5. Have notions of civil society (and society) been defined by law or by some other means, and what is the difference in practice? In what other ways does civil society get linked to law?


  • Raul Acosta, Centre for the Study of Applied Ethics, Deusto University, Bilbao, has been working on orderly dissent in the contexts of the Brazilian Amazon, west Mexico and the Mediterranean.
  • Jeffrey Alexander, Professor of Sociology at Yale, is the author of The Civil Sphere which begins with a history of the civil society concept in scholarship and then goes on to identify a ‘civil sphere’ of organisations in US society that have pursued a set of values through, for example, the incorporation of the Jews into post-war US society and the Civil Rights struggle.
  • Matyas Bodig, Senior Lecturer in Law at Aberdeen, is a legal theorist who has worked on a range of issues concerning rule of law and the nature of the modern state.
  • Michael Brown, Lecturer in History at Aberdeen, has written extensively on the Scottish and Irish Enlightenments, with a focus on civil society.
  • Karin Friedrich, co-director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies and Senior Lecturer in History at Aberdeen, is working on the contribution of pre-modern civil society, especially in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to reform and modernisation, the development of the rule of law, and modern forms of political engagement.
  • Dmitry Goncharov, Professor of Political Science, National Research University Higher School of Economics, has published extensively on civic community in post-Communist society.
  • Ajay Gudavarthy, Assistant Professor of Political Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University, has published on the history of human rights movements in India, as well as affirmative action programs and subsistence governmental benefits, and is concluding a critical volume on Chatterjee’s notion of ‘political society’.
  • Philip Oxhorn, director of the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University, has published a number of books including Sustaining Civil Society: Economic Change, Democracy and the Social Construction of Citizenship in Latin America and Organizing Civil Society: The Popular Sectors and the Struggle for Democracy in Chile.
  • Trevor Stack, director of CISRUL and Lecturer in Hispanic Studies, Aberdeen, is writing on how people in Mexico and California distinguish between law and what could be termed ‘civil sociality’.
  • Andrea Teti, Lecturer in Politics & IR at Aberdeen, works on democratization in the Middle East and has published on the concept of civil society in the democratization literature.
  • Ekow Yankah, Associate Professor at Cardoso Law School,  is working on the appropriate role of virtue in law generally and criminal law particularly, including in relation to harms-to-self, prostitution decriminalization and moral agreement as well exploring new relationships between profiling under the threat of terrorist attacks, liberalism and government obligations.


Monday 25TH June

Session 1

Jeffrey Alexander “Boundary Crossing: How Recent Social Crises Are Constructed as Endangering Civil Spheres”

How are sphere-specific strains translated into problems for society as whole?

Civil Society I: civil understood as broadest range of associations incl. small businesses, churches etc.

  • but little scope for addressing class conflict > failed to discriminate among sphere

Civil Society 2: associates w selfishness of property and injustices; vertical rather than horizontal—repair by regulatory states; until late 20th cent when welfare state had largely resolved social question and then falling of totalitarian socialists, seems that return to umbrella concept

Now Civil Society 3: does not reduce to private property or to everything outside state, but community of autonomous yet mutually obligated people who simultaneously experience solidarity and respect for each other

  • binaries: pollutes qualities that thought to endanger civil society e.g. secrecy etc. but also through public opinion, law, office and electoral processes allow to reward those deemed civil and stigmatize those who not
  • civil sphere can be seen as aspirational, setting up narratives that allow people to speculate on what others’ responses will be: real civil spheres project utopian possibilities with one hand and take back with the other; civil spheres are restless and boundaries always moving, hence practices that acceptable at one point in time, at other time seems repugnant, e.g. separation of gender

Every sphere experiences strains but with steady state, these are introduced internally to spheres e.g. issues within church; but at certain point, outrages broader society and mechanisms that bring back to steady state

Two examples:

1. Church pedophilia

Practices w pre/pubescent inside church for centuries; revealed that church had been concerned for decades, mainly to conceal from broader world

  • considered unavoidable fact of life > Catholic doctrine understood not as violating universal standards but evidence of fallen nature of man, for which confession and contrition is answer
  • as institution concerned to maintain functioning, esp since shortage of priests
  • focus on priests and counselling for them, rather than victims, and commending work of many priests
  • also Pope praises bishop who risks prison rather than hand over priest to civil courts; Ratzinger responds to discussions in US Confs of Bishops by saying Confs had no theological basis >sealing internal religious from external: argues that othrs wld have tried to take advantage of us

Since 2002 media scandals, reported not just as news but as moral judgements intended to disturb readers, evoking moral criteria of civil sphere, arguing that shocking rather than just cause for regret

  • not so much paedophilia as fact than as mediatisation; people didn’t know that justified to condemn until civil sphere
  • also police and legal power: Grand Juries of citizens to which DAs as legal officials of civil sphere present evidence; abuse vicitms bring 1000s of civil cases

Church worried about effects of publicizing sex abuses, arguing media for self interest, lawyers for pursuing money, Jews, Communists and Protestants

  • Church’s struggle not to extend statute for limitations revealed; foot-dragging over implementation and not always local, public support that required in US for law enforcement, e.g. where parish mobilisation in towns, juries don’t convict so many plea bargained instead of publicly tried

NYT church 2008 pitted against society… using language of civil sphere: openness, accountability etc.

+ only just first priest convicted in US

2. Financial crisis

Economy is another non-civil sphere

Believed that economic destabilization was past; deregulation from public control inspired by confidence in economic self-regulation, incl. repealing New Deal law not allowing securities to be mixed with bank deposits, to protect citizens from market; but because markets seem to be tamed

At point of crisis, crisis within sector becomes mediatised > not controlled internally by elected representatives of civil sphere

  • Resistance of economic sphere; managers wld accept bailouts but then engine still working so can go back to internal regulation

Media accuses of being

  • hedonists, which is opposite of civil sphere, condemns as gambling casino
  • arrogance

Laws passed etc.

For neither side is ever enough: standoff is always inevitable?


Ekow Yankah: not clear in that civil pushing in on non-civil in sex scandals > not clear that priests abuse more than general public: media not looking beyond church, any more than does in case of Penn State trainer > seems more like indicting institutions or persons, rather than addressing broader problems > about humiliating

  • media reps are personalised etc.; true that pictured as immoral but in fact acting by morality of own sphere e.g. prudence and caution in Lehmann Brothers > portraying as amoral is what gives leverage; does dehumanize them

Karin Friedrich: binary constructions—w financial, construction of we and them but how about people who took out mortgages etc.

  • modernity has thought through compexification and growing autonomy of different spheres; individual is member of several and pulled between these, but logics are independent of each other
  • takes binaries from L-S, Saussure etc. which say classification and turns into classifications which can be terrible; but civil sphere promises to overcome and bring us together as community, even though itself rests on binary distinctions
  • as opposed to? Thank God we’re American and not French etc.; says workin class invluded through fighting in wars against X

Andrea Teti: how can apply civil sphere when have multiple civil spheres, and also where no scandals e.g. in Italy where all these things happen but no scandal

  • degrees of polarisation, but does happen e.g. in Nixon scandal when Demos and Repubs join to agree even though damaged them, but no crisis is ever shared by society as such e.g. left has its crisis and right has its and will not agree on them

Danielle: media has galvanising effect, leading to crescendo and dimuendo of scandals

  • standards of journalism are quite civil e.g. fairness, objectivity etc.
  • law also organised around civil responsibility

Nigel Dower: if ethical consumer, trying to influence economic activity in particular way > not just multiple identities; also not just church but also charities e.g. Oxfam that resist transparency even though presumably are civil sphere, too

  • ethical consumer is taking into role as economic actor but reflects binary

Hilary Homans: why was 2002 tipping point for church scandals? Need to distinguish The Church as faith-based organisations etc. e.g. can find Holy See negotiating with countries in events….

  • yes distinctions e.g. dioceses often wanted to move more quickly; also Catholic abusers organisatios that are civil society but

Ajay Gudavarthy: underlying assumption that maintaining social order + residual—what left out of non-civil spheres; being open can also be idea of market contractual relations—what point does it play each role?

  • Thinks no way of understanding what happens when system stalls and how repairs than civil sphere—so not just about social order
  • Also that about justice rather than social order; actually disruptive to social order—can legitimate injustice in other spheres but not entirely
  • Trying to make not residual category by defining as own system
  • Conflicts w gender, working class etc. doesn’t happen without civil sphere: where do unions appeal for sense of justice?

Phil Oxhorn: two cases v different bc no one trusts business and supposed to trust church, which supposed to define moral order; Murdoch in US has Fox Media which has bigger sway on voting

  • Not true that no one trusts business people, or that everyone trusts Catholic church esp since Prot demonization in US
  • Violation of Milly Dowler’s voicemail was what triggered phone hacking scandal > brings society together when seemed fragmented

Andrea Teti: on binaries, signifiying chain although visualised as binaries bc border always has outside; how identifies logic of exposure?

  • Tensions btw boundaries—attempt to make meaning undermines boundary

Philip Oxhorn “Civil Society and the Evolution of Citizenship in Latin America”

Recent crises more severe than past ones in Latin America which brought out military

Civil society: resist subordination to state and demand inclusion into national political structures

  • Esp.important where states coopt or absorb civil society for political ends

Where civil society strong, dispersal of power; but in LA, obstacle to civil society is inequality; and civil society is realm of conflict

+ people get involved bc realize that does mean something, not just wasting time

Minimal consensus for defining civil society: often too high, which assumes consensus that arguavly renders participation unnecessary, if already agreeing; so better to set lower, esp when more collective tradition and when trust is low as in Latin America; lack of civil society not bc lack of trust but what causes lack of trust

  • For any reasons, in it w another group of people: need to define what public is in order to define public good; typically nation-state
  • Agree to coexist with other people > non-violent; civility is important

Paradox: cant understand indepde of relation w state > transnational dubious bc no supranational state

  • Autonomy just means capacity of organisations to define and defend interests in competition w actors incl state i.e. not that reciving aid from state but that receiving w no strings attached [defining value]
  • State-society synergy: achieving public good e.g. finding cure for river blindness in Senegal > not enough hospitals and ppl don’t go to them: villages select representatives to ensure ppl take medicines in exchange for meal etc… have legitimacy as representatives and from civil society, and delivered at minimal cost

Social construction of citixenship:

  • Marshall: starts w property w capitalism, but to make meaningful need to expand w political rights etc. and as capitalism flourishes, added social rights which legitimates inequalities produced by capitalism: necessary for capitalism to flourish > he is right for Britain but not bc capitalists’ foresight but synergy w state
  • In Latin America, ability of workers to organise autonomously and then later demand political rights and eventually social rights [chimes w advanced working rights in Mex Constit]
  • Even if we think we agree on what should be right, in fact radically different in practice, incl. how to be effected: struggle over what citizen rights do and do not exclude—not inevitable process as Marshall seems to suggest
  • Strength of civil society can be measured in rights of citizenship e.g. US civil rights movement, which mobilises around what rights; women’s movement

Three diff kinds of citizenship developed in L.A. though also in other developing countries

  • Citizenship as cooptation: criterion is political, included if toe the line although even then limits to inclusion > controlled inclusion—civil rights precarious if cross lines; political rights contingent—democratic politics is means t/w ends rather than end in itself; social rights unequal esp. between formal and informal sectors>>reinforces rather than reduces structural inequality: mechanism for social stability, divide and conquer; working class struggles e.g. in Argentina were meaningful but limited and ultimately to accept status quo that only bit better than what previously
  • Citizenship as agency: role of multiple actors in construction of what means to be citizen e.g. Morales: redefining what meant to be Bolivian vs. shame of children in school who recent migrants from Andes; but problems of poverty etc. prove difficult to rectify; but reflects weak civil society which means polarisation btw haves have-nots and diff movements etc.; self-limiting radicalism in which polit democracy b/c end in itself
  • Citizenship as consumption: have votes as well as economic resources but used to accessorize: universal polit rights but limited civil and eroding social; in btw elections few checks on power of elected leaders > few checks; real decisions made outside democra institutions >> economic rsoureces determine quality of healthcare etc.; high level of impunity, and poor seen as suspects; education which key to success which now has universal access but public education so low quality and also little promise of higher income > low social mobility

But citizenship as consumption not exclusive to others e.g. using US consumer groups to put pressure on + elections can bring in more inclusionary form of citizenship

Bolivia: Law of Popular Participation—transforms munitipcalities and creates more > decentralises incl budget fixing quota for municipalities; ensured participation not just in electoral but also territorial organisations, which were mostly indigenous organisations > hybrid democracy btw indi forms of collective govt and elections; But didn’t work bc

  • Dominated by president
  • Territorial basis to avoid functionally based incl. unions and chambers of commerce (deemed too conservative) despite being main proponents of decentralisation
  • Suspicion of state

Went through but since only way to get coparticipation funds: so ends up citixzenship as cooptation

Legal representation didn’t mean that socially recognized > captred by elites; and no effort to mobilise civil society… and many organisations excluded e.g. women’s organisations, irrigation committees etc. although later recognised that problem in that women’s participation decreased, seemingly bc men interested in funds being channelled through municipalities which not before

Weakness of committees etc. partly bc seen as created by state and not by civil society; also relying on munci govts for transparency

>> v far from citizenship as agency; leads to massive protests culminating in Morales’ victory

Vs. Porto Alegre, where civil society allowed to take initiative


Hilary: what happens when citizens and civil society are displaced?

  • Concentration of power makes difficult for civil society, although civil society mobilises to challenge inequality—disadvantage groups are first to mobilise
  • Diffic w Occupy Movement that didn’t articulate what wanted; similarly, objects to labelling as neoliberal anything that don’t like, when much that is progressive e.g. opening to state working w civil society
  • Rights achieved by collective movements even if most rights but not all individual

Dmitri: what effect of prolifer of citix on informal institutions?

  • In Bolivia yes informal but still important and social legitimacy
  • In LA informal usually about creating impunity, undermining rule of law > regressive: e.g. study in Mexico City that people asked to pay bribes were poor who seemed vulnerable

Ina: top-down process?

  • Porto Alegre comes out of Constituent Assembly rather than from LPP style; legitimates experimentation, opening door for bottom up processes
  • Some of old indigenous traditions resurfacing incl blocing highways etc. which can also be problem if step threshold of civility
  • Demonstrations in favour of democracy but also feeling that not to rock boat in case end up back in authoritarianism; although easier to mobilise against authoritarian regimes-once got, then have to define and defend interests: new skills
  • Been in meetings when first half is about how important to be here, which suggests that not going to be much substance

Karen: supranational e.g. in Haiti; and how labour comes in

  • Still reliant on government to have wherewithal to distribute aid
  • Organised labour is key in UK and also in Latin America; but women’s movements often founded by women who found excluded from organised labour > trigger other projects

Raul: finds in Mex meetings that low tolerance for dissent—don’t like it when someone has different opinion

  • Distrust can lead to participation but can also be problem esp when fear
  • Giuliani held up as model bc of zero tolerance but neglect his community policing which can be effective as conflict resolution
  • When communities allowed to influence what taught in schools, level goes up

Berlin: what is civility and where comes from?

  • Civility in European history came at huge cost incl. genocide; qu of how to achieve other than homogenization of nation-state
  • Mexico: values civility bc seen what happens when lose it; also non-violence bc know that police provoke violence as pretext for using it
  • Civil society has been dependent variable and goal is to make independent variable

Karin: in republics as he said for LA, lack of trust stimulates civic participation

Session 2

Andrea Teti “The Politics of ‘Civil Society’ in the Middle East”

Civil society in democratis literature often not constructed as site of struggle; practical effects do exact opposite of what supposed to do > undermining democratic transitions; civil society treated by EU as sweets given out > holding parties at embassies etc. to promote

Vs. Unions etc. who involved in Arab Spring

Orientalism in democrati studies: ‘impossibility of democracy’

  • Before 1979 argued that nothing independent of state in Oriental state: argued that possible to have emancipation but not in conditions; state not powerful enough to control emancipator movement

Stresses that his argument fits not with morning’s papres but with democrati literature

  • Relat with state
  • Space of good manners

Sets up impasse that excludes

  • Islamist movements
  • Labour movements

…and hostility t/w them antagonises these movements, which tends to polarise

Funding follows model of what civil society; opposite organisations start to describe selves as civil society—space resisting authoritarian practices of state; states then themselves flood civil sphere w CSOs that then fund; understood that “slow transformation”

Opposes democratising other and democratised self, but at same time smuggle in Orientalist assumptions of alterity—introduces goals but in way that makes impossible > and not just failure but allows ways of delegitimating and arguing that failed to democratise e.g. Hamas election, as well as AK party in Turkey

Ajay Gudavarthy “Post-Civil Society”

Civil society theory argues that tensions between CS practices  and that these are productive, but he argues that tensions cancel out democra potential of each practice, congealing democratic space rather than leading to its expansion

Dalit movement

Privileges practices of universal citizenship etc. but also celebration of cultural differences; dalit movement marginalised bc claims of universal citizenship—accused of being particularistic, sectarian and stigmatised as such; dalit movement pushed out of civil society

To defend its claim to civil society, takes identarian claim, essentializing by claiming to represent themselves bc have “lived experience”; CS responds by arguing on one hand that inward looking while allows entry point in name of politics of difference > discourse of tolerance or multiculturalism, which also tends to natrualise social hierarchies, also turning difference into distance

Civil Rights movement

Argument that civl society part of state but others outside state; attempt to resolve by arguing that inside when democratic, outside when authoritarian> but AG argues that works simultaneously, entrapping opostional movements

  • Over emphasis on legality, on one hand
  • On other hand, argument of civil society as pure realm of freedom (making constit democracies more free) but undermining negotiations with hierarchies

Two arguments get locked into each other (end up hyper-legislating)

Feminist movement

Here two arguments

  • CS as space for legislation
  • CS as autonomous political action

…although supposed to moderate each other, in fact congeal: autonomous action begins to be read as withdrawl of state e.g. microcredit self-resposibility vs. Hyper-legislation e.g. having to care for parents

  • Instead of moderating, creates two extreme forms
New turns in political movements

Identify ways of breaking deadlock of congealing into polarised camps that block each other

e.g. RoL: usually polarised dichotomy of either law/dialogue or anarchy/violence, but principle of RoL used to mean more than just order, allowing for coexistence of modalities of violence with law, creating processes of dialogue, giving for peace and order but peace and justice

> resignifying to avoid getting caught in binary logic civil society


Ajay all kinds of violence equalised in order to eliminate any and every groups like Taleban, Maoists etc. > post-civil society: instead of taking moral approach, accepts possibility

e.g. peace talks with Maoists: state govt of Andra Pradesh changes position to make for dialogue even though arms—not possible w/i sanitised space of civil society

Ekow: Rawls: can’t impose on people particular views but public reason, distinguishing between comprehensive schemes and public frameworks, making complicated distinction arguing that should ultimately be possible to justify in non-comprehensive terms

  • Ajay: already problem in Rawls distinction of public and culture

Jeff: Andrea and Ajay agree in that see discourse of civil society as bad, claiming that leads into anti-democratic processes: is Orientalism inherent to discourse of civil society? seems Islamic movement embracing civil society; not sure that violence accepted as form of dialogue just bc state govt accepts as long as put guns away + in fact most movements have moved away from Maoism as way of redistribution thru violent distribution

  • Andrea: Orientalism not inherent; particular concept of civil society and democracy which excludes social and economic rights etc. thus not seeing e.g. in Egypt that union movement demanding economic rights—blindness built into way democracy understood
  • Ajay: shift from moral take on violence to political take is what makes post-civil

Karen: watches media report that shows women saying not to vote for Islamists bc wld have to veil again > she asks whether this is just media discourse or what pl saying; in Polish-Lithuania, law that allowed rebellion which even king could join—violence as part of politics that not illegal

  • Ajay: wld need to look at specificitis to see whether moral take on violence etc.

Phil: right to take up arms in US constitution which can be problematic; first qu is what actors themselves intending, incl whether compatible w democracy or not e.g. MB keeps away from April 6 bc don’t want to get involved; are groups opprtunitstically getting invovled? And different when trying to end armed conflict and pursuing variety of goals; many issues raised by Ajay engaged w/i civil society literature e.g. whether working within or outside system

  • Ajay: another aspect of post-civil is that going beyond systemic vs. non-systemic, so feminists movement undermining law but still using law, unlike Maoist movement

Berlin civil disobedeicen already poses question of when uncivil means allowed for civil ends

+ JA tradition of just war etc. and other old ways of justifying violence, such as exhaustion of other channels

  • Ajay: India claiming modern, liberal state with civil society that doesn’t allow justification for violence, but these movements are finding new justification

JA In order to justify violence, need to argue that not civil society and that violence is therefore appropriate and only means open to them

Session 3: Responses to first day

Matyas Bodig

Agrees that no civil society w/o state or at least authoritative institutions

Relation of ppl who treat themselves as duty bound to observe norms of civility t/w others: doesn’t have to be everyone and ready to form strong political ties w them

…though idea of community not built into norms of civility; need political process, institutional scaffolding > authorities generate normative space in which ppl come to recognise each other; civility is normative baseline, can then add specific moral ties that make particular community

Many types of authorities e.g. local, global, if authoritative institutions… but only authorities that claim representational relation over those over whom exercise authority

  • States do  not necessarily establish represent relation w subjects but increasingly hard for modern states not to, not least bc international legal norms that require them to do so
  • Seek legitimation on part of citizens

Possible that no normative space opened up for civil society e.g. Stalinist state

Political integration which necessary for authority; civil society offers one way of achieving political integration—becomes active part of legitimating process for polit institutions: gets chance to become active agent for determining normative identity of political community etc. i.e. terms of political integration

+ other way of legitimating is law

Constitutional democracy is form of government that balances civil society and law > constitution is mechanism, typically bc civil society made constitutive through election process, linking that legitimacy w legal validity: law provides normative parameters foc civil society but makes civil society constitutive of its own legitimacy

But has dark side: bc civil society created in nprmative space by state, state shapes and will be inherently limiting, favouring organised groups, rewarding social capital, limits access of minority; nowhere near free of oppression, laden w ideology, develops mechanisms of exclusion

  • Engagement w civil society comes at a cost: accept represent relationship w state and not all states are worthy of that; accepting civility including renouncing violence which can be diff if fellowmembers who want to repress you; accepting law as proxy to civility

There is politics outside civil society > can engage in revolutionary politics

But civil society is more inclusive than anything that can reasonably imagine, and always open to further inclusion

+ in absence, not clear how else would achieve political community

Even when state is unpalatable, he would argue that societies need modern state; would ask Ajay how else would envisage political institutions, what would be mechanism

Nigel Dower

Ajay not offering post-civil society but neo-civil society, just as possible to question development paradigm without dismissing

May be sense in global civil society just as ND interested in global citizenship though often argued that can’t be w/o state: gloval citizenship is liberating concept for many people—asserts moral claim that one belongs to global community

+ relation to global institutions: if concern w public good and commitment to non-violent, apply equally to global level

Question of means and ends: much discussion has been about what means are consistent w civil society as well as range of goals

  • non-violence for Quakers like himself not just as tactical means but also as end
  • also qu of body that uses democratic means for something quite different
  • is cooperation a tactic to be discarded when achieved what want?

Following model of civil disobedience, possible to see violence used to create conditions in which desirable political order may be possible

Hilary Homans

Feels homogenous concept of civil society this afternoon vs. gender etc.

  • men and women’s relation to civil society as state is v different

Asked women and men if wld sacrifice freedoms for human security: found that women wld sacrifice none, men made one

Other responses

Karen: Russina nationalist movement combining swastika and Conf flag is kind of global civil society, looking for representation

Marieke: worked in Syria where no space but ppl work horizonally e.g. against global company or despite state

Ditte? Will talk about Danish idea of co-citizens, responsibility towards those who enjoy less rights

+ in some context violence is civil: locally defined thing

Anael: law is proxy of civility—but society-centered model of civility as culture? Or formal institutions that can export elsewhere

Ekow: surprised to find model of civil society so deeply constituted by law

  • he feels that great thing is that don’t need structure, authority; example wld be associative nonvoluntary obligations to each other as academics e.g. reading each other’s papers

Karin: missing background Viroli wld have given of Aristotelian sociability etc. incl natural law rather than positive

Andrea: where does the state come from?

  • MB diff ways incl people taking over territory

Matyas: agrees w ND on global civil society…UN creates normative space that sucks in activism > can’t explain ICC etc. that wld not have been possible w/o civil society activism

+ Norms of civility are universal that allow regulation w those who don’t have think normative ties

+ w respect to Ekow, wld deny that positivist: relatedness to autyority e.g. in marking boundaries of society

Andrea: is cooperation only tactical etc., does this not get us into mental states?

+ question of violence seems to equate GBH—

Reply of day’s speakers

Phil: ICC major achievement but bc got national governments to support it > nation-states still key; UNDHR wouldn’t be passed today…

+ also transntional actors such as organised crime, Catholic Church etc.

+ LT developed idea of structural violence which Pope accepted but rejected violent means to justify struggle against structural violence

+ diff kinds of rules of law: depends on who is involved in constructing them [but not precisely rule of law?]

Ajay: problem w way civil is distinguished from political i.e. moral=non-negotiable w/i political field

+ rarely in working do civil society and law actually balance out each other

+ need to study points of intersection between law, civil society etc. how inflected onto each other

  • MB no way to see differences btw movements unless look at attitude to fellow members wherher

JA: wants to see civil society as thicker structure of feeling, one of which is civility but also criticsm—not just about having good manners

+not just about states: institutions and their laws precede civil spheres by 1000s of years; utopian vision of civil sphere used to democratise law as well as using lobbying, elections etc.

But global can’t be full civil society since no elections etc.: mainly anarchy, violence etc.

Tuesday 26th June

Session 1

Karin Friedrich “The Consequences of Being Civic: The Concept of Citizen Society in early modern Poland-Lithuania”

16th century nobleman:

Nobles required faith, trust and freedom; follows Ciceronian concept of man as free and not easily corrupted by money

Citizens synonomous with nobles, who v numerous—20% in some areas

  • Legislation is consensual activity, goal as common good

Polish citizenship on daily practice: ideal citizen was perfect public orator, participation in civic life was essence of nobility

Vs. contrast to Hobbes—defines liberty negatively as absence of interference by state

And natural law not absorbed as elsewhere

Fredro: do not call our liberty license because license doesn’t exist where law exists

Privileges and liberties

1431habeas corpus: no nobleman imprisoned without legal processs

1490 Sejm with two chambers

1505 no new laws w/o unanimous consent of both chambers

1578 higher courts of peer elected judges

Republic could only be preserved by strong and virtuous civic society

Fortescue 14th century: dominium politicum et regale

Important element was extension of noble liberties to non-citizens; once citizens of X district given privileges said that “previously lived like donkeys in the field”

Later: issue of place of king resolved when agreed 3 estates of king nobility and commoners

+ movement to extend civic rights to nobles in other nations in commonwealth

+ sovereignty transferred from monarch to commonwealth, which gives sense of exception and superiority from rest of Europe where greater monarchic sovereigtny

Focus on 3 attempts–Jews, Cossacks and Prussians claim citizenship by practicing it

Prussian diet sets up and devolved authority; include urban members in their diet

Orthodox Cossacks: failure of integration into citizenship

  • had tried to attain noble status since defending P-L from Ottomans, but not trusted to uphold liberties of free republic, identifying with foreign elements alien to P-L culture;
  • rebellion when appeal to Muscovite Tsar to defend as Orthodox; lost eastern lands to Moscow

Jews signing names as Jews and citizens in one area, and seems recognised as such, with recourse to 1558 Law Statute which gives access to law courts

Then end of 18th century: introduction of property franchise disenfranchises poor noblemen, reducing political participation, also with greater influence of natural law

Power from above vs. power from below often misleading

  • JA: power of non-civil spheres has overwhelmed universalistic aspirations of civil sphere; but other times relative autonomy has maintained possibility of justice

Michael Brown “From Civic to Civil: Civil Society as Enlightenment Category”

Questions assumption that healthy democracy connected to healthy civil society

Gellner: given choice btw democracy and civil society, better civil society

Putnam:  bc of intellectual inheritance of northern city states, northern Italy more successful

Skocol: America’s active traditions have fostered democracy

Leaving aside issue of activity a la Skinner: need for active engagement w politics

Origins of civil (vs civic) society commonly located in 18th century

e.g. Ferguson 1767—but problematic father figure for this tradition

Aspects of civil society coming into focus 1680-1720

  • Civility: language of politeness in Earl of Shaftersbury as relational virtue—exchange btw individuals: need to temper sensibilities and passions
  • Public sphere as locale of these polite conversations and everyone had to be able to participate >link to democracy
  • Clubs and societies: participation w/o financial constraints etc.

…so three different aspects: language, location, outcome of shared decision-making—voluntary associations seen as outcome of polite discourse in public sphere

Not unlike Michael Edwards: civil society as good society/public sphere/associational life

However, scholars are falsely linking democracy to civil society

  • Numerous groups unable to participate: women, children, slaves etc.
  • Self-generating, consciously apolitical, limited in scope
  • Civic virtue of active, positive liberty is different to civil virtue of courtesy etc. conduct of individuals in immediate presence of each other, sensibilities of others and their idea of be esteemed: virtue of holding back rather than setting forward
    • Not game of power but of negotiation; regulate discussion of controversial subjects so dialogue doesn’t break down: mediating ontological differences over moral viewpoints
    • Really about moving past wars of religion: point not to share moral outlook but mediating their differences, neutralising religion as source of social conflict
    • Point therefore to depoliticize, repositioning outside the realms of state—no longer state’s concern what you believe, as long as don’t commit crimes on each other

Civic society being replaced by civil society in this period: no longer need for active political virtue, what is now needed is constraint

  • Ferguson: attack on failure of political activism of contemporaries—he remains part of tradition of civic politics and not of civil society
  • Also leads to Smith’s argument that state not to interfere in domains such as market
  • Preparing ground for secular state as identified by C Taylor
  • Civil society disconnected from state, removing certain actions from state’s remit: hence failure of Gellner etc. healthy civil society may imply disregard for political democracy, but akin to big society/small state (shared by Marx on withering away of state; Oakeshott on disintegration of state)


Andrea M: Societas in Latin was alliance btw peple e.g. to commit crime, but also used societas for human species: linkage—man could not live alone

Vs. for Greeks, animals were social but only humans were political requiring speech and practice…

Romans bring domain of oikos into public sphere under civitas

Aquinas: combines man as political and social which identifies contemplative, akin to civility—i.e. sees A’s sociality as akin to civility

  • Karin: civility was part of civic virtue in P-L
  • Michael: question is less about how treat each other in club, but how treat those in other clubs—e.g. in Ireland at time, civility comes into relations btw Anglicans, etc.

Jeff: agrees that apolitical aspect that emerging, but seems positive if don’t think that it by itself should be normative core of political, a la Putnam: being civil is enough; but Skocpol etc. bring in active virtues in what they call civil, not old ideas of tolerance, but to Greek polis, public as Arendt terms it

  • MB explains that opposing welding of active participation in politics w civil activism in neo-Roman work of Skinner, Pocock etc.: two traditions that lock together and not sure that fit well + not sure that tolrrance about democractic procedures, instead living in plural society > can be tolerant of ppl w/o giving political privilege: pluralist and democractic virtues are not the same>tolerance is consequence of plural society, not of democratic society (JA adds that authoritarian societies can be v tolerant)

Anael: why strictly separating where people meet with goals etc.? civility was thinking like a citizen, before it became private norms of civility etc. and tody now has become ideals of universalising community, rather than just private realm

  • MB Not that say these ppl to live just like us but that recognize living in plural society, rather than being about democracy; and no coincidence that this is period when shift from wars of religion to fighting empire > not universalising but actually dealing with difference

Matyas: to KF, P-L fascinating experiment though failure, ended on backfoot against absolutist monarchs; to MB, can agree w claim that went too far in associating political motives with civility, but otherwise of story is that civil society is constitutive of modern democracy, linked with law under constitution > democracy requires participation which requires political ties and only limited possibility of building those ties; alternatives are family, business collusion, tribes as in Kenya (whereby election looks like census, institutionalises rule of one tribe over another) etc. though civil society, inherently political, leads to legislative change e.g. Sarah’s Law in Scotland

  • KF most absolute monarchies also failed; in terms of political participation yes exclusion but typical of most periods elsewhere; but what important is that large parts of Polish society felt included
  • MB Matyas argues democracy>participation>ties>social capital, but ties required not of social capital but of political capital—social capital about pursuit of private good, while political capital is pursuit of public good, which is what democractic theorists are anxious to support e.g. chess club generates social capital and not political > not interested in public good

Phil O Skopcol and Putnam v different but agree that need active citizenry bc people disagree: civility gives you way of relating when disagree

  • MB utopian ideal of politics based on social capital is utopian e.g. in Ireland when getting clubs like Orange Order that then become political divisive (PO adds that social capital also made for fascism)

Tamas still point of civil society > changes conditions of legitimacy: tension btw civic and civil between constitutional and liberal elements of democracy > civility tames or moderates the civil virtue [presumably civic=constitutional, liberal=civil]

  • Enligtnemnt thinkers start to generate utopias but tools not in place

Danielle Counter-culture if by 18th century artistocratic principles of land emerge as principles of government

But feeling that in fact this version of liberalism only offers illusions of freedom, or only little glimpses of it, while arguably removing freedom in every other way, a la Foucault

Session 2

Ekow Yankah “What Civil? What Society? The Borders of Civic Virtue and What We Owe to Others”

Trevor Stack “Catholic-Scholastic Notions of (Civil) Society in Contemporary West Mexico”


1. Focus on “what society?” part of workshop topic

> which has received less attention in debates on civil society in spite of parallel debates on society

2. Focus on notion of society that which identified in anthropolo fieldwork in contemp west Mexico

a. which I usually call “loosely scholastic” because developed by medieval Catholic writers such as Aquinas, not unique to Catholics in contemporary world

> indeed, my own discipline of anthropology partakes of them, as does sociology perhaps especially in French tradition

b. although in this paper will discuss Catholic church in contemporary Mexico, which strangely neglected by social and political scientists—tends to treat churches as relics; whereas in fact have crucial

i. not just in relation to old notion of society but to revamped notion of “civil society” of recent decades, which Church played decisive role in sponsoring

ii. if time will say something about how revamped “civil society” of recent decades

3. Loosely ethnographic approach

a. take as starting point particular context

i. town of 8000 in pine-forest highlands of west Mexico

ii. as such

–          visited by thousands of weekenders from nearby metropolis of Guadalajara

–          in fact closely tied into orbit of Guadalajara and broader region

iii. including through structures of church

> relevant that central-west Mexico famed as region in which church retains much power

b. my fieldwork has focused on

i. my informants’ notions of citizenship, civil society and so on

e.g. key question: what does it mean to you to be a citizen?

ii. revealing because

–          what happens locally shaped by those understandings

  • followed large number of cases

–          local notions can throw up new theoretical insights

  • in this case, pushed me to reflect on notions of society

c. although ethnographic – approach not essentially different to other speakers

e.g. while JA looks to contemporary US for what notions and institutions of the civil, extrapolating from there, AG to India, with unsurprisingly different results

4. In paper

a. going to trace notions of sociedad

b. say where come from historically

c. what does—still struggling somewhat with this

d. if time something about revamped notion of civil society

> fairly descriptive paper but hope makes for some discussion

B. What notions of sociedad

1. In 2007 interviewed Claudia in 50s, 3 children, extended peasant family, active in church lay organisations, including cooperative groups, husband bricklayer:

+ when asked her my question—what does it mean to be a citizen?—CF began by replying: For me [citizen] means a person who enjoys all of his or her rights and carries out their duties. I don’t agree that you are a citizen when you are 18 years old, when you have your voting card. I associate citizenship with the rights you have as a person and the duties you have with respect to society. Or the people you live with.

a. As many informants did, Claudia uses law to set in relief her understanding of citizenship in the eyes of society – it was not legal adulthood or a voting card that made for a citizen.

b. She stresses rights to a greater degree than most informants—for reasons we will discuss—and immediately followed by referring to duties

c. what want to emphasize: speaks of duties with respect to society, which glosses here as “people you live with”

> “society” is key figure on which focusing

2. Found in many other interviews and conversations over 18 months of fieldwork that

a. sociedad figures firstly as kind of membership or commitment; an entity to which one contributes or in which one participates, more or less actively

e.g. Claudia goes on to say that that a child might not be a citizen in the eyes of the law but might still be one if exercising duties or responsibilities to others: “if a child of seven or eight years old finds out that there is a garbage recycling programme, which is a benefit for everyone, and he joins it and starts to promote it, he is already living as a citizen because he is getting involved in something that is about everyone, everyone’s well-being, and he feels the responsibility of collaborating.”

b. sociedad also figures as subject (or institution) that passes judgement

i. in this case, implicit in what Claudia says (and explicit in other informants) is that sociedad can decide whether or not someone is a citizen, as well as law can

ii. sociedad often disapproves of what people doing

e.g. protesting in disorderly ways

c. finally, sociedad figures as medium or inescapable condition of life itself

> this sense of “living in society” is what I found most distinctive

i. found in Anglo interviewees in California talked of “community” which

– something external to oneself

– service to it was

  • voluntary
  • measured in portions of time and money

ii. by contrast in Mexico: less voluntaristic notion of living in sociedad as condition that only the hermit could escape

3. This sociedad included but went beyond institutions of law and government

a. obeying law was part of what made for good citizens, but

i. just as Claudia like many informants: law defines citizenship as X but ultimately about contributing to society or living in it…

ii. more broadly, sociedad went beyond and could be at odds with institutions

> indeed, judicial institutions often considered inimical to sociedad

b. government or autoridad was

i. needed because living in sociedad inevitably produced differences and required organisation (sounding like Rousseau)

ii. for example, Municipal President expected, as part of office, to give audience to citizens and address issues

  • even though recently often try to channel issues through govt depts.

iii. at same time, government always at risk of “losing ground” in sociedad

e.g. often heard people complain of those who “lose their ground”

e.g. in general, politicians dismissed en masse as being terrible citizens

4. …and as such, they were examples of individuals shaking loose from sociedad

a. my informants often discussed this in terms of libertad and libertinaje

i. libertad was the liberty or freedom of free will that makes humans human, essential to life in sociedad

ii. libertinaje or license was the result of free will going astray, as it was apt to do, making sociedad the uneasy, stressful condition it was considered to be, whether in the case of:

  • reckless driving,  perhaps the most common example
  • almost-inevitable abuse of power through corruption and exploitation

5. So –

a. sociedad figures as membership, as judgement and as medium

b. embraces but goes beyond state institutions, and can even offer alternative ground to them

> which hints at where church comes in

c. concerned to rein in—never successfully—wilful libertinaje that also part of human condition

> sociedad was matrix in which will was held at bay, at least

> before say more about what sociedad does, say something about…

C. Where comes from (which also gives clues about something of things it does)

> still very much sketch:

  1. Spanish colonists and esp. missionaries took to New World notion of sociedad that they took from scholastics who drew part of it from ancient Greeks and esp. Aristotle
    1. in that colonial notion, sociedad was itself civil and identified with the urban: to quote influential manual of 1647

Aristotle and Cicero themselves defined the city as a perfect congregation of man, who previously scattered in huts in jungles and forests, came together, through which they managed to achieve many desirable ends, which in sociable and political life are possible, and is without a doubt much better than solitary life, as Saint Thomas [Aquinas] teaches us…

b. no mere political theory but blueprint for empire

i. native population resettled from the sixteenth century into civilized towns, which named republics, although often accused of slipping back out of sociedad into hills…

ii. …especially by Spanish missionaries who had exclusive access to Indian republics, whose urban layout—literally a matrix—centred on mission and later parish church

2. Into nineteenth century

a. push from post-independence governments to nationalise sociedad

i. by trying to create idea of Mexican nation

ii. sweeping away colonial status including official distinctions between Indian and Spanish republics

iii. in 2nd half of century

–          complaining that  Mexico was still sociedad de sociedades: by sociedades meant especially municipalities that heirs of the old republicas, which strove to undermine

–          sometimes use radical liberal language of individual autonomy that would seem to undermine emphasis on sociality

b. however

i. limited power to transform

–          until late 19th century priority was building strong state

–          church continues to reproduce and uses in polemic against radical liberals

ii. at least in early years, state itself ends up teaching older notions of sociedad

e.g. introduces civic catechisms in which man is defined as social being

3. Mexican Revolution of 1910-17 brings to power regime that

a. introduces unprecedented range of entitlements in Mexican Constitution

b. mobilises major “cultural revolution” by which Mexicans come to see themselves as mestizos and indeed as Mexican

i. not least through truly effective network of schools

ii. allowing to contain role of church, which no longer officially allowed to run schools

c. retains and vastly expands Civic education of previous century; in spirit of what Matyas—states trying to create normative framework for civil society

i. sets out basic constitutional rights as Mexicans and, in some periods, stresses entitlement as Mexicans to many things that clearly did not have, which fuelled local struggles

ii. but still has as key chapter, to present day, the same “Individual in Society”

– clearly one source of what my interviewees said

– but clear from informants: sociedad still not monopoly of state far from it

D. What figure of sociedad (that contains willful license) does

> still hard to pin down; not unlike revamped civil society, depends on how precisely deployed

1. Can be

a. particularistic and hierarchical

i. sociedad did often mean town or municipality, not unlike colonial times

> never fully nationalised

ii. tacit hierarchies, for example of city or townfolk over rural, not unlike colonial times

b. but also has inclusive and cosmopolitan face

e.g. considering not only children but committed non-Mexicans to be citizens in the eyes of society

2. Can motivate sense of duty although not necessarily through collective action

a. inspires a sense of commitment, just as US volunteerism

b. but like it, often consists of personal actions, e.g. picking up trash

> maybe that revamped civil society has more to offer

3. Can expand reach of state institutions although can also offer alternative ground to them

a. govt use of sociedad in Civics textbooks designed to harness sense of sociedad

> participation was keyword of recent textbooks through 1990s

b. however: seen that can offer alternatives

i. which can be oppressive

e.g. sociedad frowns on disorderly protest

e.g. groups of highschool pupils: sociedad stigmatizes children of single mothers, even when law protects them

ii. but can be turned around

e.g. protestors defend selves in eyes of sociedad when govt tries to use law against them

4. As alternative, can provide space for

a. critique of persons or institutions

e.g. accusing municipal president of shaking loose from sociedad

b. wholesale dismissal

i. of institutions and whole sphere of politics

ii. of fellow citizens: often said that

– drive like animals

– otherwise unworthy of trust

c. until recently excepting church

> though hard hit by sex scandals

5. Finally

a. although not inconducive to rights > as can see in quote from Claudia

b. may well be inhospitable for classically liberal Rechtstaat whose raison d’etre is to guarantee basic rights of citizens as individuals

E. What has to do with revamped “sociedad civil”?

> chose Claudia because not only does she speak of sociedad but she is part of local group that embodies revamped notions of civil society and citizenship:

1. Local group of 2-15 members

a. formed in 1990s as Human Rights Group

b. affiliates in 2000 to newly-formed organisation Citizen Power

i. government had governed through Institution Revolutionary Party which conglomerate of organisations through which resources were channelled in return for support including votes in one-party elections that worked as plebiscites

ii. from 1970s, range of organisations excluded converge on goal of creating conditions for victory of opposition parties in elections, under sign of citizens

>organised citizenry and civil society were synonomous

iii. since 2000 election, civil society defined as beyond political parties

> although CP stages debate between municipal candidates

2. Subplot: as many or most such organisations, significant that main sponsor is the Church

a. PC

i. parish group originally

ii. PC run out of Jesuit Univ and sponsored by LT diocese

b. Church had

i. long identified with civil society as sphere of associations that not natural—unlike family—and yet indispensable, and which retain bulwark against totalitarian state, whether socialist, fascist or liberal, as well as agents of subversion that fought against

ii. faced with weakening of regime and increasing radicality of protest, seeks to cultivate—not unlike in 1890s—certain kind of organization of which PC is good example

3. Many varieties of revamped civil society in contemp Mexico but detect trace of sociedad in it

a. Focus on rights but also duty to sociedad

b. claim of sociedad civil to be independent of state

E. Conclusions

1. Looking at notions is revealing of what happens locally but also throws up broader theoretical insights

a. locally

b. theoretical…

2. Draws attention to, among other things

a. institutional contexts for civil society–and including  churches

b. queries whether contemporary civil society are all that voluntaristic

3. Normatively, though, not to assume that is desirable

>  I have some sympathy for arguments of those like:

a. Aguilar Rivera: cites lynch mobs etc. as examples of excess of solidarity which shows up how state fails to secure basic rights of citizens

b. or indeed, scholars like Turner who place faith in state to which people relate as private citizens and which makes good on their entitlements…


Henry: metaphysical basis? Also question about apartment:

  • For Aristotle, sees as reading empirically out of nature; instead metaethical in that empirically
  • Inter-connectedness is subverted by market,

Karin: liberty vs. license

  • What is defense against license? Cites Polish noble saying that not just license but liberty is defined in old customary law
  • Civil vs civic (which Michael argued against) social capital is defence against overbearing state—civil essence of organisations could turn into civic task of defending liberty against overbearing states >otherwise might lose liberty in civil society: so merger of civil and civic is important for civil to pursue liberty

Ekow: liberty of citizen is as citizen—but Millian liberalism takes any trade-off in liberty to be justified e.g. by cost-benefit, such as in stop light, but for Aristotle: community may have no choice but to banish people who have put themselves above law—this is terrifying thing

Ajay: discourse on virtue is too moral, Catholic in nature > takes into realm of intention—intangibility of intention in modern democracy is made good in law; exceptional laws against terrorism etc. worked on basis of intention—link between law and virtue

+ end up w moral minimum, even in Kymlicka on multiculturalism—moral minimum for immigrants, which is standard for civility: link between civility, morality and legality in notion of social order

  • E Resists link btw virtue and law: making distinction between civic virtue and virtue generally>this has been lost from Aristotle: virtue was in his Ethics and not in his Politics, in which virtue features much less and only in relation to civic obligations: not about being good person—here best person is person who treats others with justice
  • There is A justification for law of exception but for those who attack civic polity as such: this is related to intention—whether offending morality as mass murderer or civic polity itself, though true that v dangerous
  • Agrees danger w moral minimum of civility that excludes that those not civic: short-sighted community can be miserly t/w those who learn to include
    • Americans have political rights to treat undoc workers as want, but that is realm of politics, though agrees that least attractive part of argument

Phil O intent is certainly dealt with in law; but also debates about law enforcing morality e.g. addiction, abortion etc. which brings into play moral values; one thing about Aristotle is that citizens have obligations—qu whether relevant today; if social life etc. doesn’t live up, incentive to get out there and be more active > imperative for dissonance btw expectations and reality, less in A’s account; aristocracy and democracy don’t mix

  • My answer: not clear whether sociedad actually motivates people to promote and be more active or dissuades them from it
  • Ekow Modern American: rights against the state vs. Aristotelian: rights in return for duties

Ekow religion—freedom of religion wasn’t issue in ancient Athens but yes in Aquinas whereby religion, civic virtue and law come together > if Catholic, can punish you but Church should not impose religion on others, bc those outside church could not be imposed upon as matter of conscience; but how plays out with so much of education etc. controlled by church

Ekow for Aristotle polity can yes be unbalanced but not outright exploitation of one group over another, even of slaves—are we treating undoc workers worse than slaves?

Tamas if saying diff normative principles apply to citizens and non-citizens, what dis relation of justice and civic virtue?

Andrea license can be taken or given—can be granting permission, freedoms to which entitled i.e. is license taking freedom to which not entitled

  • Different concepts of freedom: libertad that opposed to libertinaje is more natural freedom of human will, rather than something to which entitled > freedom as a condition but also as a problem
  • But yes, other sense of freedom given in law e.g. free expression

Session 3

Raul Acosta “Civil Society as the Aspiration for Orderly Dissent: Differential Attitudes towards Social Movements, NGOs and Advocacy Networks”

Civil society can mean orderly dissent but gets polluted by progress as moral improvement

Brazilian Amazon: protected area of indigen groups

  • Meeting btw indig groups w soya export producers mediated by NGO, intended to force govt to make plan for area before road was paved which wld facilitate trucks and deforestation
  • Quotes one leader “If you have a polarised debate radical elements dominate > need to separate reasonable from unreaonsable people” but also goes on to say that there are differences within NGO, which are legitimate, and which can handle it
  • Thus trying to bring orderly dissent in arena of civil society

Dissent: Basic disagreements, taboos, cultural configuration, taboos, conflicts, social dramas etc. > all are necessary for change

Book combining social solidarity and anthropological gift: gift entails reciprocity of exchange in relations; division of labor > need to rely on each other, lifeworld as interconnected experience

  • Sociality is one option > understand that rights earned through demands and actions—understand that result of previous conflicts: shows perpetual state of becoming

Public order:

1. coercive society: censorship, restricted rights etc.

2. self-policiing: democratic authority, minim policing, collective rights, empowerment of individuals

Book on solidarity: social change through revolution vs. evolution

Relation btw advocates and activists

Organic analogy: society as ecosystem, sum of organizations in world

Vs. evolution as linear progress

  • Civil ecosystems? Links state power configurations to civil society arrangements

Activism and advocacy

Dmitry Goncharov “Postcommunist Civil Society: Uncivil Limitations and Uncivic Constraints”

Communist govt tries to destroy any form of autonomous social or private life

+ attempt to change culturally by developing utopian collectivism instead of bourgeois individulalism, which quite successful

But also how need to rely on each other just to survive; political patronage etc. > these were solidarity networks but not civil

At some point anti-Communists realize this struggle against rule not possible bc of overwhelming power of state, after Prague Spring

Pitched in terms of repair of solidarity in Communist society but of politics; courage prized as civic

Postcommunist agenda: to create civil forms of solidarity

Problem w democratization theory: lack of attention to solidarity beyond “civil society”, regarded as problem or survival

Anti-civic civil society: govt does not support anti-civic civil society that challenges image of regime: drawing boundaries between these two—civically versus socially active organisations


Henry question

  • Raul importance of emotional links that motivate people; rubber tappers and other groups develop in contrast to ciudadania florestania, which is right to live in forest, out of modernity, as opposed to city

Matyas: 1956 Revolution was socialist, 1968, in 1970s arguing for human rights bc argued that same alienation as in West, only in 1980s becomes transition to Wes; But since then: living under Communism creates distrust of competition, believe that only fair protection from competition is state, which creates condition in which civil society cannot flourish; Democracy becomes autocracy of your kind of people

Hilary in 2005 Russian govt starts to close international civil society organisatoins incl. British Council

  • Strategy of building authoritarian regimes

Ajay can’t discuss civil society as space of bonhomie > comes about through social configuration of power; priest is civil/moral authority of this kind of centrism, which Communist state fought with violently with centralisation

Jeff haven’t talked about nation in conference, complex relation between civil sphere; long tradition of contrasting civic and primordial nationalism… how important that new Russia sees itself as alternative kind of nation?

Andrey disagrees that attempt to replace uncivil solidarity of Soviet replaced by civil society afterwards, since various manifestations of civic ideal under Soviets; why did these virtues not travel to post-Soviety?

Phil O: in Amazon hard to organise bc vulnerability and soy farms so big and so much inequality, even if extreme form in Russia; how to explain reaction to fires?

Session 4: Responses and general discussion

Karen: whose civil? Whose society?

  • universalizing rhetoric has hidden some of that history
  • e.g. Hedonism I/II commoditised noncivil behaviour in this space, even if other spaces not permitted, and not coincidental that in Caribbean; disaster porn
  • Marcus Wood Horrible Gift of Freedom enslavers decide that wrong to do so, now offer freedom to ppl that previously bought; can pay people who formerly enslaved, or make apprentices for long time; not experienced as right but offered as gift and slave needs to react in particular way to it
    • Gift of civility: wouldn’t want to see civility being introduced as gift

Marieke: setting up Centre for Civil Society at American Univ of Beirut

  • Interested in media even though often said that been privatised; civil society about distrust, scandal etc. even though in Arab World thought that this is a problem
  • Syria has tried to copy Soviet model and also has strong ties of religion, tribe, nepotism etc.
  • PO transitional strong government
  • Anael Hezbollah civil society organisation
  • For Dmitiry Hezb or Hamas are good exa of uncivil structures of solidarity, but these don’t provide basis for institution building, universal public efficient institutions of particularistic structures > lessons to be learned about how manage people and enthuse them

Hilary: anxiety about definitions—she was thinking whose law etc. e.g. apartheid South Africa; Chandoke—concept of civil society that everyone agrees is a good thing>must be good thing…asks where are grey areas? Marxian exploitation? When are ppl so excluded that never part of civil society e.g. Roma person who told doesn’t exist bc no ID… but NC civil society what inhabitants make of them> nothing automatically assures victory of democratic projects, just provides actors w values, space to battle for democracy

Michael B: question of publicity, being in public—privilege of getting access to the public; finds shift in boundaries around private, and also how private life; state-sponsored fun that he abhors; politics of advocacy needs to be accompanied by politics of privacy, which is not to be intruded on; what is reach of civil society, not just state, into private lives of individuals, e.g. phone hacking; civil society can corrode

Anna: main interest is exclusion and inclusion—mainly society versus state being discussed but not society versus nation; NGOization of both civic and civil; social economy; migration—work in Helsinki thinktank taht focusing on legal reforms but found v unproductive

James: recently looking at defining civil society—is it the complement of the state? Or replacing? Virtues in relation of civic which seems adjective for state and law; i.e. not in antagonism

Gostav: work on colonial cities—does civil society have concrete spatial terms? And can be multiple civl societies urban neighbourhoods in 19th century Indian city where community around neighbourhood w local regulations; when someone insults from other neighbourhoods, have right to go and beat up person in other neighbourhood upholding honour; who is defining civil society?is there hegemony built into way cs defined? How to work w each other dissent?

Min: in Nepal support from international community for supporting civil society etc. but organisations had to pay tax on funding from internat organs > becomes business for govt when not paying tax before; millionaires corrupting process; how big advocacy networks

Ramola: not much said on gender but also multiple identities; 44% vote against independence, conflicting loyalties; asking how impacts on strength of civil society movements; what space is made for women? Strong religious lobby esp Church w Muslim orgniastoins against pro-abortion law which passed last week, but was division which allowed to

Ulisses: how state and non-state violence impacts activists/advocates? Any perception of state being obliged to protect them?

Caroline? Just returned from fieldwork in Sierra Leone; found ppl continusly saying that British civilized us—resonances of civil; finds that civil society is tick in box

Andrea: political is missing—what is political project behind notions of civil society? and whether ends up doing exactly opposite? For him something that affects constituton of society is political

Jeff civil society comes up w decline of communism as utopia—now no conference on socialism; v little empirical theory about civil society; at conference mostly worked w CSI and instead about what not civil society—no one agrees what it is which creates much confusion; but can list things such as non coercive, etc. but though some dispute role of law, law is part of it, as is media; is idea of face to face society from ancient world relevant now? Tendency in empirical discussion to argue that discourse of civil society is crippled by claim to perfection. Wld have to argue that feminist, ecological movements are all within civil sphere, on behalf of some of ideals, pushing on state

Phil O civil society is ideal in search of reality and there are several ideals which haven’t separated out; Murdoch scandal—legitimacy of system will be confirmed in process of how it works out; civil society also decides what is public and what is private; even Michael agreed that civil society resolved religious conflict which is major political achievement

Ekow liked civility as gift > Aristotle says duty bound to treat others such, not a gift; even human impulse of belonging can be pathological if end up demonizing others (beating up is mild); immigration is area in US where widespread massive law breaking—that legal obligration is drained of civic virtue; likes barrier btw civic and civil—stg for neighbourhoods, families, churches to solve problems, can’t always be state

Karen: though believes in emancipator of humans also v sceptical of them; civil society used in context of places that have been messed up for long time, and v poor states

Matyas: we agree on structures but not on worth bc our politics is different; civil vs. civic can agree on conceptual level; in case of Roma, there are many such organisations that have had major successes even if not individuals, incl through Euro institutions, courts etc. though is constantly falling short bc not enough solidarity thru racism to tackle problems (Hilary disagrees bc not many in official orgaisations); surprised that v little on human rights which complement

Ajay: there are societies in which people don’t agree that civil society is ideal for them; need to critique category in name of civil society rather than alterantive ways of critiquing e.g. discomfort of notion of populism in Ltin America, where populism a la Laclau is politics; for some of us civl society full of moralities of exclusion; proble is not with ideas of civil society as stand on own e.g. dialogue but ordering they get into > What is prioritised over what at particular times, intersections between them e.g. nothing wrong w being civil, problem is context/ordering; prob not w civic virtue but how gets inflected into law, how morality gets into law, how converts into moral minimum>tend to discuss independently of each other rather than looking at how relate to each other


  • civil society supposed to be about change but considered success if nothing changes—conflict can be about maintaining status quo
  • connection with democracy should not be taken for granted e.g. vibrant civil society in China but not necessarily through democracy, e.g. critical news reports
  • in Ghana civil society only used as tool for donor funding; when look at those groups, would not characterise as such if measured them against the language of civility bc partisan etc.; but still civil in that legitimate through own orders of authorisation


  • Marxist tradition of civil society as domain of struggle
  • Civil society closed and built on boundaries
  • Multitude: spontaneous organisation
  • ubuntu—not about inclusion/exclusion


  • NGOization/professionalization
  • Civil society empty of meaning


  • Use of civil society by government since 1980s to neutralise protests of 1960s e.g. civil rights


  • Ana Hazare movement in India: those who don’t see movement in terms of civil society

Andrea: member of society

James: what does civil society grow out of? Human society?

Danielle: is unethical to call group civil society when not called themselves such? Since strong linguistic meaning

Andrea: civil society used by journalists and academics vs. spontaneity

+ Liberalism was getting emancipated from church and corporations; but also tradition of spontaneous mobilisation which Hobbes distinguishes from people

Andrea: both civil society like nation can be counter-hegemonic

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