Civil Society

Civil Society is comprised of citizen based organizations established for the good of society as opposed to governmental organizations or private organizations organized for private purposes.  Both the left and the right in the United States tend to view a strong civil society as important to a vibrant democratic society.

Overall, then, for liberals and conservatives, "civil society" is another way of saying "community"; for conservatives, however, "civil society" is also another way of saying "non-statist problem-solving."  Sometimes conservatives differentiate local, Tocquevillian civil society from large, government-funded NGOs such as Oxfam and YMCA.

Some on the left would argue that much of civil society is controlled by those with power and influence which may further repress those already marginalized.  Some on the right would raise concern that civil society actors inappropriately promote direct democracy at the expense of control by elected representatives in a republic.

Organizations such as the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation, Village Square and Living Room Conversations focus on re-weaving social, civil fabric of America.

QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:

-Is civil society under threat right now?  Why or why not?

-If civil society is like a garden that needs to be grown and cultivated, what components of this garden are most lacking right now? 

Contributors: 

John Kesler, Michael Strong

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