So far this page is a subset of the summary points from the page AnglospherePrimer.
Properties of civil societies:
- A civil society is composed of a network of groups of individuals.
- “strong networks of voluntary association”
- or, “Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values.”
- Examples of groups
- community groups
- religious groups
- social groups
- business groups
- but the individual is important in hirself, not only as a member of a group
- Individuals may dissociate themselves from groups without prejudice
- Loyalty to the group does not supercede moral obligations to the rest of society, such as fair dealing
- Groups have no power over its members other than withdrawal of help or expulsion from the group.
- “individuals may choose to join associations marked by inherited ties, such as ethnic or religious organizations, but are not penalized for declining to join.”
- “The state deals with those individuals independently, rather than as members of [a] collective.”
- (somewhat?) related customs and values:
- “rule of law”
- “honoring contracts and covenants”
- “the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.”
- Common Law principles
- trial by jury
- presumption of innocence
- “a man’s home is his castle”
- “a man’s word is his bond”
- relationships to market economies
- “Entrepreneurship in business uses and requires the same talents, and often the same motives, that go into starting a religious, nonprofit, or political organization. The society that can create entrepreneurial businesses tends to be the same society that creates the other forms of organizations as well – often the same individuals start several of each form at different stages in their lives.”
- “The market economy also requires a civil society with general acceptance of a common framework of laws, practices, and manners. Without a general acceptance of fair dealing, an agreement on what fair dealing means, and a system that can adjudicate disputes, a true market economy cannot exist.
- “Civic states” found with civil societies believe that authority derives from the assent of the governed, in a bottom-up manner: “authority begins at the local and community level and is gradually built upwards to deal with wider-scale issues”
- “Civic states rely on community assent and a feeling of participation in a local, regional, and national community”
- The authority of the state is upheld not by constant exercise of force, but by the willingness of citizens to comply.
- Provides citizens with an effective means of assent and dissent
- Examples of “civic state” groups in medieval England
- grand and petit jury systems
- the election of various aldermen and other local officials
- the quasi-official role of many civil institutions
- heritage of common law administered by an independent judiciary
- Selecting members of the House of Commons was one of many different mechanisms by which local communities gave or withheld their consent to the state.
Things which may appear to be civic socities or civic states but are not:
- ““economic states” in which loyalty is primarily pragmatic and based on expectation of benefits through cross-subsidization.”
- “People who define themselves primarily as members of collective entities, be they families, religions, racial or ethnic groups, political movements, or corporations, cannot form the basis of a civil society. “
- “Societies that permanently bind individuals under the discipline of inherited or assigned collectives (such as ethnic, racial, or religious groups)”
- societies in which “the state deals with everyone as members of ethnic, racial, or religious communities (such as the vilayet system of the Ottoman Empire)” are not civil societies
- AnglospherePrimer asserts that such societies “remain bogged down in ethnic, racial, or religious factionalism, nepotism, and economic systems such as the “crony capitalism” so prevalent in East Asia and Latin America.”
- A society may conduct democratic votes without being a civil society
Historic causes of civil societies:
- “Strong civil society has its roots in medieval Europe, as a result of the society being built of a mix of tribal, feudal, local, church, family, and state institutions, characterized by the lack of a single, overwhelming power that could impose its will. Gradually the different interests established negotiated relationships of power and influence, none of which involved full submission of one element to another. At first these institutions were for the most part neither free nor voluntary in nature. However, the multiplicity of institutions eventually permitted some liberty, and eventually many individuals to establish a substantial freedom and independence through astute negotiation.”
The paper you’re citing is weird! I don’t recall where I found this, but the London School of Econ / Poli Sci has a really great (e.g. baggage-free) working definition of the civil society, which I’ll quote here:
- “Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of spaces, actors and institutional forms, varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power. Civil societies are often populated by organisations such as registered charities, development non-governmental organisations, community groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.”
Also, I believe this is my first edit to CommunityWiki, please advise on any matters of style etc.
Hi Brian, welcome! Thanks for the alternate defn.
I guess the alternative defn says all that is really agreed upon, but I think that all it boils down to is “Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values.”. But I think AnglospherePrimer’s much more restrictive definition has some interesting points, such as its way of delineating the line between empowering groups and disempowering individuals and its discussion of civil society as a network of groups through which assent and power is transferred.
Relationship with OrganizedCulture
I honestly cannot tell!
I was looking through there pages, and have a hard time making out just what “Appropriate Civil Society” is..!
We’ve talked about CivilSociety here before, and I’m sympathetic to that vision.
But when I think of OrganizedCulture, I think I mean something a bit more sweeping – something enabled by HyperSocial technology, that makes group formation and group identification vastly easier than it is right now.
Imagine if forming a corporation (a “body”, as it were) were as simple as snapping your fingers. And imagine that tons of people were doing it, and the EcosystemOfNetworks became flesh. That’s something of what I envision OrganizedCulture to be.
CivilSociety works in that vision, but does not require it.
And I have no idea what “Appropriate Civil Society” is. http://appropriatesoftware.net/wiki?AppropriateCivilSociety does not exist..!