chapter  12
20 Pages

It’s about participation, stupid. Is it? – civil-society concepts in comparative perspective

BySTEFANIE EDLER - WOLLSTEIN AND BEATE KOHLER - KOCH

Proponents of civil society have difficulties talking to each other because some see it as an empirical reality that is worth exploring with the well-established toolkit of empirical political sociology, whereas others take it as a political concept of society with strong normative overtones. The contributions to this volume concentrate on the concept of civil society, on the role attributed to civil society at different times and in different countries, on the reasons for its surfacing and its multiple forms in political discourse. However, instead of analysing the meanings of civil society per se, the authors endeavour to understand how it is articulated in discourses and used in processes of political reforms in a given historic situation. Civil society is seen both as a myth and a pragmatic remedy presumed to make for a better society. The concept quite obviously has its ups and downs over time and is closely related to the search for legitimate governance. Comparing the different civic frameworks, this concluding chapter tries to shed light on the varied and often contradictory uses of the idea of civil society. By comparing a wide range of countries we try to elucidate similarities and differences that represent different worldviews and are inflicted by different political cultures and forms of government.