Over the last decade, the term ‘civil society’ seems to have become naturalized, at least in Anglo-American discourse. It is now used in everyday development talk, though mostly without a great deal of reflection. Non-government organizations are commonly referred to as ‘civil society’ or, alternatively, as the ‘third sector’ as an add-on to the sectors of state and private capital. Conservative commentators express concern over what they perceive as its dwindling energy in western countries. Typically, they link the recovery of civic energies to the process of democratization, not only in the new democracies of Eastern Europe but across the globe – the Middle East, for example, or the People’s Republic of China. In their view, civil society is the last best hope of democracy; it is the people, acting through voluntary organizations in local communities who will take back government from corrupt politicians and impersonal bureaucrats and put it in the hands of associations they themselves control.