The concept of civil society was reinvented in Eastern Europe and Latin America in the 1980s and has subsequently travelled to all corners of the globe, both through intellectual exchange and through the official language of donors and politicians. To some, this spread represents part of a neo-imperialist project of imposing Western hegemony. For most activists, however, civil society is not about fostering global capitalism, minimising the state or disseminating western values but about increasing the responsiveness of political institutions. It is about the radicalisation of democracy and the redistribution of political power. This volume explores how the idea of civil society has been translated in different cultural contexts and examines its impact on politics worldwide. Comparing and contrasting civil society in Latin America and Eastern Europe, Western Europe and the United States, Africa and South Asia, and the Middle East, the contributors show that there are multiple interpretations of the concept that depend more on the particular political configuration in different parts of the world than on cultural predilections.
They also demonstrate that the power of civil society depends less on abstract definitions and more on the extent to which it is grounded in the context of actual experiences from around the world. This book includes contributions from some of the biggest names in the area such as Mary Kaldor, Ronnie Lipschutz and Helmut Anheier. There is continued and growing interest in civil society particularly in the disciplines of politics and sociology. Given the book's broad and regional focus it will also be of interest to area studies specialists and those studying development economics.
Marlies Glasius is a researcher at the Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics and a Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance.
David Lewis is Reader in Social Policy at the London School of Economics.
Hakan Seckinelgin is a lecturer in International Social Policy, the Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics.