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By John R. Ehrenberg

In the absence of noble public objectives, renowned leaders, and compelling matters, many warn of a deadly erosion of civil society. Are they correct? What are the roots and implications in their insistent alarm? How can public existence be enriched in a interval marked by means of fraying groups, common apathy, and extraordinary degrees of contempt for politics? How should still we be pondering civil society?

Civil Society examines the old, political, and theoretical evolution of the way civil society has been understood for the earlier and a part millennia. From Aristotle and the Enlightenment philosophers to Colin Powell's Volunteers for the US, Ehrenberg offers an quintessential research of the possibilities-and limits-of what this more and more vital inspiration can supply to modern political affairs.

Civil Society is the winner of the Michael J. Harrington Award from the Caucus for a brand new Political technology of APSA for the easiest booklet released in the course of 1999.

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Extra info for Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea

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It also revolved around the understanding that men and women lived their lives in separate spheres, and Greek theory considered a wide range of human relations. Love, friendship, teaching, marriage, citizenship, the duties of slaves, the responsibilities of masters, the skills of artisans, and the division of laborall were studied in their uniqueness and in their connectedness. The observation that people live together in distinct yet related associations stimulated debate about uniqueness and commonality, particularism and universalism.

All disturbances can be traced to the inability of the state's constituent parts to function according to their natures and to the consequent disruption of the health of the whole. Just as wickedness stems from ignorance, so the corruption afflicting Athens originated in division. If "injustice is like disease and means that this natural order is inverted,"6 it follows that political theory should seek to identify the source of social and political turmoil. Life was lived in separate spheres, and it was more important than ever to discover the political principles that could organize civil society into a coherent whole.

F. Hegel's criticism of Kant's "introversion" led to a theorization of the three ethical moments of the family, civil society, and the state. Hegel's civil society was inhabited by "economic man," was constituted by his private interestsand was a sphere of moral action. A network of social relations standing between the family and the state, it linked self-serving individuals to one another in a mediating sphere of social connections and moral freedom. But Hegel's civil society fails to realize the fullest measure of freedom because it cannot solve the persistent problem of pauperism, and he ended with the reactionary doctrine that Prussia's bureaucratic state could resolve social antagonisms.

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