Civil existing between the state and the

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Civil society is the
concept which refers associations of individuals apart from state and family
existing on voluntary basis with specific pursued interests. This concept has
been defined by various scholars covering a wide scope of citizen association
and participation in various collective interests perused between state and the
private sphere, some scholars agree that it is mediation sphere existing
between the state and the private sphere, it is a third sector after private
and public sphere. According to Diamond (1994) Civil society can be considered
as “a realm of organized social life that is voluntary, self generating,
autonomous from the state and bound by a legal order or set of shared rules”
his main emphasis is on voluntary association of citizen, this voluntary
association is established neither in the family nor the state, with their
common shared interests they are guided by rules or any other set of order
established to guide their associations in attempt to achieve their common
interests. Also Bratton (1994) defines civil society as “a sphere of social
interaction between the household and the state which is manifest in norms of
community cooperation, structures of voluntary association, and networks of
public communication” like Diamond, Bratton considers civil society as third
established sphere between the family or household and the state, other
scholars too agree civil society as a sphere where collective interest can be
achieved apart from state and family.

Civil society defines a
broad scope of individual associations which can be formal or informal which
pursuing various range of activities and interests which are expected to be
collectively achieved of economic, development, cultural, civic and other
diverse fields which collective interests 
are directed. Its origin can be traced far back in the history of
classical philosophical grounds although it is considered to be highly
influenced and shaped by liberal thinking, where the concept gained more
attention with emergence of democracy and the need to limit power of the state
by social institutions (Bratton, 1994). This is to say, the concept of civil
society despite the fact of gaining attention with emergence wave of liberal
political thinking it is a product of evolution of various constructive
philosophical ideas evolved overtime responding various situations, thinking
and time. The ideas of civil society can be traced from classical philosophers,
renaissance philosophers, 19th Century, 20th Century; the
aim of this paper is to highlight the contribution of philosophers of the
renaissance, 19th century and 20th century to modern
civil society which is characterized by more formalized and specialized
structures of association existing between the state and private sector.


The contribution of
renaissance philosophers

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was the era of transition from medieval era, was another important remarkable
era in the development of civil society as continuation of ideas of the
previous thinkers of classical, middle ages and social contract philosophers, the
renaissance philosophers started to challenge feudalism and divine authority of
the medieval period by opposing the ideas of medieval philosophers St.
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, among the philosophers of this era includes David
Hume and Emmanuel Kant who posed important ideas concerning defining features
of contemporary social associations established between family and the state to
achieve common interests.

contribution to civil society can be extracted from his intellectual reflection
of human nature, where he believes individuals in the society are governed by
their personal interest to the extent of giving them priority over collective
good, he believed justice will exist if individuals will compel to believe in
common good and prioritize it over personal interest and this was possible only
from individuals consent without any order from above which would coerce them
to go for collective interests (Hume, 1748).  The contemporary civil society is defined by
associations which are established on voluntary basis, Diamond (1994)
highlights “organized social life that is voluntary” in defining civil
societies where Hume emphasize on consent of an individual to give priority to
the common goods over personal interests. Hume believes moral duties as a foundation
of civil society where moral obligation is concerned with justice and fidelity,
with justice one will be able to respect the property of the others and
fidelity one will be able to keep promises, with all these an individual should
left free to make rational and voluntary choice, however absolute government is
incompatible with civil society and so the state needs civil government which
is consistent with civil societies (Hume, 1994).

Kant conception of civil societies concerned with how individuals treat each
other in the society, he believed in associational life people should treat
others as the end in themselves not the means to the end he considered the
society must exist where people will be responsible to make sure their actions
in attempt to achieve their personal interests do not tread in others actions
or ways to pursue their interests, and then how our actions do benefit others
than our own interest is what makes association life perfect in the society (Brien
1999).  Kant
suggested civil society to be districted from the state as public sphere, for him
civil society is formed by committed citizens without arbitrary rule, religious
orthodoxy or any kind of social inequalities making the civil society as public
sphere not a social class dominated sphere.  Reflecting the modern civil society like
suggested by Immanuel Kant, it is defined as the third sphere out of state and
family, in explaining civil society as a realm apart from state Bratton (1994) “We
can conceive of the state as the realm of the politics of force by which
governing elites exert their domination over society. By contrast, civil
society is the realm of consent through which citizens may choose to accept or
to reject the use of force by state officials.” With Kant’s position that civil
society is distinct from the state, contemporary definition of civil society as
defined by various scholars align with this idea that civil society are social
associations which are neither family nor the state pursuing common interests.

contribution of the 19th Century Philosophers

The 19th
Century was also another milepost in development of conception civil society
from various philosophical ideas; Friedrich Hegel and Alexis de Tocqueville are
among of the great thinkers of this time whose ideas are considered to be the
basis of the contemporary civil society.

Friedrich Hegel also conceived
civil society as a separate sphere from family and the state , for him in the
state civil society is what matters, Hegel (1821) “When the state is
represented as a union of different persons, that is, a unity which is merely a
community, it is only the civic community which is meant” he argues that in a
civil society each individual member has particular personal interests or goals
thus considering nothing else is worth to him, but unless with cooperation with
others such individual cannot accomplish his goals, and so  making others as the means for his
achievement, when this individual in association with others struggle to
achieve his own ends then he will also accomplish the goals of the others, this
is to say while satisfying himself he will also satisfy the needs of all
others, Hegel emphasizes on mutual dependence in the civil society,
contemporary civil society is also conceived that individuals with their
personal interests come together out of family and state and establish means to
achieve common goals while an individual is expecting to achieve his particular
goals he also facilitates achievement of the goals of other members in the
civil society.

Alexis de Tocqueville
analyzed American politics with beginning of democracy, his analysis highlighted
the important concerns in the contemporary civil society and its role as a
sphere between family and the state, in his analysis Tocqueville highlighted
individualism and equality and their position in building American associational
life, for him civil society was linked with achieving collective ends rather
than individual interests.  By
recognizing that Americans promoted equality, American citizen would feel equal
to each other in a way that would create mutual respect which was very important
to achieve public participation political life (Brien 1999). With mutual
respect architected by equality citizens in social associations and groups will
feel as a part of a group and serve well to achieve collective ends in and so
citizen will feel their goals will be better achieved through collective means
by considering the need of others too. However Tocqueville feared individualism
would lead to selfishness and breakdown of civic virtue, emphasis to
individuality individual interest would overweight collective interest but
emphasized civil society helps in strengthening democracy (Brien 1999). The
contemporary civil society is also defined by its importance in consolidation
and strengthening democracy, among other things Diamond (1994) identifies the
roles of civil society in democracy, he explains the democratic function of
civil society as “the basis for the limitation of power and hence for
democratic political institutions as the most effective means of exercising
that control” democratic characters are required to define contemporary civil

of 20th Century Philosophers

The 20th
Century experience various ideas from scholars who attempted to discuss on
association of individual and public participation for collective ends, among
the philosophers of this era includes John Rawls and Antonio Gramsci who contributed
in modern civil society by the following ideas;

John Rawls contributed
to the modern civil society conception through his theory of justice, in
conceptualizing civil society which actually reflect the contemporary civil
societies believed there should be common principles established to guide
allocation of primary goods, according to Brien (1999) for primary goods Rawls
referred “rights, powers, opportunities, income wealth, and bases for self
respect” while suggesting for him decisions on allocation of these primary good
should provide good life for those who are in worst situation, positing
rationality in decision making he emphasized on the principles of equal liberty
and difference, according to Underson (2003) with equal liberty Rawls referred  that “Everyone must have an equal right to the
most extensive basic liberties consistent with the guarantee of the same
liberties for all-rights to vote, to free speech, to association, and other
civil liberties.” Free speech, free association, rights to vote are the most
discussed topics by various scholars, politicians and various actors about the
contemporary civil societies. Whereas by ‘difference’ as a principle “stipulates
that social and economic inequalities are permissible only if they are to the
greatest benefit of the  least
advantaged  or worst off, and if they are
attached to positions and offices open to all” this can reflect the language of
minority interests in the contemporary civil societies, where from a wide range
of associational life minority or marginalized groups are also collectively
come into contact to struggle for their limited rights and other ways of
pursuit of their interests for laws the social or economic differences should
not undermine the weak or those with worst situation, there should be equal
opportunities for all.

Also, Antonio Gramsci’s
analysis discusses more of the concepts of Karl Marx on capitalist society. For
him part from the economic relations or base, and the state or superstructure,
Gramsci emphasizes that there is an intermediate sphere between the two in
order to maintain domination in the class society. Antonio Gramsci considers
the civil society to be a part of the superstructure. In this case, Gramsci
claims that the state is divided into the political society and the civil
society. By the political society Gramsci refer the institutions, constitutions
and other repressive state apparatus, whereas the civil society, which tends to
promote hegemony through the manufactured consent. From political society and
civil society relationship draws the contemporary civil society as separate
sphere from the state with their pursued interest based on consent.  Moreover, Antonio Gramsci is best known for
his concept of cultural hegemony in which he describes how the state and the
ruling capitalist class use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist
societies. According to Gramsci, the bourgeoisie develop a hegemonic culture produced
and reproduced by the dominant class through the institutions from the
superstructure, using ideologies rather than coercion. The power is also used
to maintain the consent in the capitalist order, rather than violent power to
forcefully maintain the order. ()

Therefore, although this paper discuses the
contribution of some philosophers of renaissance, 19th century and
20th century to the modern civil society, but contemporary civil
society is construction from wide philosophical grounds which evolved over time
with various ideas describing patterns of formal and informal associational
life and achievement of collective ends, traced from history of western
societies, from the classical philosophers, middle age philosophers, social
contract philosophers, renaissance philosophers, 19th century as
well as 20th centuries. Their contributions are very crucial
although some ideas of various philosophers are still challenged by other
scholars, for example Tocqueville contribution that associational life outside
the family and state (civil society) develop and strengthen democracy as it was
in America is challenged by Berman while reflecting the case of collapse of
Weimar Republic where civil society facilitated the rise of dictatorship
government under Nazism. Also feminists challenges what is agreed by some
philosophers that civil society is free third independent sphere from the
state, and they consider civil society as shaped by states in different ways
including financial and legal control, however civil society is very important
modern politics.

Categories: Decision Making


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