The Modern Conceptual History of Civil Society

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The purpose of the chapter is to point to the complex heritage of the concept “civil society”—a heritage that still determines the ways in which we envision present and future roles, possibilities, and impossibilities of civil society. The chapter grasps “civil society” as a political, legal, economic, and cultural conceptual battlefield. On this basis, the goal is to trace some of the most crucial conceptual tensions through which “civil society” has been historically manifested, as well as the institutional dilemmas that they imply. More specifically, the chapter engages with two significant conceptual tensions: “premodern-modern” and “public-private”—the former capturing the civilizational logic at play throughout modern discourses and practices, and the latter the dominating logic of institutionalization. It is argued that dilemmas inherent in these logics are haunting us still today. Furthermore, they are related to the ambiguous survival of natural law throughout modernity: On the one hand, modern civil society emerges on the basis of a break from natural law, and on the other, natural law survives to this day, in various disguises. This chapter offers a discussion of consequences of the dilemma-haunted ideals through which we approach “civil society” today, and of possibilities of reconfigurations in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivil Society : Between Concepts and Empirical Grounds
EditorsLiv Egholm, Lars Bo Kaspersen
Number of pages17
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherRoutledge
Publication date2021
Pages31-47
Chapter2
ISBN (Print)9780367340957
ISBN (Electronic)9780429323881
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021
SeriesRoutledge Advances In Sociology

Bibliographical note

Published November 30, 2020.

Cite this