Encounters with the Other

Jeffrey C. Alexander

in The Civil Sphere

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195162509
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199943364 | DOI:
Encounters with the Other

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During the three hundred years since the first democratic institutionalizations of civil society emerged the crippling of its utopian promises generated continuous struggle. These have not only been political struggles for power, but legal, cultural, and emotional arguments about definitions of competence and identity, about symbolic representations of the primordial qualities of dominant and excluded groups. The public has never been a dry and arid place composed of abstract arguments about reason. It has always been filled up by expressive images, by narratives, traditions, and symbolic codes. Organizations and social movements have sustained and resisted these cultural structures, engaging in discursive struggles over the legitimating resources they need to expand or restrict civil life. This chapter discusses the plasticity of common identity; exclusionary solidarity; forms of out-group contact; nondemocratic incorporation; internal colonialism and the civil sphere; varieties of incorporation and resistance in civil societies; closing down the civil sphere; opening up the civil sphere; and stigmatized persons and their qualities.

Keywords: civil society; common identity; exclusionary solidarity; nondemocratic incorporation; out-group contact; civil sphere; internal colonialism

Chapter.  5682 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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