The History of Civil Society Ideas

John Ehrenberg

in The Oxford Handbook of Civil Society

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195398571
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The History of Civil Society Ideas

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This article examines the history of the ideas of civil society. It explains that Greek and Roman thinkers began talking about civil society as part of a more general attempt to establish a geometry of human relations. They considered civility as an orientation toward the common good and the requirements of effective citizenship rather than as a matter of domestic relations or good manners and a recognition that life is lived in different spheres that have their own internal logic. It suggests that the roots of the contemporary interest in civil society lie in the contention of some dissident East European intellectuals during the 1980s that communism's crisis could only be understood as a revolt of civil society against the state.

Keywords: civil society; ideas; human relations; Greek thinkers; Roman thinkers; civility; common good; East European intellectuals; communism

Article.  5196 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; Comparative Politics ; Public Administration

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