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Walter Reese-Schäfer ; Fakultet društvenih znanosti Sveučilišta Georga Augusta u Göttingenu, Göttingen, Njemačka

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 188 Kb

str. 65-79

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The author looks into the origin and the evolution of the notion of civil society and outlines the contemporary debates on its meaning and democratic potential, as well as its democratic deficits. The concept of civil society (originally devised by Aristotle and used for centuries in political philosophy), was revived in the 1980s, first in the East-European movements against the Stalinist state socialism, and later in the new social movements in the West and in social sciences in general. Today’s understanding of this term is the result of the branching out of the classical term: while originally it denoted an association of citizens as a political community, Montesquieu and Hegel came up with the difference between the civil society and the state as a political community. Later, a series of modern authors, in line with Gramsci, additionally differentiated between the civil and the market societies. The case in point is Jürgen Habermas who defines civil society as a system of spontaneously generated non-state and nonprofit associations connected via the venues of public communication and whose goal is not to win the firsthand political power. Another understanding of civil society has resulted from a long cooperation of the UN and its specialized institutions with the nongovernmental organizations that came to the fore at the major thematic UNsponsored conferences in the 1990s. The author criticizes the idealized picture of civil society as a form of the organization and the democracy-promoting communication of citizens. A developed civil society is undoubtedly important for democracy, but this also requires the appropriate checking mechanisms. The potential deficits of the civil society are reform blockade, the risk of the loss of civilness in populist movements and the social asymmetry of civil activism. Finally, the author looks into a variety of proposals that see in the European civil society the means of the democratization of the European Union.

Ključne riječi

civil society; state; democracy; nongovernmental organizations; United Nations; European Union

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