Talk:Civil society

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I find the reasoning behind the recent revert woefully inadaquate, and will need to see far better explanation if it is to stand, rather than refering to "most definitions". Sam Spade 23:04, 10 May 2004 (UTC)

It took me about 30 second of research to find this. Sam Spade 23:06, 10 May 2004 (UTC)
So some guy with a website thinks we should arm civil society (implying that it isn't right now...).
That doesn't change the fact that civil society is a real analytical term, used widely in politics, international development, and especially the social sciences. And while there is great disagreement as to precisely how it should be defined, civil society is almost universally understood to be situated relative to the state (defined by Weber as an entity which successfully establishes a monopoly on the legitimate use of force), rather than a challenge its legitimacy. Hence, armed actors are typically excluded from the category, because they implicity or explicitly present just such a challenge.
All of this is part of a broader scholarly conversation which should be covered in an expanded article on the subject that I plan to work on when I get the chance (and which would need to cover the alternative Gramscian view, too complex to summarize here). But lacking that, simply listing militias as part of civil society, when most definitions of the term actually exclude them, seriously misleads the reader.
RadicalSubversiv E 01:21, 11 May 2004 (UTC)
Where are these most definitions? Sam Spade 01:33, 11 May 2004 (UTC)
Most of the modern understanding of the term flows from Hegel's Philosophy of Right, in which he described civil society as a sort of mediating sphere between the family and the state. The major modification since has been towards focusing on voluntary associations (owing to Tocqueville) to the exclusion of the market. Notable contemporary theorists include Michael Walzer and Robert Putnam. (I happen to have in front of me The Civil Society Reader, eds. Virginia A. Hodgkinson and Michael W. Foley, which gives a pretty good sampling.) The definition given in the article is a fairly typical one, and would exclude any militia which makes claims to using force or otherwise contesting state power. RadicalSubversiv E 03:21, 11 May 2004 (UTC)
I follow you right up until "would exclude any militia which makes claims to using force or otherwise contesting state power". A militia doesn't necessarilly contest state power nor make claims of using force. Also, assuming that it did (some do) I would still want to see some documentation (a quote might suffice) for this subtlety in the definition which excludes potential use of force. Sam Spade 05:52, 11 May 2004 (UTC)
I'm with Radical on this. And I don't think it's a question of subtelty: "civil" is built right into the term. What more do you need? There have been some times in history when civil society became violent -- the French and American revolutions, for example -- but these are notable precisely because the moment of taking arms marked the moment when the civil society broke down. So while there are times when civil society groups become militias, it is misleading to the reader to state that militias are parts of civil society. Badams 14:01, 13 May 2004 (UTC)
Just speculation...if "supporting the legitimacy of the established government" is a general criteria, the Minuteman movement and others of the American Colonies could be part of the civil society of the Continental Government...i.e. any partisan movement on behalf of a government (most likely in exile). ~ Dpr 03:21, 23 July 2005 (UTC)
The moral of all this is that the meaning and boundaries of civil society are subject to contention, just as civil society is a space for contention. In the end, the article should reflect that violence may or may not be part of civil society, depending on the circumstances of the violence and whose interpretation of civil society one is using. We don't need to decide here if CS contains violent groups or not. Just that some say yes, and some say no. If editors can identify some of the players and the nuances of their positions, then kudos to them. nstamp 10:28, August 10, 2006


Why isn't church included? Sam Spade 05:55, 11 May 2004 (UTC)

This one is subtle. Religious organizations are not normally included becuase, historically, the modern idea of civil society was created in explicit opposition to the Catholic Church. In some societies, religion remains a monolithic institution against which people create alternative social organizations. However, in other societies -- including the US -- religious groups have all the qualities and roles of civil society and rightfully belong in that category. A proper discussion of civil society (which I'm not prepared to do, but maybe Radical will provide) will show how civil society historically precluded relgion, but in later cases, especially during the liberation movements in Africa and Latin America, relgious groups took a leading role in civil society; and is now basically judged on case-by-case basis. Badams 16:38, 13 May 2004 (UTC)
As I understand it, church has been a part of civil society as long as our modern conception of CS has been around. Locke would have considered the church to be CS. So would Furgeson. And then later when Hegel pulled CS and the State into two categories, the church would have been very important as a mediator between family and state. Then of course, Gramsci characterizes the CS-State dichotomy as a dichotomy between church and state, or in other words between force and consent. And certainly today in our associational understanding of CS, church is very much a part of CS. So Mr. Spade, I totally agree with you, that church institutions deserve a place here. Few, if any of the leading theorists would disagree. nstamp Aug. 10, 2006
Most totalitarian states are petrified of the Catholic Church, since it is an international organisation and generally acts as a focal point for dissidence because (unlike e.g. the Russian Orthodox Church) it cannot be controlled as a national church. In the role as the main bulwark of civil society in Lithuania, it brought down the Soviet Union; in Poland it provided a focus for dissent because the Communists had to accept its prominent role in social affairs; and the Nazis destroyed a network of (youth) organisations, newspapers, and church associations which rivalled their own infrastructure. In the history of authoritarian governments in Latin America, its role has also been civil, though as the regimes were largely conservative Catholic in nature, they sought to use it to promote their own interests in society. However, Oscar Romero would like a word. Lstanley1979 (talk) 12:32, 20 December 2008 (UTC)
These are very valuable comments that should be inserted in the article in one way or another if corresponding material can be found within academic literature. ADM (talk) 21:07, 18 March 2009 (UTC)


"reference to sources of resistance to and the domain of social life" I didn't fix this mistake for lack of certainty as to the intended meaning. Is it supposed to read "to and from the", or "to the"?

Civil society needs to be protected against globalization?[edit]

Who says this? I've never heard it, and I live in DC where everyone says everything. I would imagine that civil society would be a natural defense against the forces of globalization, if necessary. However, I'm sure it depends on the vitality of a given civil society and the nature of the government it petitions for protection.

What if they don’t say it in English and French instead? ;) I’ve heard this argument directly expressed by my pol-sci and political philosophy lecturers (Australian National University, 2012). The assertion at first makes little sense outside a post-structuralist framework which contests the construction of many oppositional dichotomous binaries (e.g. inside/outside, internal/external, modern/primitive, public/private, good/evil, hospitality/hostility, …) and have applied this deconstruction to what is deemed to be the ‘artificial’ construction and separation of various spheres of life (e.g. “public sphere”/“private sphere” (this dislocation commenced with Foucault’s History of Sexuality Vol 1. in the disciplining of sexuality, something which permeates throughout all these spheres and displaces them from being isolated and distinct, and continues in his work on panopticism in Discipline and Punish)). This destabilisation of oppositional binaries is also seen in Derrida (see So to get the the point... For an elaboration of this argument see Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, who largely build from Foucault upon Gramsci and Hegel and destabalise “civil society”, rejecting the idea that this nebulous concept somehow operates distinct or separate from “political society” (i.e. the polity) (this is similar to the established argument that popular culture is political as it exists within the political framework (i.e. our modern, Western capitalist neo-liberal/neo-whatever society). In particular see: So to answer the question, how could globalisation be threat to civil society? Depends on how you define civil society and globalisation. Hardt and Negri would generally throw out the idea that civil society is in any way separate from political society, but the suggestion has been made that a civil society of some form, in perhaps the most abstract sense has potential or may exist outside of a globalised context. Under theories of Empire “civil society” could well be described as needing protection from the imposition of “globalisation” (see identity politics and a reactionary communitarianism — also relates to Spivak’s strategic essentialism in which disparate identity groups ‘essentialise’ themselves for political expedience). -- (talk) 11:43, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
Can anyone provide some cites/quotes in support of the idea that globalization is a danger to civil society? (Also, are we talking third world/global south here?) --Dablaze 21:08, Dec 5, 2004 (UTC)
One hypothetical meaning could be a "brainwashing" of the respective civil socities of various countries by "global culture" or MTV/McDonalds/mass consumerist culture...just pure speculation though. ~ Dpr 03:17, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

We've got to be neutral here. The Catholic Church generated globalised civil society before globalisation was thought of. Why else would the Soviet Union have collapsed, had it not been for the globalisation inherent in the Church's existence? Lstanley1979 (talk) 12:35, 20 December 2008 (UTC)

"Bowling alone"[edit]

Can someone add anything about the influential conceptualization "bowling alone"? Thanks ~ Dpr 03:18, 23 July 2005 (UTC)

Who is this?[edit]

Pardon my ignorance, but can anyone explain who "Neera Chandoke, a scientist from India" is? Or at least provide a footnote providing the source? 13:56, 20 October 2005 (UTC)

Well, a simple Google search reveals that the spelling was incorrect and that she is professor of political science at the University of Delhi.
More searching however produced this, where she seems to say the opposite of what the article claims she says. She seems to be positing the existence of other additional citizens' movements and activities outside of and critical of "civil society". She seems to use "civil society" in the sense of that part of civil society that has been accepted by the state; very confusing. Whoever produced the article's part about her ideas should provide a link or a direct quote and a verifiable reference. In any case, a Google search with "countervailing power" and her name produces only 2 hits, so this is hardly her idea. --Espoo 18:42, 21 March 2006 (UTC)
Quoted from the above link:

"The problem is that when we import a concept from a different historical context, it comes with lots of baggage. Since civil society had mobilised against the state in Eastern and Central Europe in 1989 and sparked thereby a ‘velvet revolution’, civil society it was generally felt was necessarily autonomous of the state, even poised against it. In the 1990s scholar after scholar authored tomes, each of which not only hailed the autonomy of civil society, but saw it as counteracting the totalising tendencies of the state. In the process, the state, civil society, and often the market came to be neatly bounded off, even insulated from each other. The problem however is that civil society can hardly be autonomous. For, somewhat ironically, the very state that civil society supposedly positions itself against enables the latter inasmuch as it provides the legal and political setting for the sphere to exist and maintain itself. The shadow of Hegel who had suggested that the state is a precondition for the existence of civil society looms large here. ...

"New groups in the country have mobilised for social and economic justice since the onset of independence: the peasants’ movement, the movement for land rights, the women’s movement, the anti-caste movement, the environmental movement, the movement against displacement on account of large projects, and the radical Naxalite movement. Whereas the struggle of Naxalite groups is grounded in a strong redistributive ethos, the feminist movement demands a restructuring of patriarchal power. Whereas the anti-caste movement demands that the balance of power that has consistently favoured the upper castes for centuries be reversed in favour of those who have been consistently marginalised from history, the environmental movement and the movement against big development projects argues that local communities have the first right over resources that have traditionally been exploited by and for the rest of society. In sum, most of these movements challenge power as conceptualised by the state and by civil society."

alternate and better terms[edit]

The beginning is ambiguous. Is "Civil society or civil institutions refers to..." supposed to mean "Civil society institutions or civil institutions are terms used to refer to.."? Or is it supposed to mean "The term civil society and the term civil institutions are used to refer to..."? Also, the terms "civil society organizations" and "civil society organiSations" are much more common than "civil society institutions". Google has 2.3 million vs. 123,000 hits! --Espoo 20:07, 20 March 2006 (UTC)


I'd suggest this term might be changed to Public education or Compulsory education, or add one of those 2 terms in addition to it. thanks. --Quiddity 00:48, 16 April 2006 (UTC)

Community (based) organizations[edit]

Under "Examples of civil society institutions," is there a reason for listing both "community-based organizations" and "community organizations?" --Jjorgensen 06:33, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

Yes; no-one's bothered to check it! Thanks --Robdurbar 07:43, 11 May 2006 (UTC)

civic community[edit]

Sorry not to do it myself, but wouldn't it be good to have a hint on the relationship of "civil society" and "civic community", because some of the mentioned authors under "civil society" use the second phrase? 10:47, 21 May 2007 (UTC) Michael

Where is the definition of GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATION...???[edit]

I have noticed that any political party assemblies are not mentioned by Civil Society, which prompts me to ask if they belong to the governmental organization. Unfortunately the wikipedia does not have an equivalent article to address the definition of GOs either. The closest info I can get from this site is Public ownership, to which it can be redirected from the search string of government organization. Now I'm wondering that where these political parties fit to. If these of elected parties possibly belong to the governmental organizations, then how about those of non elected parties? I have tried to google these questions without success. Any gurus of political scientists please shed me light here.

All of democracy is by default part of civil society if you go by wiki's definitions[edit]

The article says "Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state (regardless of that state's political system) and commercial institutions." But that's a contradiction, because in a truly democratic system all of the government's organizations and institutions exist only because the general population has agreed they should exist.

For example:

Charity groups exist only because people voluntarily give them money - thus it's a civil organization. Welfare programs exist only because people voluntarily elect politicians that will give our tax dollars to the needy - thus it's a civil organization.

Consumers/consumer organizations are groups who voluntarily monitor and defend against abuse of consumers - thus it's a civil organization. The Federal Trade Commission is a group we voluntarily voted to create to monitor and defend against abuse of consumers - thus it's a civil organization.

Wiki's article really needs a more clear distinction between why a societal group that's formed due to voluntary efforts and funding is a civil group, and why democratically created governmental groups that we voluntarily formed and support with our tax dollars is not a civil group. Both were created and continue to hold sway because we voluntarily chose them to be created and because we continue to voluntarily choose to support them with our money.

Where is the distinction? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:02, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

There is a critique of this formulation that continues on from the contradiction you point out (the the suggestion that civil society is a separate sphere to that of the political society (i.e. the polity/State). See the post-modernism and Marxist critique section and browse for a few keywords (civil society, Foucault, Negri, Michael Hardt, …). Further, the formulation that a truly democratic society is one based solely on (attainable) consensus is also problematic — see agonism and look up a critique of Habermas’ public sphere. -- (talk) 11:50, 6 June 2012 (UTC)
Oh, I forgot Nancy Fraser covers this also. See: -- (talk) 13:16, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

origins or history[edit]

Section "origins" should have title "history". it is also much too long and there are whole paragraphs about things not related, eg. renaissance. if someone is against cleaning it? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:04, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

origins of posmodern usage of the cocept have to be trace back to anticommunist opposition. i added that to origins.

i have rearranged few paragraphs because of their wrong time-line placement. stiil i urge to removing unrelated renaissance paragraphs. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:44, 1 July 2008 (UTC)


during renaissance in the same way as inmedieval times civil society became completly forgotten idea and there are very rare examples of its use. my proposition is to delete paragraphs on renaissance as completely not connected to the issue.-- (talk) 20:50, 2 July 2008 (UTC)


There is nothing about Cicero who is widely accepted as a father of societas civilis term. --seventy3 21:59, 5 July 2008 (UTC)


i do not think that citing adam smith is proper here. he did not use idea of civil society at all. i am going to remove this annotation. --seventy3 09:32, 18 July 2008 (UTC)


i do not know why gramsci takes so much place here. he was completely marginal figure, for many years jailed. it was only in 1970s when translated to english that he became popular in leftist enviroment.
apart from that there were few more notable italians at the time that were writing about civil society - giovanni gentile and benedetto croce. gramsci was just the splinter of their dispute. --discourseur 16:59, 30 July 2008 (UTC)

Because Gramsci’s work has been expanded upon by post-structuralisms, post-modernisms, neo-Marxists, and in post-colonial theory. Although certainly not all pertaining to ‘civil society’, see -- (talk) 11:55, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

Here is another edit by a Gramsci fan. --Djadjko (talk) 22:34, 28 November 2016 (UTC)

Civil society and Freemasonry[edit]

I found this interesting article about civil society and Freemasonry. [1] [2] As it was mentioned above, the Church never really accepted the notion of civil society until a very late period in the 20th century, in the era of the Second Vatican Council. If you go and re-read the writings of Pius IX and Leo XIII, they assert that there really is no such thing as civil society and that the whole idea was built in opposition to the Church, presumably by revolutionaries and masonic secret societies (cf Papal Documents relating to Freemasonry). ADM (talk) 22:51, 23 March 2009 (UTC)


The section was headed "Civil Society Scholars/scholars who have dealt with Civil Society". This invites attention because, surely, every scholar and, indeed every person can be said to have "dealt with civil society"! To start with, I've lopped it to "Civil-society scholars" pending consultation on its meaning and relevance. Secondly, this list seems helpful in some ways --but may also be open to non-transparent abuse (POV, promotion, vanity, etc). If we keep it, how about (1) It should be prefaced by a sentence specifying basic criteria for inclusion; (2) each scholar's name to be followed by a sentence establishing relevant credentials; and (3) Exclude redlinked names as a basic test for notability. We might also consider similar treatment for "Examples of civil society institutions". Cheers Bjenks (talk) 02:36, 17 July 2009 (UTC)

What about Organized Civil Society ?[edit]


I've a lot about this concept, specially when dealing with institutions. Do someone as an idea of the difference with the civil society concept ? Do we have to add a section for it or create another article ? Thank you ! --Breizhou (talk) 13:14, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

If it is well organized, and has reference to scholarly approaches instead of individual institutions, I don't see why that wouldn't be appropriate in this article. Go for it, I am sure we will chirp up if it isn't working. Sadads (talk) 14:33, 27 January 2010 (UTC)

Government surveillance and disruption[edit]

Today I added the following sub-section (with the above-noted heading) in the "Democracy" section:

The United States government and U.S. state governments have spied on, infiltrated, collected data about, discredited and disrupted a large range of civil society groups. COINTELPRO, conducted by the FBI, targeted a range of human rights and civil society organizations, including groups that comprised the women's rights movement and the civil rights movement, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality and black nationalist groups, the American Indian Movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and other civil rights groups, as well as individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation and notable Americans such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Professor Albert Einstein, and many others.[1] FBI records show that 85% of COINTELPRO resources were devoted to infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups suspected of being "subversive,"[2] with the remaining 15% of COINTELPRO resources expended on marginalizing and subverting "white hate groups," including the Ku Klux Klan and National States' Rights Party.[3]
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these movements and their leaders.[4][5] COINTELPRO remained secret until 1971, when a group of left-wing activists calling themselves the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI burglarized an FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania, took several dossiers and exposed the operation by passing the information to news agencies, many of which initially refused to publish the information.[6]
State efforts targeting civil society have recently included the State of Pennsylvania hiring a private company to monitor and pass on information about groups that oppose drilling in the Marcellus Shale, animal-rights advocates, peace activists, gay and lesbian rights advocacy groups, and a group organizing an anti-British Petroleum candlelight vigil to protest the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.[7]

The entire sub-section was removed with the note that it is allegedly undue weight. This sub-section is quite relevant to the issue of the government's perception of, and attitude, policy, action etc. toward civil society in a democracy. How can "democracy" be discussed without discussing the government role?--NYCJosh (talk) 00:33, 16 September 2010 (UTC)

The first two long paragraphs could be reduced to a single sentence with a link, if only there were an article on COINTELPRO. —Tamfang (talk) 05:49, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
The article is not about everything of interest to people interested in civil society, but about civil society itself. You may feel that surveillance is a threat to civil society, but that is original research. It would no doubt be possible to find a source that claimed that surveillance was a threat to civil society. This statement on its own would be relevant. It would not, however, justify listing every egregious act of surveillance as a result. That is a textbook case of WP:UNDUE; see also WP:COATRACK. RJC TalkContribs 13:04, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Tamfang, I have no objection to making my proposed subsection more succinct, but that is no reason to delete the whole thing.
RJC, Through COINTELPRO, the US govt targeted many groups that comprise civil society, including the most prominent groups that constituted the major rights movements of post-WWII US society (see the proposed text and the footnotes). That fact in and of itself makes it relevant to this article. Not sure what you think constitues a "threat" if not an attemtp to "infiltrate, discredit, disrupt," etc.--NYCJosh (talk) 18:30, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
That is all true. It belongs in the article on COINTELPRO. My point is that it is only tangentially related to an article on civil society. So, as I said, a general statement that surveillance may harm civil society somewhere in the body of the article would be useful and could be cited. Pointing to specific instances begins to look like a coatrack. RJC TalkContribs 14:29, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
The piece lists specific organizations targeted, not specific instances of COINTELPRO actions (e.g. on such date, FBI operative X did y in organization Z or the like).
Not sure why it's "tangential." A systematic effort over decades by the government's premier law enforcement organization to disrupt, discredit, etc. the leading organizations of civil society (with evidence that such activities continue around the country) would seem very relevant for the reader seeking an understanding of U.S. civil society and its history. If this were an article about the life of a family, and there was an episode in which someone (or stronger yet the FBI) tried to discredit etc. prominent members of the family, then that episode would be relevant to that article. COINTELPRO is also relevant, in particular, to the topic of civil society in a democratic country (I am not necessarily using "democratic" in the technical sense). But I'm not wedded to including it under that heading.--NYCJosh (talk) 17:19, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
I think your example of an article about a family is a good one. You are certainly correct that such information would be an essential part of that article. This article is not analogous to one about a particular family, however, but is more like family, and the fact that someone once tried to discredit the Hatfields would not be appropriate there. RJC TalkContribs 18:51, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
Thanks. The organizations that comprised the women's rights movement, the civil rights and black liberation movements, the anti-Vietnam War movement and the student rights movement were historically and socially by far the most important and most consequential components of American civil society organizations during the decades when COINTELPRO was officially in operation. The leading organizations of those movements were targeted. As such, the analogy to the "Hatfields," is inapt. One cannot have an article about civil society without an understanding of the threats and attacks on the major components of it.--NYCJosh (talk) 19:43, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
I think our disagreement may result from different conceptions of civil society. There is the civil society of the academic, which can be described neutrally and is not affiliated with any political persuasion. Then there is the civil society of the activist, which is most more a movement than a useful term in behavioral social science. The activities you reference are not relevant to the academic's civil society, although of course attempts to destroy a movement are relevant in discussing that movement. Would you say this is fair? (I think the article must be about the academic's view, for WP:NPOV reasons, but won't argue why at length if you think this characterization is unfair). RJC TalkContribs 20:26, 17 September 2010 (UTC)
I am not sure I understand the distinction you're making. If by "academic" you mean a theoretical discussion of its history, role, functions, etc. then it is still comprised in any given era of various movements and organizations. As such, an effort to destroy/undermine etc. the latter would necessarily be relevant to that academic discussion.--NYCJosh (talk) 20:59, 19 September 2010 (UTC)
One might define civil society as the voluntary civic and social organizations that make society function, or one might define it as the sphere where dissent can have a real voice. In one, no particular relationship to the state is presupposed; in the other, civil society undermines the traditional power structures (such as the state). Going after civil rights groups is not to undermine civil society, given the value-neutral definition of. By the activist definition of civil society, however, that would be an assault on civil society as such. RJC TalkContribs 05:10, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Still not following your distinction. Is there any reasonable understanding of civil soc. that for the post-War US would NOT include the women's movement or the civil rights movement (and the organizations that comprises them)? Do you have any support (RS) for such an understanding? If in Saudi Arabia several new women's rights advocacy organizations (were allowed to) come into being and they successfully make serious headway into bringing about change and a measure of equality in that country, is there any reasonable definition ("academic" or otherwise) of civil soc. that would not include those organizations?--NYCJosh (talk) 14:31, 20 September 2010 (UTC)

Putnam's "Bowling Alone" comes to mind, as does Tocqueville's discussion of civil associations. The question isn't whether those movements can be considered part of civil society. The question is whether they are paradigmatic of civil society. Do they have more in common with softball leagues or with political action committees? Is their primary significance that they are non-state forms of organizing society, or that they seek political change from outside of the state? These are two very different views of what the essence of civil society is. RJC TalkContribs 15:01, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
"The question isn't whether those movements can be considered part of civil society." I think that is precisely the question. If they are, then a major attack on them is relevant.
I have no problem with a discussion in the article of "non-state forms of organizing society" that are directed to something other than social change (e.g. neighborhood bowling leagues) but can you show me an RS that excludes the women's movement (or the civil rights movement or the like) and their component organizations from civil soc.? "Do they have more in common with softball leagues or with political action committees? Is their primary significance that they are non-state forms of organizing society, or that they seek political change from outside of the state?" Interesting considerations, feel free to add to the article if you have RS, but irrelevant to the present discussion.
Moreover, look at the definition of cs provided near the beginning of the article. Look at the "post-modern" section. You would have to convince the other editors, including me, that your definiton should prevail, that the article should exclude cs of the social change movement type, and then your definition would have to be explicitly mentioned in the intro and def sections and the article would have to explain the distinction and the exclusion of material. You would have to provide some mighty RS for all of that.--NYCJosh (talk) 16:11, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
I was prepared to argue precisely this, but I wanted to make sure we agreed on the nature of our dispute before I did so. I am still not certain that you feel that I have stated our disagreement fairly. I think the material you added is irrelevant (because it emphasizes some facts unduly) because I think the article is about civil society as it is discussed by social scientists. You think the material you added is relevant because you think the article is about civil society as it is discussed by activists. Is this a fair statement? RJC TalkContribs 16:30, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
(1) No, I still don't think your position has anything to do with our dispute because even if you're position is correct, it still leaves room for my contribution. (2) I don't think it is the position of THE (or a majority) of social scientists because no soc. scientist would exclude soc change movements from the def of cs. and (3) I don't think your position is supported by the other editors of the article because the portions of the article I cited above discuss precisely such movements. That's my three "nos." Basically, let's stop and acknowledge you're off base with your distinction here.--NYCJosh (talk) 16:46, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Okay then. Since you and I are the only ones involved, and we seem incapable of making any headway, perhaps we should solicit a third opinion. RJC TalkContribs 17:06, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
We should. Chime in, folks. But I don't think RJC has made a reasonable objection to inclusion per WP rules. On it's face the purported distinction is irrelevant.--NYCJosh (talk) 17:51, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Alright, I posted a request at WP:Third opinion. RJC TalkContribs 18:09, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. Glad we can agree on something.--NYCJosh (talk) 18:37, 20 September 2010 (UTC)


Searchtool-80%.png Response to third opinion request:
I agree with RJC. This is not the place for such a lot of information about one government program in the US in the late 20th century that deliberately targeted not civil society as a whole but rather what "the FBI" (Hoover, anyway) viewed at the time to be social dissident groups. I support RJC's argument as expressed above. The full content of this material re. COINTELPRO, as well-written and well-referenced as it is, does not belong in this article; its subject merits at most a line or two here. Can you get it down to a line or two, NYCJosh, and better mesh it with the overall context of the much larger subject of this article?—WikiDao(talk) 21:50, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
OK, an issue was precisely that I tried to be succinct and did not try to "mesh it" with the larger article (I made some assumptions). I now added a section called "Government policy," which is only a beginning, I think, to this important aspect of civil society. The section includes a brief discussion (two sentences) about COINTELPRO and ample footnotes to support them.--NYCJosh (talk) 16:48, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Current state and prospects[edit]

There was some bad breakage at the bottom of the page due to botched templates in the See Also section, cleared that with simple tables. Also excised some stuff apparently by somebody named Alan Whaites who appeared to be attempting self publication, including an article on himself. Unfortunately "Civil Society" is going to run into problems on dearly held conceptions about society such as those that cause milling at Socialism so ... Also cleaned up this talk page removing a few threads that were saying nothing, not dated, signed (except one by student who named herself at Syracuse University and declared that she would be editing over the next two weeks but that was a year ago), etc.. Finally, there are basic problems with the in the very concept, what it refers to in fact, as noted at and I can't find anything in the various guidance for improvement here that is at the level of prosodic structure, compositional detail, all I see is superficial stuff about grammar, punctuation and the like. The material at scholarly and major institution sources elucidating same can be digested with the current content where the material in the current external links such as the UN, London School of Econ., etc. will be especially useful I think. I would suggest first rewrite the lede and restructure then address the detail prose of each section, much of which can be retained redacted. (talk) 20:45, 19 January 2012 (UTC)

Gave this a start with some restructuring, pulled the old lede which had the mafia as part of CS and similar stuff promoting the old Definition section to lede. (talk) 00:04, 20 January 2012 (UTC)

Ehrenberg citation[edit]

There is no reference to Ehrenberg in the references section. From what I can ascertain the intended reference is to John Ehrenberg’s “Civil society: the critical history of an idea” ( and on Google Books partially available: I cannot find a copy to check up on citations 29–31 which cite this text (and certainly deserve citation). Could someone with a copy of this text verify these citations please? Thanks! :) -- (talk) 12:16, 6 June 2012 (UTC)

"Brown 2001" reference ?[edit]

Please someone expand this reference (journal, book, title ?) (talk) 06:45, 13 June 2013 (UTC)

Term entered public discourse though Polish communist propaganda?[edit]

I have removed the following claim, which is a wild one on the face of it (and poorly expressed - "the US and around the word" = everywhere), contradicted by the rest of the article and unsupported by the references: "The term entered public discourse in the United States and around the world in the 1990s in effect of intensive work of communist propaganda in Poland." I consulted the English summary of the references work by Pawel Stefan Zaleski available online (Pawel Stefan Zaleski, Neoliberalizm i spoleczenstwo obywatelskie (Neoliberalism and Civil Society)), and at most the claim refers to the circulation of the term in Poland in the 1990s and is unrelated to its use and currency everywhere else for a long time before that. Faff296 (talk) 04:02, 16 August 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Faff296 (talkcontribs) 03:56, 16 August 2013 (UTC)

your study is mistaken. it is thorough analysis of discourses on civil socieites since xvii century. in poland, europe and rest of the world. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:52, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Yeah, this is odd. First of all, nothing in the WP:LEAD should exist solely in the LEAD. Biosthmors (talk) 09:08, 8 September 2013 (UTC)
Could you provide a quote from the source, Thanks. Biosthmors (talk) 11:57, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

I've removed it again. Until we get some real references (and proper grammar!) it should stay out. --Loonymonkey (talk) 00:50, 20 September 2013 (UTC)


The opening sentence: "aggregate of governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens"

This should read "non-governmental". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:37, 16 June 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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  1. ^ U.S. Senate, Final Report of the Select Committe to Study Government Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, 1976 Apr. 26, "INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS, BOOK II,"
  2. ^ Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri. THE FBI, Yale University Press, 2008, p. 189
  3. ^ Various Church Committee reports reproduced online at ICDC: Final Report, 2A; Final Report,2Cb; Final Report, 3A; Final Report, 3G. Various COINTELPRO documents reproduced online at ICDC: CPUSA; SWP; Black Nationalist; White Hate; New Left
  4. ^ COINTELPRO Revisited - Spying & Disruption - IN BLACK AND WHITE: THE F.B.I. PAPERS
  5. ^ "A Huey P. Newton Story - Actions - COINTELPRO". PBS. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  6. ^ [ A Short History of FBI COINTELPRO].
  7. ^ The Philadelphia Enquirer, 2010 Sept. 15, "Pennsylvania Gov. Rendell 'Appalled' by State's Tracking of Activists,"