- There are several competing definitions of what this concept involves. However, its key attributes are that it refers to public life rather than private or household-based activities; it is juxtaposed to the family and the state; and it exists within the framework of the rule of law. Most authorities seem to have in mind the realm of public participation in voluntary associations, the mass media, professional associations, trade unions, and the like.Interposed between the individual (or family) and the state for some thinkers (such as Hegel ), it was a temporary phenomenon, to be transcended when particular and common interests combined. For others it was the realm of the particular counterpoised to the state, whereas for Antonio Gramsci it was the bastion of class hegemony , and ultimately (though not unequivocally) supportive of the state. More recent usage has drawn on the experience of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and the apparent atrophy or non-existence of the meso level of social relations, the sphere of social self-organization, and of that level in the articulation of interests that is to be found between the private realm of the domestic and the totalizing state.Civil society is always seen as dynamic and embraces the notion of social movements . It can also be seen as the dynamic side of citizenship , which, combining as it does achieved rights and obligations, finds them practised, scrutinized, revamped, and redefined at the level of civil society. Thus, freedom of speech as an essential civil right depends on the culture and organization of publishers, journalists, and the reading public at large, both for the manner in which it is legitimized and for its scope and intensity. An excellent edited collection on this topic is, The State and Civil Society (1984).
Dictionary of sociology. 2013.
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