You are here

Civil Society

Civil Society
The Critical History of an Idea

Second Edition
  • John Ehrenberg - Senior Professor, Political Science and Department Chair, Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University.

December 2017 | 344 pages | SAGE Vistaar

This new edition of Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea provides a comprehensive discussion on and analysis of two and a half millennia of Western political theory, as well as what answer the future may hold for how civil society might be understood. John Ehrenberg analyzes both the usefulness and limitations of civil society, and maps the political and theoretical evolution of the concept and its employment in academic and public discourse. From Aristotle and the Enlightenment philosophers to Black Lives Matter and the Occupy movement, the book provides an indispensable analysis of the possibilities of what this increasingly important idea can, or cannot, offer to contemporary political affairs. Ehrenberg specifically considers how major events such as 9/11 and the global financial crisis, economic inequality, and rapidly advancing technologies alter and shape our relationship with contemporary civil society.Civic engagement, political participation, and volunteerism in contemporary life have faded, he argues, and to bring civil society—and all its virtues—back to the fore, we need to counter the suffocating inequality that has taken root in recent years. Thorough and accessible, Civil Society gives a sweeping overview of a foundational part of political life.

Introduction: Inequality and Democracy’s Uncertain Future
Part I. The Origins of Civil Society
1. Civil Society and the Classical Heritage
The Danger of Private Interest  
The Mixed Polity  
Civil Society and the Res Publica  
2. Civil Society and the Christian Commonwealth
Pride, Faith, and the State  
The Christian Commonwealth  
Early Fractures  
3. Civil Society and the Transition to Modernity
Virtue and Power  
Civil Society and the Liberated Conscience  
Sovereignty, Interest, and Civil Society  
Part II. Civil Society and Modernity
4. Civil Society and the Rise of “Economic Man”
Rights, Law, and Protected Spheres  
The Moral Foundations of Civil Society  
The Emergence of Bourgeois Civil Society  
5. Civil Society and the State
Civil Society and the Ethical Commonwealth  
The “Giant Broom”  
The “System of Needs”  
The Politics of Social Revolution  
6. Civil Society and Intermediate Organizations
The Aristocratic Republic  
Civil Society and Community  
The Customs of Civil Society  
American Lessons  
Part III. Civil Society in Contemporary Life
7. Civil Society and the Crisis of Communism
Antistatism and Totalitarianism  
Socialist Civil Society  
Reaching the Limits  
Global Civil Society  
8. Civil Society and the United States
Factions, Pluralism, and the Market Model  
Hegemony and the Commodified Public Sphere  
Strategies of Renewal  
Conclusion: Pessimism, Activism, and Political Revival  

Preview this book

John Ehrenberg

John Ehrenberg is Senior Professor of Political Science and Department Chair at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University. A longtime activist and scholar, he is the author of several books, including Servants of Wealth: The Right’s Assault on Economic Justice and the first edition of Civil Society, winner of the 1999 Michael J. Harrington Prize from the American Political Science Association. More About Author

Purchasing options

Please select a format:

ISBN: 9789352800810