Civility and Participatory Democracy: The Importance of Civil Society and Active Citizenship

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The book aims at conceptualizing the importance of civil society and citizenship in building a sustainable and participatory democracy. Civil society is seen as a mediating space between the public and private spheres and a place where citizens are free to form organizations and networks in promoting common interests. These organizations represent a diversity of values and attitudes. Some are inclusive, others are divisive, and others again are closed and exclusive. Under which circumstances might civil society networks, on the one hand, lead to trust and cooperation around shared concerns and, on the other hand, create conflicts, mistrust, and competitions among groups of citizens? This is the core questions in this monograph. Therefore, it is important to clarify whom these civic networks serve and whom they might exclude.
The Book is to some extend normative arguing for social justice and civility, but the arguments are based on empirical evidences concerning forms of participation, values, trust and affiliation among citizens in the late-modern Europe. When claiming that I hold a normative position I am aiming for an active, liberating, equitable and participatory society. The monograph lays out a series of ideas for democratic involvement and emancipation through civil-society organisations, as well as societal organisations in general. Ideas to be followed, if the society has to provide all of its citizens with equal opportunities to be involved in planning, decision making processes, and implementation of decisions about the future development of the society.
In differentiated societies like the present ones, it will often be the case that civic organisations represent points of view and pursue interests that are contrary to, or even incompatible with, the common good. This propensity makes the institutions of the welfare state a necessity for the cohesion of the society. The welfare institutions suppose promoting the common good. In maintaining social justice and equal participation, it is therefore necessary to find a balance between the special interests of civic organisations and the role of the
state institutions as guarantors of the common good. How do we create a balanced mixture of state institutions pursuing universal norms and civic institutions creating social networks for co-operation among citizens pursuing particular and narrow interests?
For such a mixture to be created it is important aiming for solidarity, trust in others and a sense of social and economic security – civility. This, however, depends, on the one hand, on a society's ability to include all citizens by providing opportunities for everyone to play an active role in its various institutions. Inclusion of different social groups in the society, which transcends social, ethnic and gender differences, depends again on institutions and organizations acknowledging everybody and treating them all equally as well as on the ability to establish and maintain tolerance among the population. On the other hand, it is equally essential that ordinary people, in their daily lives, display tolerance and good citizenship by playing down their personal interests, by being helpful, seeking compromise in their relations to others. In other words, civility — at both individual and institutional level — is one of the foundations for an open and democratic society in which everybody plays a part on equal terms.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
Number of pages285
ISBN (Print)978 1 78990 776 6
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Oct 2020


  • Civil Society
  • Citizenship
  • civility
  • Participation
  • Activism

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