Organized Civil Society, Participation and Citizenship in Europe: The impact of the Economic and Social Crisis

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Abstract

The growth in research on civil society, civic cultures and citizenship has been marked by considerable disagreements about how to define and articulate the concepts, and how to apply them. Several perspectives are at stake in current European research on the inter-relation between civil society, civic cultures and citizenship. However, underlying those debates and disagreements among researchers, three basic understandings or assumptions are generally accepted in the main readings of the inter-relation between civic cultures, citizenship and democracy: (a) historically, democracy in Europe’s nation states is closely related to the evolution of civil society. (b) European modernity is to be understood within the framework of state, market and civil society based institutions, and (c) there is a strong relationship between citizenship rights, economic prosperity, and political involvement of citizens in the society.
The economic and social crisis in Europe has accentuated the importance of different types of civic organisations in defending the social rights of the citizens and mediating between citizens and the political authorities. The main reason for this is the legitimacy crisis of the participatory democracy in the post-industrial countries. Additional factor to be considered are difficulties of realizing processes that are able to involve citizens in strategic decision-making at community as well as national level and difficulties in the identification and organization of welfare services, with special relevance for the vulnerable groups of citizens. These problems have been ascribed to the limitations of representative forms of democracy in capturing the heterogeneity, complex interests, and identities in our diverse societies. Active citizenship and civic involvement can be considered as part of the solution on these problems.
The chapter will start out discussing the relationship between organised civil society and the welfare state system in provision of social services as well as in protecting the social rights of citizens. The composition of the organised civil society differs among the European welfare states and the chapter will discuss these differences and how the economic and social crisis has influenced the position of organised civil society and civic participation in general among European citizens. The chapter will conclude with a programmatic statement on the role of organised civil society in the present economic, social, and political situation in Europe.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEurope's Prolonged Crisis : The Making or the Unmaking of a Political Union
EditorsCarlo Ruzza, Hans-Jörg Trenz, Virginie Guiraudon
Number of pages25
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication date2015
Chapter7
ISBN (Print)9781137493668
Publication statusPublished - 2015
SeriesPalgrave Studies in European Political Sociology

Cite this

Boje, T. P. (2015). Organized Civil Society, Participation and Citizenship in Europe: The impact of the Economic and Social Crisis. In C. Ruzza, H-J. Trenz, & V. Guiraudon (Eds.), Europe's Prolonged Crisis: The Making or the Unmaking of a Political Union Palgrave Macmillan. Palgrave Studies in European Political Sociology