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civil society

  Those segments of a capitalist society which lie outside both the sphere of production and the state (alternative terms for civil society are the sphere of consumption and the sphere of struggle). It involves divisions on a number of criteria, such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and age, between which there may be conflict (cf. cleavage). To Hall (1998) it is \'a form of societal self-organization which allows for co-operation with the state whilst enabling individualism\' (see also Taylor, 1990, for a discussion on the idea\'s origins).

The reproduction of society, both individually and inter-generationally, biologically and culturally, is organized within civil society. Struggles over existence under capitalism involve intersections with both the sphere of production, through the sphere of circulation (money earned in the sphere of production is expended on reproduction), and the state (reproduction is regulated by the state and enhanced by it, through the provision of public goods — see welfare state). These intersections define the \'sphere of struggle\' (Urry, 1981: see figure). The existence of capitalism does not ensure a civil society, however: many capitalist societies have authoritarian states and other social forces \'which cage and control the individual, limiting room for moral autonomy\' over many aspects of life, such as the choice of clothing and marriage partner, whereas in civil societies \'individuals have the chance of at least trying to create their own selves\' (Hall, 1998, p. 33) because of the existence of a range of strong, autonomous social groups which can both influence the state and protect individuals from it.

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civil society The basic structure of capitalist social formations (Urry)

Some of the defences of European colonialism argued that the areas colonized lacked a civil society, and part of the colonial heritage was its creation and development. But civil societies in the western European mode — characterized by a \'special type of societal self-organization, moderate, co-operative and permeable\' (Hall, 1998, p. 41) — are not readily transported to other cultural contexts. Hall claims that they are unlikely to be created in many regions outside western Europe and North America, with the exceptions of parts of Central Europe and Latin America. Elsewhere, moves to establish civil society on the European model are strongly contested — as in India, where the ideal is popular among some sectors, including the elite, but which still practises the caste system that \'cages huge numbers with awful efficiency\', and the Middle East and North Africa, where religious fundamentalism sustains \'a social world utterly foreign to that whose contours\' characterize western liberal democracies. Whereas the latter accepts \'a shared world within which differences are accepted\' the former resists difference and diversity (see also McIlwaine, 1998). (RJJ)

Reference and Suggested Reading Hall, J.A. 1998: The nature of civil society. Society 35: 32-41. Johnston, R.J. 1991: A question of place: exploring the practice of human geography. Oxford and Boston: Basil Blackwell. McIlwaine, C. 1998: Civil society and development geography. Progress in Human Geography 22: 415-24. Taylor, C. 1990: Modes of civil society. Public Culture 3: 95-118. Urry, J. 1981: The anatomy of capitalist societies: the economy, civil society and the state. London: Macmillan; Atlantic Highland, NJ: Humanities Press.



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