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Transnational Civil Society

John D. H. Downing

Subject Communication Studies » Communication and Development

People Locke, John , Marx, Karl

Key-Topics globalization

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


“Civil society” has been through a series of definitions since it first came into use in the 18th century. Locke, Hegel, Marx, and Gramsci all used the term; but for Locke it meant organized human civilization as contrasted with the animal kingdom's turbulence, for Marx it meant the economic process, and the other two writers assigned it still other meanings. In Soviet bloc countries in the final years of the bloc's disintegration, and in Latin America in the same period during the gradual disappearance of military dictatorships, “civil society” was a term of hope often used by advocates of democratic governance to denote the hopeful shoots of democratic process they saw emerging in front of their eyes, that they felt were ushering in the dissolution of dictatorial rule. Beginning in the 1980s and growing in the 1990s, the term became almost iconic within movements for global social justice, basically denoting projects and initiatives undertaken by, and furthering, grassroots political interests. These might be to develop anti-racist and civil rights strategies, to address the AIDS crisis, to promote sustainable environmental policies, to empower women, to promote peace, to strengthen responsive labor organization, and a variety of other issues, all of them quite often interlinked. In particular, it signified citizens’ actions against the globalized neo-liberal economic policies ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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