Rupert Strachwitz on Civil Society and Convivialism

IS CIVIL SOCIETY A FORM OF SOCIETY OR PART OF IT?

AND HOW DOES IT FIT IN WITH CONVIVIALISM?

Even a generation ago, debates on big societal issued tended to focus on the state as the prime agent of change as much as the prime guardian of resilience. The power of national governments matched the identity of citizens as belonging to a nation. Other forms of general activity and identity were seen as secondary, if at all. No wonder the business sector is traditionally termed ‘private’, although it affects peo-ple’s lives at least as much as government action. Today, this is fundamentally dif-ferent. Not only have large international business corporations attained virtual inde-pendence, picking the government that best suits their interests. Large not-for-profit organisations too have become major players in the global arena. Each of these groups or arenas has their own licence to operate, follows their own rules, and pur-sues their own goals, notwithstanding the fact that all of them are decidedly hetero-geneous in themselves. While ‚the state’ ranges from small local communities to su-pranational structures like the European Union, and the private or business sector includes small family-owned and managed firms and even sole traders as much as huge multinational conglomerates, tiny grass-root initiatives claim to be part of a dis-tinct third sector as do some of Europe’s largest employers. What has evolved is what is sometimes described as a three-legged stool, the stool itself symbolizing so-ciety at large, and the three legs representing the state, the market, and civil society. Modern political theory tends to adopt a notion that society needs all three of them to secure stability and an evolutionary development in society. As everyone knows, a three-legged stool is difficult to topple, whereas the one-legged stool, formerly used for milking, and the two-legged stool, in use with charcoal burners, were not.

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Strachwitz, Civil Society & Convivialism

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