Since 1989, civil society theory within the literature on democratization reflects the hold exerted by the model of actually existing liberal democracy over political studies. Thus civil society is viewed in largely instrumental terms ‐ as a support structure for democracy at the state level ‐ and earlier, more radical, models ‐ which understood civil society to be a democratic end in itself ‐ are forgotten. Liberal‐democratic conceptualizations of civil society, therefore, remain largely unchallenged as to their normative assumptions; increasingly, the category civil society is seen as a neutral tool for social science analysis. This essay seeks to complicate this picture, and to expose the current civil society orthodoxy as rather less than value‐free. It does this via a critical exploration of the boundaries of the new thinking, and by juxtaposing it with more substantive models from the 1970s and 1980s.

The Taming of the Idea of Civil Society’, GideonBakerDemocratization, 6 (3) (1999): 1–29. Published by Frank Cass, London. Reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis Ltd,
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