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Hvad er civilsamfundet?

Ideen (og idealet) om det civile samfund blev lanceret i 1700-tallets Europa som led i mere eller mindre militante opgør med den altomfattende kirke og den autoritære stat. Der er tale om et omdiskuteret og politiseret begreb med vage definitioner, hvoraf vi her bringer et lille udvalg:

Helmut K. Anheier: “Civil society is the sum of institutions  and individuals located between the family, the state and the market in which people associate voluntarily to advance common interests … a buffer zone strong enough to keep both state and market in check, thereby preventing each from becoming too powerful and dominating.” (i: Civil Society, Civicus, 2004:20)

David Held: ”Civil society retains a distinctive character to the extent that it is made up of areas of social life – the domestic world, the economic sphere, cultural activities and political interaction – which are organized by private or voluntary arrangements between individuals and groups outside the direct control of the state.” (i: Models of Democracy, Stanford University Press, 1987:281)

Gibson-Graham: “Civil society needs to be seen as a space for social, cultural and economic experimentation."(2003)

Center for Civil Society, London School of Economics: “Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interest, purposes and values. In theory, its institutional forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in practice, the boundaries between state, civil society, family and market are often complex, blurred and negotiated.”