Civil society in the history of ideas: The French tradition
Annelien De Dijn
No SP IV 2007-401, Discussion Papers, Research Group Civil Society, Citizenship and Political Mobilization in Europe from WZB Berlin Social Science Center
This paper argues that there existed a specifically French tradition of conceptualizing civil society, developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which differed in important respects from the Anglo-American emphasis on the market sphere. It shows that this tradition, which had its roots in Montesquieu’s Esprit des lois, and was exemplified most famously in the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, argued for the existence of a third, intermediary sphere between the government and the people as indispensable for the preservation of political liberty. At the same time, this paper shows how the French thinkers here discussed feared that the preservation of this intermediate sphere of civil society was threatened by the rise of modern, individualistic society. French defenders of civil society were therefore highly critical of modernity – a critical attitude which seems to have been inherited by some of their contemporary descendants, such as Robert Putnam.
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:zbw:wzbccm:spiv2007401
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