Good and bad civil society.

Civil society is constituted as the arena outside of the state and the market where organizations and individuals interact and promote common interests outside of the logic of the political and the economic. This view, predominant in academic discourse and public debate, perpetuates and reinforces a sharp distinction between state, market and civil society which hinders the understanding of their inextricable interrelation. This project claims that the sharp distinction between state, market and civil society is constantly produced by discourses on state and civil society, but is not a neutral description of their relationship but a specific construction of civil society.

The project views civil society as a politically contested concept and analyzes academic as well as political discourses in Denmark since the 1970s as central to shaping social imaginaries which structure social reality and create state, market and civil society as distinct entities with specific logics and values. The discourses on civil society and the invocation of it as something distinct from the state and the market are a construction of a specific type of civil society and of the individuals and institutions acting within it. That type of civil society and those institutions in civil society who promote societal integration and cohesion as well as solution to social, environmental and economic issues and increasingly supporting a welfare state under duress are construed as ‘good’ civil society, while those institutions who promote disintegration, which threaten to undermine the unity of the state and those who challenge the state as sole legitimate claimant to political authority and allegiance are construed as ‘bad’ civil society.

This project is carried out by Mathias Hein Jessen.


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