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The Importance of Being Civil by John A. Hall

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CHAPTER 1

Agreeing to Differ

For about a quarter century “civil society” has had about it an air of excitement. This is not surprising, for the concept has been taken as a banner by those wishing to be free in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and, most recently, in North Africa, and it has been further invoked by Marxist thinkers in the West who seek a nonstatist theory of the Left.1 Still, there has always been vagueness as to exactly what the notion implied. This chapter provides the clarity that is needed. The argument is simple: “civil society” only “makes sense” when it contains a heavy dose of civility. It may be helpful to offer a complete definition of civil society immediately: it is a form of societal self-organization that allows for ...

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