Civil Society: The Underpinnings Of American Democracy

1006 Words 5 Pages
Civil society is a contested and developed theory studied by various scholars across the globe. Based on intense research conducted to define this social construct, the high level of complexity and difficulty to understand is evident. Philosophers Brian O’Connell (1999) and Bruce Sievers (2010), publicized their developed understanding of what constitutes civil society and the essential elements required to sustain the conditions of civil society. In exploring their work, both authors agree the relationship between the nonprofit sector and civil society promotes democracy, which is enhanced by its institutional structures and normative ideals. The most important institutional structure, system of free expression, is defined as a “definitive …show more content…
Understanding the distinctive characteristics of democracy, O’Connell helps the reader to understand there the significant difference between civil society in the United States and other countries. Based on his interactions with individuals from various countries, he concludes “there is a universal hunger for participation and influence within one’s own surrounding [...]” and “effective societies exist in direct proportion to their degree of citizen participation and influence” (O’Connell, 5-6). Specifically, in the United States, citizens expect rights to be granted along with fairness and justice in social exchanges; however, O’Connell argues that if Americans continue to take such liberations for granted, the potential strength of democracy will inevitably weaken. Suggesting that citizens take full advantage of their liberties, O’Connell highlights the significant role of the nonprofit sector within civil society. In this chapter, the nonprofit sector is identified as a buffer zone designed to enhance democracy through encouraging independent citizen initiative outside the government and personal commitment to service. In a sense, the nonprofit sector provides a vehicle for individuals to exercise their right to associate and freedom of speech. Although the nonprofit …show more content…
In supporting each abstract idea, Sievers includes numerous theoretical perspectives and definitions, identifying similarities and differences, from various scholars. Following, he synthesizes the seven concepts and categorizes them into two groups: institutional elements and normative elements. The institutional elements that represents the structure of civil society includes: philanthropy, the rule of law, private associations, and system of free expression (Sievers, 8). The system of free expression contributed to the expansion of pamphlets, published newsletters, books etc., allowing individuals or associations to voice their concerns about religious, political and social issues. The normative elements that strengthen the institutional structures includes: the common good, rights and tolerance. The idea of individual rights is extremely important in understanding the political system of liberal democracy because it represents the equal protection of human rights, civil rights and liberties for all people. In addition, Sievers concept of the nonprofit sector represents the framework of “philanthropic institutions, accepted legal systems and proliferating private associations” that ultimately

Related Documents