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Civil Society at the Turn of the Millenium: Prospects for an Alternative World Order

Robert W. Cox
Review of International Studies
Vol. 25, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 3-28
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20097573
Page Count: 26
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Civil Society at the Turn of the Millenium: Prospects for an Alternative World Order
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Abstract

The meaning of 'civil society' has evolved considerably since its use in the context of the 18th century European Enlightenment. Then it signified the realm of private interests, in practice the realm of the bourgeoisie, distinct from the state. While one current of thought retains that meaning and its implications, others view civil society rather as the emancipatory activity of social forces distinct from both state and capital. Antonio Gramsci's thought embraced both meanings: civil society was the ground that sustained the hegemony of the bourgeoisie but also that on which an emancipatory counterhegemony could be constructed. Is civil society today in the latter sense, a surrogate for revolution that seems a remote possibility towards the attainment of an alternative social and world order? It is useful to test this proposition by examining the potential for civil society in different parts of the world.

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