What is civil society and why is it important

What is civil society and why is it important

What is civil society and why is it important 

The origin of the modern idea of civil society can be traced back to 18 century when political theorists like Thomas pain and Hegel regarded the concept of civil society as a space that is parallel to but separate from the state.

Definition of Civil society:

According to Jan A Schulte, “Civil society can be understood as a political space, where voluntary organizations deliberately seek to shape the rules that govern the aspect of social life.”


There are two dimensions of the definition of civil society-

  •  analytical dimension. 
  •  normative dimension.


As per the analytical definition, Civil Society is a domain, where individuals and groups articulate their interests. It is the realm where people met up to propel the interest they hold in common.
Civil society is a sphere that stands between family and state. It is comprised of associational life that reflects the degree to which residents share their own complaints and requests with others. It is an arena, where private become public and social become political.
The normative definition of civil society lays emphasis on the importance of norms. As per the normative definition, civil society teaches people political values and foster social norms, which is necessary for people to live together. It teaches people how to enjoy as well as show respect for their liberties.


Role of Civil Society :

Civil Society plays three very important roles-

Economic role

The economic role of civil society basically focuses on securing livelihood and providing service where State and markets are weak. It also focuses on nurturing social capital, which means citizens’ ability to work together willingly for the fulfillment of their common long term interest.

 Social role

In the Social role civil society can be a reservoir of co-operating values, social norms, cultural life, and intellectual innovation. It imparts the knowledge of citizenship and it can also provide a platform where people can express their views that they hold in their heart.



Role of Civil Society in Good Governance


The role played by Civil Society in ensuring good governance has become the center of discussion nowadays.
Civil society is regarded as a significant agent of good governance. It ensures good governance, firstly by analyzing various policies and decisions made by the government and secondly by controlling and checking the state’s exhibition and conduct of public authorities.
The civil society gives people the medium and channel through which they can make their voice heard in the government’s decision making, which helps in promoting transparency and accountability and also to curb corruption.


Functional contribution of civil society to good governance:

  1. Civil society plays the role of a Watchdog against the violation of human rights and governing deficiencies.
  2. Civil society is the advocate of the weaker sections ‘point of view.
  3. It is the instructor of citizen about their privileges and obligations
  4. Civil society is a service provider to those areas where the market and state are weak.
  5. It also plays a very important role in generating public opinion for or against a decision or policy taken by the government.



Over the last two decades, civil society has evolved significantly. It is perceived as the assorted and ever more extensive ecosystem of individuals, and institutions. Broadly speaking, civil society is commonly defined as a sphere outside family, market, and state, which encompasses a wide range of purposes, structure membership, and geographical coverage.
Civil society can be viewed as a social space, which isn’t a piece of family, market, and state, where peoples meet up to arrange their relation or connection with the State.

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