Lesson 5: Social Foundations of Democracy; the Role of Civil Society

The subject of this lecture is the role of civil society as the social foundation of democracy. In this session, we will analyze the roles that civil society organizations play in the ongoing course of democratic life and demonstrate which aspects of human behavior in organizational life are conducive to those organizations. Since the history of the concept of civil society over the past several centuries sheds much light on its role in democracy, we will pay special attention to civic life. We will also clarify the identity and importance of civil society by examining the most prominent aspects of its recent history. We will then examine the role of civil society in democratic, authoritarian, and totalitarian systems from the 1930s to the 1980s, in Eastern Europe toward the end of the 20th century, and in the West since the 1990s. Finally, we will discuss functions of civil society in democratic political systems as well as the importance and role of civility in civil society.

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