ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Civil Society through Clear Eyes

Civil Society through Clear Eyes SUSMITA DASGUPTA Sanjay Kumar

Sanjay Kumar’s article (EPW, July 29, 2000) is a fresh perspective on the civil society. He has seen the civil society through clear eyes as it has emerged, thrived and transformed its project through the course of modern history. The author has correctly pointed out the limitations of studies of civil society through its various definitions. Definitions make sense for the study of repeated forms of interactions, and the civil society is not one such a repetitive interaction among people in their everyday lives. The civil society emerges at special moments of history. It emerges when the conscious members of the society perceive a gap between the social aspirations of the people and the opportunities given unto them by the state – when such a gap makes either the society or the state, each on its own, unsustainable.

The author implies that the civil society is a spirit of the society. This is the spirit of a set of individuals who, having acquired either property or talents are usually upwardly mobile and actively imagine an order that is going to sustain their new found power. Civil society tends to be born out of the new elites within a society, who imagine a new order, founded upon new principles in which either they participate in the affairs of the state, or the state is such that it provides them the opportunities to pursue their ends. Civil society emerged in Europe at the moment of a grand transformation – of an emerging bourgeoise class and the declining aristrocracy. The civil society, which expressed the spirit of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, was the imagination of a modern state founded essentially upon the liberty of the individual to effect changes in his own life, equality among men so that each had his own opportunities and fraternity among people. These aspirations made the Weberian nascent capitalist community effectively be founded upon the ethics of trust and honesty and stand up as a bloc against the trepidation of the aristrocracy, ecclesia and the royalty.

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