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"Civil Society" Reflection

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CL 100

9 October 2008

According to the book by Michael Edwards called “Civil Society”, the term civil society has many different meanings.  In this book, Edwards attempts to portray the best way to create a civil society while trying to define civil society.  According to Edwards, the term civil society is a “part of society”, a “kind of society”, and a “public sphere” (p. 10).

Civil society is a “part of society” (p. 10).  As a part of society, I am involved in many different aspects of life; I fit into more than one title.  I am a citizen, and should therefore be involved within my community in order to build social capital.  I am a worker and therefore part of a team; this means I should work together with my co-workers in order to do our job.  I am a student, a consumer, a friend, a neighbor; I can be described by all of these titles plus more.  “The qualities developed in one of these roles spill over into the others, one hopes with positive effects” (p. 24) says Edwards.

Civil society is a “public sphere” (p. 10).  The idea of every citizen caring about the good of the community is central to a civil society.  Social capital helps to create a civil society.  Social responsibility is the drive behind it.  When a citizen feels responsible for their community, they are more likely to contribute to society.  Everyone’s contributions become the community’s social capital and this, in turn, helps to maintain a civil society.

Nanzer says, “Civil society is the argument we use to justify civil engagement.”  We become involved in our community because we have a civil society, and we have a civil society because we are involved in our community.  As Edwards says, “Civil society is simultaneously a goal to aim for, a means to achieve it and a framework for engaging with each other about ends and means” (p. viii).

Edwards believes “that families are or should be the first ‘civil societies’, marked by sacrifice and caring for the other” (p. 49).  I agree with Edwards’ statement.  Families create a community and many communities make up a civil society.  A civil society requires civic engagement.  It requires being involved in one’s community.  This involvement shows that one cares for others and their community.  This, many times, can be quite a sacrifice.

Edward also states that “Trust, cooperation and other more specific political attitudes all begin to be formed in family relationships” (p. 49).  Learning to work with others is key to creating a civil society.  In order to work with others, one needs to, to some extent, learn to trust others and cooperate with them.

Teamwork, or cooperation, is key to a civil society.  It creates more of a sense of community and, therefore, a feeling of social responsibility.  This, in turn, creates more visible social capital.  This typically results in citizens becoming more involved in their community.  The more civic engagement there is, the better a civil society can become.

I cannot think of a better place for a civil society to begin.  Families provide a lot of support.  As Edwards says, “the family is central to shaping the values, norms and dispositions of individuals” (p.49).  This is something I can apply to my life in the future.  If I have a family, I can provide my children with a sense of a civil society.  I can apply this to my future in community service as well.  If I work with children or families, I can also help to provide these people with a sense of civil society.

If a person can make their voice heard and have it count, I believe this person would be more likely to be involved in his community.  This can be obtained, at least partially, through a civil society.  Civil society, as Saad Eddin Ibrahim defines it, is “a society where all could be free to speak their minds and have their voices heard” (p. 37).

A civil society also provides support.  As one works on things with others, more similarities are recognized.  As these similarities are made more apparent, one feels more like part of a community.  A community provides “emotional” support, whether knowingly or unknowingly.  This, in turn, creates more civic engagement (p. 12).

As well as “emotional” support, a civil society also provides “material” support (p. 12).  This is made apparent through social capital.  To create social capital there must be a variety of skills, attributes, and interests within a community.  This, as well as the actual materials needed to carry out the tasks, I believe, is what Edwards means by “material” support (p. 12).

A civil society can also prevent a build-up of power in one particular person.  This build up of power is not a good thing; it prevents one from feeling a sense of independence.  This prevents one from sharing his ideas because one may feel as though his ideas should be dependent upon the society’s ideas or the ideas of that of the person of power.  This is why civil society’s prevention of the build-up of power is a positive aspect.

I agree with Edwards when he says that “all of us carry in our hearts and minds a vision of the world as we would want it to be – ruled, at the most general level, by love and forgiveness, truth and beauty, courage and compassion” (p. 37).  When there is a civil society, one’s views can be made more known to the public and, therefore, can become an agent in change.

I believe civil society is, overall, a positive thing.  Civil society is “cited as a solution to social, economic and political dilemmas” according to Edwards (p. 1).  Having a civil society is a helpful thing.  It may not always cure all problems, but it will certainly help in the process.

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