picture: alexis de tocqueville - believed to be in the public domainA set of pages exploring civil society, civic participation, the development of community and association, and the activities of educators and animateurs.

‘The strength of free peoples resides in the local community. Local institutions are to liberty what primary schools are to science; they put it within the people’s reach; they teach people to appreciate its peaceful enjoyment and accustom them to make use of it. Without local institutions a nation may give itself a free government; but it has not got the spirit of liberty’ (Alexis de Tocqueville 1835).

introducing association, democracy and civil society

Association and la vie associative. This piece explores the process of joining together in companionship or to undertake some task – and the educative power of playing one’s part in a group or association.

Civil society. Michael Edwards explores the practical and theoretical significance of civil society – and suggests some ways forward.

Civic community. What are the essential conditions of successful democracies? What is the significance of civic community for the development of good institutions? We explore Robert D. Putnam’s path-breaking analysis of civil traditions in Italy.

Social capital. The notion of social capital is a useful way of entering into debates about civil society – and it is central to the arguments of Robert Putnam and others who want to ‘reclaim public life’. We examine it’s nature – and some of the issues surrounding its use. See also: Robert. D. Putnam.

Check out the full listing of articles in this arena.

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