Democratic Civility

The History and Cross-Cultural Possibility of a Modern Political Ideal


Transaction Publishers New Brunswick (U.S.A.) and London (U.K.)


On the History and Cross-Cultural Possibility of a Democratic Ideal

Robert W. Hefner

Few questions more clearly preoccupy our era than that of how to facilitate civil, free, and democratic interaction among the citizens of multicultural societies. In recent years, the importance of this challenge, the challenge of democratic civility, has become globally apparent. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we were witness to a transformation of international politics more fundamental than any since the end of the Second World War. The collapse of European communism, the break-up of the Soviet Union, programs of economic restructuration, and efforts to advance human rights and the rule of law throughout the world-these and other developments seemed to mark a new era in global politics, characterized by widespread demands for civic rights and democratic participation.

These same events gave rise, however, to furious debates as to whether the culture and organization required to fulfill such aspirations were realizable across the diverse nations of the world. A few well-positioned Western analysts responded with an unhesitating affirmative to this question. In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, in particular, one heard that we had transcended the central ideological struggles of this century, and arrived at “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”1 This “end of history” was so decisive, it was asserted, that from this point on all serious political discussion would take place within the cultural horizons of liberal democracy.

Other observers responded to the new world order, however, by rejecting such universalist effervescence. As prodemocracy voices in their countries grew louder, conservative rulers in East Asia, Africa, and the Middle East announced that human rights and civil democracy were premised on “Western” values incompatible with their own. In Western circles, a few high-ranking policy experts made similar pronouncements (though for different political motives), declaring democracy incompatible with many non-Western cultural traditions. In one of the most celebrated of these prognoses, the Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington forecast a coming age of international turmoil, in which the grounds for conflict will no longer be ideological or economic, as during the Cold War, but “civilizational.” The clash of civilizations, Huntington warned, “will dominate global politics,” and make the achievement of an international consensus on democracy and peaceful coexistence highly unlikely.2

Not surprisingly, the scope of Huntington’s generalities incited a chorus of criticism, not least of all from specialists on China and the Muslim world, the two regions singled out as most likely to clash with the West. Disappointment with Huntington’s pronouncements was perhaps greatest among Muslim proponents of democratic reform. Having struggled for years to refute Islamist radicals’ claims that the West views Islam as the enemy, democratic Muslims found themselves in the awkward position of having to explain how one of America’s most influential policy advisors seemed to have identified Islam in just such terms. Questions of reception and historical accuracy aside, the really interesting thing about Huntington’s remarks was that they revealed just how much the heady triumphalism of the post-Cold War era had given way to growing doubts about democracy’s generalizability.

The bittersweet anxiety of the age was not confined to commentaries on ex-communist or non-Western societies. During these same years, numerous writers began to voice concerns about the health of Western democracy. To borrow a phrase from Jean Bethke Elshtain, there was talk of the “deepening emptiness” to public life, “a kind of evacuation of civic spaces.”3 Declining electoral participation and a lack of civility across cultural and ideological divides were cited as primary expressions of our crisis. Similar statements of concern, of course, had been a commonplace of Western politics since the 1960s, if not earlier. However latter-day versions of the lament showed something new. Rather than being the clarion call of a disaffected few, the plaint was heard across the ideological spectrum, from home-spun conservatives to the left-liberal avant garde.

This cultural anxiety was heightened by a number of very real social changes. In Western Europe, immigration and the transformation of nations into multiethnic societies provoked heated debates over the range of cultural pluralism compatible with received ideas of nationhood and citizenship.4 A similar debate over nation and immigration took place in the United States, which found itself in the throes of an immigrant wave second only to the “great immigration” that transformed American society between 1890 and 1910. The American debate quickly became part of a broader “culture war” over abortion rights, school prayer, affirmative action, and, most generally, the identity politics of ethnic and life-style minorities.5 Even in Canada, by most measures one of the most successfully multicultural societies in the world, disputes over Québecois independence and Native American rights raised questions about the viability of Canadian democracy and the rights of cultural minorities within any political union.

Under these and other influences, and in the span of just a few years, the attitude of Western policymakers toward democracy’s future went from breezy confidence to edgy uncertainty. Interestingly, however, this wave of concern had a salutary effect on empirical studies of democracy. Whereas during the 1970s and 1980s political theory had been dominated by decontexualized debates over democracy’s first principles, democratic theory now took a more sociological or anthropological turn. There was a heightened awareness of the multicultural nature of the contemporary world, and the need to attend to this pluralism when considering democracy’s prospects.6 As the problem of pluralism loomed larger, there was a parallel expansion of interest in the kinds of cultures and organizations that, to adapt Robert Putnam’s now-famous phrase, “make democracy work.”7 What conditions encourage democratic participation and civil tolerance? Can ideas of human rights and democratic participation take hold in cultures whose ideas of personhood are premised on values other than those of liberal individualism? Is Western democracy really threatened by the twin trends of cultural separatism and the “continuing erosion of civic engagement?”8 The attention these questions attracted showed that, for students of comparative politics, the social conditions of democracy’s possibility had become the order of the day.

Conditions of a Modern Possibility

Perhaps no phrase has figured more prominently in this literature on the social prerequisites of plural democracy than has “civil society.” Though writers differ on its details, most describe civil society as an arena of friendships, clubs, churches, business associations, unions, human rights groups, and other voluntary associations beyond the household but outside the state. This tissue of social ties, civil theorists assume, mediates between the household and the state so as to provide citizens opportunities for learning democratic habits of free assembly, noncoercive dialogue, and socioeconomic initiative. In so doing, it is implied, civil society is the key to balancing private interests and public solidarity.

Defined in so preliminary a manner, it is hard to understand why the concept of civil society seemed new to so many people. Stripped to its definitional shorts, the idea shows little more analytic muscle than the long-familiar reflections of the French observer of nineteenth-century American society, Alexis de Tocqueville. Drawing on ideas first developed by Montesquieu, de Tocqueville too had regarded intermediary associations as vital ingredients for a healthy democracy. He observed, “No countries need associations more-to prevent despotism of parties or the arbitrary rule of a prince-than those with a democratic social state.” He also commented that Americans had “carried to the highest perfection” the democratic habit of pursuing goals in common effort and independent of the national government.9 In reflecting on what made American democracy work, Tocqueville highlighted the role of small-town government and churches. These institutions, he suggested, drew Americans away from the narrow concerns of their private lives into public projects where they learned habits of the heart conducive to democratic compromise and a sense of civil good.

Some might argue that today’s discussions of civil society add little to de Tocqueville’s observations. But this has not prevented bom-again enthusiasts of the idea from providing breathless accounts of civil society’s ameliorative powers. A healthy civil society, certain sociological promoters insist, can counterbalance the power of the state and moderate the appetites of rulers. Republican political philosophers claim civil society is where citizens leam the habits of participation and toleration vital for democracy.10 For enthusiasts of a free market bent, civil associations are said to deliver social services without trapping citizens in welfare dependency.11 For writers on the post-Marxist left, civil society is trumpeted as a means to deepen democracy.12 All in all, and varying according to the school of thought with which it is associated, civil society has been attributed the power to create countervailing forces, eliminate anomie, increase enterprise, strengthen the family, radicalize democracy, reduce teenage pregnancy, and inculcate republican virtue.

Rarely has so heavy an analytic cargo been strapped on the back of so slender a conceptual beast. The contradictory uses to which the idea of civil society has been put make a cool assessment of its utility difficult, to say the least. But the contributors to this volume are intent on just such an assessment. While acknowledging that the concept has acquired a conceptual polymorphousness, the authors in this book share the conviction that the idea of civil society can be given sociological precision, and that it is an important ingredient in any effort to understand the conditions of modern democracy’s possibility. The authors also agree that, to realize its promise, the concept of civil society must be more firmly tethered to its sociological and cross-cultural moorings, and analyzed in relation to real social worlds. Deployed in this manner, the concept becomes less stratospheric in its pretensions, but more realistic in its insights.

None of this is to say that the problem of civil society should be stripped of normative concerns. On the contrary, one of the attractions of the concept is that it is, as John Hall has put it, a “package deal,” linking the ideals of freedom, equality, and tolerance to the structures and institutions thought to make such a political culture possible.13 The problem, then, is not that normative issues are somehow inimical to empirical analysis. It is instead that much of the theoretical writing on civil democracy has been more concerned with summarizing technical debates among professional philosophers than it has been in demonstrating whether those ideas inform actual people’s political actions. Similarly, disputes over different versions of civil democracy have sometimes been conducted without asking whether the high principles in question can ever be socially realized. Finally, much of the debate has been conducted within a philosophical framework of uniquely European provenance, without bothering to ask how much of the framework is transferrable to non-Western societies—or, equally important, whether such a framework does justice to the variety of Western political experiences.14

Commenting on some of these problems a decade ago, the political theorist John Keane rightly observed that theories of civil society “could benefit from critical encounters with the pluralist trends within contemporary philosophy.” 15 In the years since his essay, the concept has benefitted from just such a dialogue in the works of such leading pluralist philosophers as Charles Taylor and Will Kymlicka. However, a few admirable exceptions aside,16 the dialogue with pluralism has yet to take the final step, which is to engage not merely Western philosophers, but peoples and cultures grappling with the question of whether civil and democratic ideals can be made their own.

It is just such a pluralist dialogue that we attempt in this volume. Urging the concept of civil society toward greater sociological realism, our central concern is the compatibility of democracy and civil society with plural polities and cultures. In addressing these issues, we speak to a broader debate over the form and meaning of civil democracy.17 Engaging and, at times, transcending its conceptual compass, the essays provide five lessons on this debate, and on the enduring challenge of civility in democracy.

From Pluralist Cages to Democratic Civility

Since its initial strirrings in ancient Greece and Rome, Western political theory has developed as if the communities to which it applied were culturally homogeneous entities with securely agreed borders. Though both ancient Greece and Rome developed from simple republics into multicultural empires, their political theories remained premised on a vision of close-knit communities sharing language, culture, and religion. Surprisingly, this homogenizing bias persisted in the democratic theory that emerged in the West in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As the political theorist Michael Walzer has put it, liberal writers were “ready enough to acknowledge a plurality of interests,” but they were “strikingly unready for a plurality of cultures. One people made one state.”18

To unravel the problem of pluralism in comparative democratic studies, then, it is useful to begin by reminding ourselves that pluralism is by no means a uniquely modern problem. Though Durkheimian stereotypes of traditional societies imply otherwise, societies in which people from varied religious, ethnic, linguistic, and racial backgrounds lived within and across the confines of one political order have existed since prehistoric times.19 Similarly, such “traditional” states as Mughal India, the Ottoman empire, West African Asante, and Majapahit Java all incorporated a diverse array of peoples and cultures, and were involved with a social and economic macrocosm extending far beyond their borders. Though often established through conquest and domination, most of these societies went on to develop more pacific arrangements to facilitate tolerable interaction among the varied groupings which comprised their whole.20

Indeed, in matters of pluralism, premodern Western Europe-with its Christian church, Roman legal heritage, and politics of kingdom and manor—was considerably less pluralistic than many of its imperial counterparts in East Asia, West Africa, or the Muslim Middle East.21 Moreover, Europe’s relative homogeneity was not merely the consequence of natural circumstances, but reflected a history of sometimes violent suppression of religious, ethnic, and cultural differences. With its antiheresy campaigns, mass killings of witches, and chronic inaccommodation of Muslims and Jews, premodern Europe can claim no special cultural genius in the problem of pluralism.22 If this generalization is true for the premodern era, however, the same cannot quite be said for all recent European experiments in civility. In the early modern era a few regions in Western Europe attempted to develop forms of political cohesion that showed a cultural distinctiveness indeed.

In its most general sense, political civility concerns the public discourses and practices through which cohesive interaction among the members of a plural society is facilitated in ways other than (but sometimes complementary to) political domination. In most societies, and certainly in those we too simply label “premodern,” political civility was premised on categories and hierarchies that classified populations into large social blocks defined in terms of religion, ethnicity, tribe, gender, caste, or some other ascriptive quality.23 Typically these categories were the basis on which people were assigned differential rights of participation in the social and political order. To borrow an image from John Hall’s essay below, this premodern tradition was a civility of “social cages.” Hall’s image is normatively supercharged, and overlooks the fact that, as F. G. Bailey has recently emphasized, such systems of cohesion relied on a “civility of indifference” as much as exclusionary groupings.24 This criticism acknowledged, Hall’s basic point is well taken, in the sense that most premodern states premised their politics on an idealized segregation of social groups. By contrast, after the European Enlightenment efforts were made to formulate political ideals of a “civic” nature, grounded on the triplicate values of freedom, equality, and tolerance in public interaction.25

Of course, history teaches us that, in practice, these Enlightenment experiments in democratic civility failed to extend rights of participation to whole categories of people, including, most famously, women, the propertyless, and racial and ethnic minorities. It is also clear that, to this day, no Western political system has ever managed to bring political practice into absolute conformity with civic ideals.26 Political practice is, of course, never merely execution of the rule; and in the case of these Enlightenment experiments, other interests competed with civic ideals to structure politics in sometimes contradictory ways. These qualifications acknowledged, the fact remains that the effort to conjoin rights of democratic participation with tolerance and equality represented a novel formula for political integration, and is the basis of the values we know as democratic civility.

Indeed, though its principles may be violated or ignored, democratic civility is not an ideological illusion or mere tool of hegemonic control. On the contrary, it is an idea that has mattered in modern history, and mattered greatly. Postmodern and Foucauldian theories greatly oversimplify our world when they assert that modern politics has involved no more than the ever-greater intrusion of a “panopticon” state into the public sphere and our private lives. Modern Western history has witnessed repeated struggles to extend rights of political participation to excluded social groupings. Even more remarkably, as we all know, in this century civil democratic ideals have spread throughout the world with a speed and intensity that mark them as among the most important “globalizations” of our time. Whereas a century ago civil ideals were foreign to most of the world’s political cultures, today ideas which bear at least a family resemblance to those of democratic civility have their supporters in almost every comer of the globe. Here, then, is a development as world transforming as the emergence of modern capitalism or nationalism, yet of which we have an astoundingly incomplete grasp.

Unfortunately, one of the things that we do know, and know all too painfully, is that the diffusion of civil democratic ideals by no means guarantees their effective implementation in governance and society. Ideas of civil democracy may have a contagious popularity, but their realization in real-world politics remains problematic, to say the least. However, the difficulty surrounding their social institutionalization only makes all the more intriguing the question of how these modern political ideals ever came into existence, and why so many people in different corners of the globe today rally to (vernacularized variants of) these ideals. It is these points, among others, on which the essays in this volume have much to say.

Maculate Conception

Much has been made of the fact that the modern ideals of democratic civility first appeared in the West. Sometimes this seemingly innocent observation is linked to a more sweeping claim, to the effect that the emergence of civil democracy depended upon a constellation of values and institutions unique to the West. By implication, it is sometimes argued, civil democracy is unlikely to take hold in societies that lack this heritage, unless, that is, the tiger can somehow change its stripes to a Western dress.

Though such culturalist accounts of democracy’s possibility have enjoyed a renewed popularity in recent years, their central claim is problematic. Their identification of just what is “Western,” first of all, appears highly selective, overlooking the fact that democratic and egalitarian values are even today not the only ones animating Western culture, and not that long ago were far from secure. Equally seriously, such a culturalist approach overlooks a basic lesson from the sociology of knowledge, namely that ideas originate in the minds of individuals, but their institutionalization in public life depends not only on the brilliance of their message, but a complex “political economy of meaning,” whereby some ideas are publicly amplified, while others are suppressed.”27 To understand the conditions of democratic civility’s possibility, therefore, requires that we attend to the interaction of culture and social structures that first facilitated just such an ascent. Having done so, we can then ask whether a similar process might be occurring in the non-Western world today.

John Hall’s essay in this volume moves to tackle these questions directly. He shows that, in Western Europe, the development of a culture of democratic civility depended upon the prior emergence of a variety of civil-societal structures. Building on (but also amending) the analyses of Max Weber and Ernest Gellner,28 Hall observes that a number of things in early Western Europe converged to begin the weaving of a civil social fabric. Western Europe was unusual in that from early on it was characterized by a relatively broad dispersion of powers, popular liberties, and legal structures. Underlying all these characteristics is the trait Hall identifies as most important for civil society, “societal self-organization,” that is, the ability of people to regulate their affairs without interference from state authorities or societal hierarchies.

Following Weber, Hall argues that European society’s self-organization was in the first instance facilitated by the absence of any pan-European imperial structure in the aftermath of the Roman Empire. The resulting “pluricentric” political map, as Hall has described it,29 was in part the product of the ecological fragmentation of the European continent, which made lasting control of Europe’s scattered regions difficult. But it was also related to the military and administrative vigor of the local state systems which survived in the aftermath of Rome. Contrary to the pattern of imperial China, once established, Europe’s regional states proved skilled at resisting those who dreamed of restoring imperium.30

Western Europe enjoyed other advantages in matters of societal self-organization. Unlike the states of classical Islam, early on Western Christianity institutionalized a separation of ideological and political power, and this separation also helped to decenter power away from the state. The Church was deeply involved in public and political matters. Christian norms facilitated trust and collaboration across Western Europe’s expanse, and Church representatives provided vital legal services for merchants and lords. However, while Byzantium witnessed numerous Caesaropapist pacts, the Western Church concluded that its interests were better served through a strategic collaboration with many local states rather than full institutional union with one. The Church’s interest in defending its own authority thus worked to limit the power of secular states.

Another precedent for Western European civil society was the fact that by the time that, in the late Middle Ages, kings were willing and able to centralize power, they faced a well-entrenched array of countervailing forces. The Church and feudal lords enjoyed extensive rights to property and influence, and both groups were reluctant to relinquish their privileges. In addition, in a few parts of late medieval Europe, the growth of commerce and towns had created wealthy centers of independent activity. Faced with assertive burghers and a restless peasantry, centralizing kings in Eastern and Central Europe forged an unholy alliance with the feudal aristocracy, preserving the bondage of the manor and destroying the dynamism of towns. In Northwestern Europe, however, rivalries among centralizing rulers led a few kings to conclude that they could best enhance their power by distancing themselves from the landed aristocracy, and allowing merchants and towns a measure of liberty. Inasmuch as they prospered, the towns offered the state new revenues, thereby providing kings with a decisive advantage over their rivals. The “multipolarity” of Europe’s state system also allowed merchants unhappy with their treatment to take up residence elsewhere, as happened with France’s Huguenots. The resulting formula-enhanced royal power through urban liberties and economic initiative-further strengthened the legal-mindedness of Western European society.

Critics of this historical sociology might well counter that it shows a retrospective selectivity. One might ask, Where in this account do we locate Europe’s persecution of the Jews, bloodshed between Protestants and Catholics, colonialism, nineteenth-century class conflict, and the twentieth century’s wars of nation and race? Hall has addressed many of these concerns. In this volume, for example, he notes that civil society gained “self-consciousness” in the fight against “politico-religious unification drives” in the aftermath of the Reformation. He also argues eloquently that European civil society effectively collapsed in the late nineteenth century, largely as a result of the unwillingness of ruling elites to feel the winds of change and allow the entry of popular classes into state politics. This failure to integrate these social classes, he argues, also underlay Europe’s world wars. Hall therefore sees the violence of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as a product of elite blunder rather than failure of the European system as a whole, which otherwise enjoyed extensive civil organization and freedoms.

One could suggest a less rosy reading of this same historical evidence, however, and draw from it a different but important lesson. European history shows that the qualities of societal self-organization we associate with civil society did indeed have deep precedents, but well into the twentieth century they were insufficient to stabilize European politics around an enduring and society-wide pattern of participation, freedom, and tolerance. Civil organization there was, but democratic civility there was not.

The multipolar state organization that facilitated urban commerce and the Protestant Reformation also allowed Europe’s religious wars to rage unresolved for decades. On this point, Europe compares rather poorly with imperial China, which showed a much better ability to domesticate religious difference.31 Later this structural vulnerability facilitated the explosive development of colonialism and ethno-nationalism, culminating in a war in which one of the world’s most affluent societies annihilated a vital segment of the continent’s citizenry. In short, it could be argued, Europe’s multipolarity and self-organization ensured a measure of liberty for some people, but it also created a highly unstable arena for imperial and national rivalries, with decidedly uncivil consequences at home and abroad. Relative to society and politics as a whole. Western Europe for most of its history achieved an only segmentary civility, not a democratic one.

In his chapter on Romania, Dan Chirot provides a poignant illustratation of the broader theoretical point in question here, this time in an Eastern European setting. The issue, again, concerns exactly why structures and associations that look “civil” at a segmentary level do not automatically scale up into a culture of democratic civility in state and society as a whole. Chirot explains that, in the 1930s, Romania was emerging briskly from its status as one of Europe’s most backward locales. As late as 1937 it held its freest ever parliamentary elections. Labor unions, student groups, literary societies, theater groups, and chambers of commerce also flourished at a level never before seen. There was also substantial industrial progress, and agricultural productivity was on the rise. Benefitting from mass education, even the peasantry was organizing, and perhaps 5 percent of the peasants and artisans in villages and small towns had converted to an independent-minded Protestantism. In short, Romania seemed to be developing the pluricentrism and self-organization Hall associates with civil society.

But this ever-expanding grid of grass-roots association could not create a culture of civility in the political arena as a whole. Romania’s activist intellectuals, Chirot points out, were unhappy with this seemingly prosperous state of affairs. Too many of the owners and managers of industry were non-Romanians; too many wealthy were Jews. Like so much of Europe, Romania in the 1930s was feeling the breeze of another “globalizing” current, European anti-Semitism. By 1937, the fascist Iron Guard had gained ground among Romanian workers in Transylvanian cities, where the divide between Romanian workers and non-Romanian bosses was particularly pronounced. Bright young nationalist romantics like Mircea Eliade rallied to the Guardist ideology of racial communalism, antliberalism, and self-pitying victimization. By contrast, the liberal democratic opposition had no significant social base, as radical nationalists dominated universities, schools, government administration, and the military. In short, Romania showed promising “sprouts of civil society,” but the impact of civil associations remained segmentary, incapable of effecting an overarching cohesion. The problem was that political parties mediated the relationship between state and society. And, in the end, they would prove more decisive than churches and business organizations in turning state politics in an uncivil direction.

These and other examples in no way deny John Hall’s larger point as to the prevalence of self-organization in European society prior to the modern era. And that self-organization may indeed have developed to a greater degree than in many parts of Asia or Africa. (Though, as my chapter on Indonesia suggests, I believe there were areas of the world with a self-organization rivaling that of early modern Europe, though most were eventually destroyed by the centralizing violence of European colonialism). However, modern Europe’s troubled history provides a first and largely cautionery lesson on democratic civility. The dispersion of powers and the counterbalancing of forces associated with civil society are indeed preconditions for democratic civility. Left to themselves, however, they create no more than a segmentary pattern of participation and social freedom. The achievement of broader citizen equality, participation, and tolerance requires at least two other things: the scaling up of civic values into a certain kind of state, and a broadly based political culture. As we shall see, these two influences are not reducible to societal self-organization, but have a political and sociological integrity quite their own.

Civil Society Against the State?

An observer unimpressed by this small library of recent writing on democracy and civil society might rightly ask, Where did this idea of civil society come from, and is it really relevant to the political challenges of our day? Such skepticism is well founded. After all, from a historical perspective, the reappearance of the idea of civil society in academic and political circles is a matter of no small irony. Originating in Northwestern Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the phrase had long since ceased to fire the imagination of real-world political actors. Indeed, by the early years of this century it had been relegated to the dusty shelves of Western academia. Or so it seemed until the revolutions of 1989-1991 swept communist parties from power throughout Eastern Europe.32 In the aftermath of the communist collapse, there arose a new generation of Eastern Europeans, confident of little more than that they wanted prosperity, did not want communism, and believed that both goals might be well served by promoting this curious entity called civil society.

Some critics of Western-style democracy and culture have warned that the promotion of civil society would disseminate a culture of self-centered individualism around the world. But the usages to which civil ideals were put revealed no such consistency of meaning. The concept was assigned widely differing meanings and employed in contradictory political actions.33 The variation in usage was by no means arbitarary, however; indeed, it offered insights into problems confronting struggles for democratic citizenship in various parts of the world.

In the case of Eastern Europe, it is important to remember that the idea of civil society had in fact been revived well prior to the 1989 revolutions, in the last years of the Cold War. Its earliest promoters included poets, writers, clergy, academics, and labor leaders involved in the struggle against, to borrow John Keane’s apt phrase, the “command states” that dominated this region.34 Among this diverse group only a few professional academics were interested in the bookish genealogy of the civil society idea. What ordinary people found appealing was the phrase’s promise of something of which they felt themselves long deprived. Civil society evoked images of freedom to speak and associate without fear. It conjured up images of a public life in which the words and actions of ordinary citizens would be duly acknowledged by the state. It spoke, in short, to a painful absence in Eastern Europeans’ lives.

There was a bittersweet irony to Eastern Europeans’ embrace of the civil society ideal. Many of the concept’s promoters had first encountered the phrase in state-mandated courses on Marxism. Marx did have a good deal to say about civil society. The irony lay in the fact that, for him, civil society is the sphere of bourgeois satisfaction, which he portrays as private and, for the most part, rather selfish. The conventional rendering of “civil society” in Marx’s German is burgerliche Gesellschaft. In eighteenth-century Germany, the phrase drew on the ambiguous referents of the first word’s root, burger, which blends the meanings of both citizen and bourgeois, political participation and economic self-interest. In invoking civil society, Marx shifted the weight of the burgerliche away from its connotations of participatory citizenship toward the latter economistic referent. Thus, in Marx’s eyes, the privacy of civil society was above all the privacy of economic self-interest; it represented a freedom for a few premised on exclusion and exploitation of the many. Not surprisingly, in Marx’s communist Utopia, civil society would be transcended and replaced with a polis of universal and undifferentiated citizenship.35

It was a symptom of the depth of their disaffection that so many Eastern Europeans resisted official canons and heard civil society as a positive ideal. The ideal struck deftly at the pretensions of the Eastern European regimes. Though, by the end of the communist era, the actual effectiveness of their control varied from country to country, these states retained the right of the party to command society. Theirs was an authority of denials: denial of a legal and political difference between state and civil society; of rights of free association and speech; of economic initiative other than that under party control; and of public values other than those franchised by the state. In the official scheme of things, the whole of social life was, to borrow Charles Taylor’s image, “satellized” to the state.36 By the time of communism’s collapse, of course, many regime spokespersons had ceased to believe in the official slogans of the vanguard party and mobilizational state. But the principle of the party-state remained, and could be conveniently deployed against societal forces threatening state domination.

In the face of such a domineering state, it is not surprising that Eastern European activists sometimes articulated their desire for civil society in antistatist and even antipolitical terms.37 At times they spoke as if what were required for civil decency was not just the dismantlement of the totalitarian state, but an abolition of politics itself. The appeal of such a naively privatist ideal is of course not something unique to Eastern Europe. As Tocqueville first remarked, it has been an intermittent feature of populist imaginings in, among other places, the United States.

Whatever its social logic, the situation that unfolded in postcommunist Eastern Europe indicates just why this antipolitical impulse is, in the end, so antithetical to the decency and freedom enjoined by civil ideals. Throughout Eastern Europe, the unity enjoyed by the dissident community when in opposition gave way in the early postcommunist era to a cacophony of voices. Disputes over state programs pitted secularists against the religious, libertarians against welfare-state social democrats, fiery anticommunists against careful constitutionalists, and, everywhere it seemed, dealmaking insiders against democratic reformers. In a few countries, like the former Yugoslavia, leaders turned ethnonationalist slogans against their rivals, and succeeded in seizing control of the state. Once in power, they used the machinery of state to suppress other claimants to power, destroying the social decency for which people had yearned. Postcommunism proved to be neither as easy nor as civil as many had imagined.38

In this there is an important if painful second lesson on civil society and the state. However seductive the temptation to flee the public for the pleasures of the private, modern freedoms are thoroughly dependent upon citizen participation in, and effective guarantees by, a civil state. In this sense, and contrary to some of its sloganeering characterizations, there is no zero-sum opposition between civil society and the state.39 On the contrary, as Dan Chirot and John Hall both illustrate in their essays, a civil democracy requires a state that is both strong and self-limiting. It must be self-limiting in the sense that it does not monopolize society’s powers, drawing all vital personnel, services, and enterprise back into itself. Such a civil state is most likely to develop in the context of countervailing institutions, and a wide dispersion of informal powers, cultural and economic as well as political. However, as illustrated in Chirot’s essay, this kind of state is also dependent upon political leadership that demonstrates an effective commitment to the twinned values of citizen participation and civil tolerance.

A civil state must also be strong. It must be strong because society itself is not always civil, and the state provides safeguards of last resort for freedoms of speech, association, and initiative. It is a banal but important truth that, contrary to certain libertarian imaginings, these freedoms are not “free” in the sense that they are the spontaneous outcome of independent human association. Democracy always depends upon something larger than itself. The recent history of Afghanistan and Rwanda shows all too painfully that a weak or crippled state can be an invitation to factionalist butchery rather than untrammeled liberty. Democracy and civility can be menaced as much by uncivil societal forces as they can the state.

Indeed, democratic civility is only imaginable within the horizons of an effectively functioning modern state. This is so because, in its modern form, democracy is premised on the civil ideals of universal freedom and citizen equality. To the degree they are at all, these ideals can be realized only on the basis of ongoing collaboration between an engaged citizenry and a state capable of protecting rights across the whole of its territory. As Michael Mann and Anthony Giddens have both demonstrated, premodern states may be capable of explosive bursts of power, but they lack the infrastructure for a uniform, enduring, and, therefore, equitable administration across their expanse.40 From our modern vantage point, this should not seem surprising. Even in today’s strongest civil democracies, the willingness and capacity of the state to guarantee civil security for all citizens is at best partial. As in some of America’s violence-plagued cities, some citizens may find themselves deprived of life and liberty, often at the hands of their hateful or criminal neighbors in “civil” society.

In the final days of Eastern European communism, it is not surprising that dissidents might overlook arguments like these on the fragile interdependency of state and civil society. It was all too easy to imagine that freedom could be achieved through a flight from the political into the delights of the private. Indeed, in some countries the concept of civil society lost its appeal early on in the postcommunist era, as the once-united dissident coalition dissolved, citizen engagement declined, and problems of practical government became painfully apparent.41 As illustrated in Daniel Chirot’s essay on Romania, a wave of “ethnic” and “religious” hatred swept across parts of the region, manipulated by rival factions within the political elite.42 The worst such cases provided a doleful reminder of our second principle of modern civility: that democratic civility requires the legal vigilance and regulatory safeguards of an engaged citizenry and a civilized state.

Globalization via Localization

While events in Eastern Europe unfolded with their own logic, the deployment of civil society slogans in the region’s prodemocracy movements attracted the attention of activists and intellectuals in other parts of the world. Indeed, with the related notion of democracy, the diffusion of the phrase “civil society” became one of the more dramatic examples of the much celebrated process of cultural “globalization.”43 The usages to which the concept of civil society was put, however, illustrated that cultural globalization is never merely a matter of untransformative diffusion, but a process in which the item transferred is shaped as much by local context and usage as it is its culture of origins. Context and usage are in turn affected by the way in which a cultural item (like the idea of civil society, or democracy, human rights, etc.) is drawn into social and political rivalries. All this again illustrates that cultural globalization is thoroughly dependent upon local articulation.

As Robert Weller explains in his essay, in China the phrase “civil society” caught on despite enormous problems of cultural translation. Weller observes that Confucianism in China left little ideological room for a distinction between state and society, “except in the way that fathers can be distinguished from sons.” As late as the nineteenth century, there was still no plausible way to translate civil society into Chinese. Indeed, even today, the term is translated through a variety of “awkward neologisms.” It goes without saying that these would make many Western professors of civil theory nervous.

But all is not culturally relative, nor is the popularity of the phrase a simple effect of Western cultural hegemony, as China’s leadership might suggest. Illustrating once again that globalization works through complex contextualizations, Weller shows that some of the referents of civil society made the passage quite well from the West, because, one might say, elements of them were already “there” in Chinese social practice, though in an as yet unamplified form.44 Despite the lack of official precedents for democratic civility, China has long had an array of horizontal ties beyond the family. Though this social precedent had never been elaborated into an explicit ideology of civic associationalism (official or populist), its networks and values existed at the interstices of public life. In Weller’s excellent phrase, it was “an undeveloped possibility.” Not coincidentally, it was also the sort of thing that activists in Chinese and Taiwanese new social movements could invoke to provide cultural resonance for their democratic appeals. Theirs was an effort to recover, amplify, and redirect what had previously been submerged in the myriad practices of everyday life.

The example provides a general lesson on the cross-cultural prospects for civil-democratic ideas. At first glance, the China example seems to confirm the pessimism of some cultural relativists about the impossibility of meaningful translation across distant cultures. In translating the values of civil society, “awkward neologisms” remain approximations at best, and miniature acts of cultural imperialism at worst. However, under closer inspection, or, perhaps one should say, from a practical rather than culturalist perspective,45 things do not look nearly so bad. Viewed from the ground of everyday practice rather than the dizzying heights of official canons, the normative diversity of even traditional societies is far greater than most sociological models imply.46 As in Weller’s China, Chirot’s Romania, and Hefner’s Islamic Indonesia, there are always “undeveloped possibilities”-values and practices that hover closer to the social ground and carry unamplified possibilities. These low-lying precedents may not appear in high-flying discourse. Nonetheless, they are in some sense “available” for engagement and reflection, even if they have long been overlooked in public formulations. Under conditions of cultural globalization or cross-regional transfer, some local actors may seize on exogenous idioms to legitimate and elevate principles of social action (such as equality, participation, etc.) already present in social life, if in an undeveloped, subordinate, or politically bracketed manner.

In commenting on such complex processes, it would be a mistake to say that what is happening here is “Westernization.” Occidentalist cheerleaders might want to portray it as such, and speak of a victory for Western values. Native conservatives might see it similarly, and condemn yet another instance of spiritual pollution. But what is really in question in such circumstances is a far more complex interaction between the local and the (relatively) global. For local actors, the global is meaningful because it resonates with something local. Under circumstances of a “global ecumene,”47 people in different societies can meaningfully aspire to ideals that bear a family resemblance to those we describe as civil democratic. Awkward neologisms may abound but, as Weller’s example demonstrates, so too do commonalities of situation and aspiration.48

The example of Muslim Indonesians provides us with one more illustration of the complexities at work in such cross- and intracultural dialogue. Unlike some of their Middle Eastern counterparts, Muslims in Indonesia have a long history of intellectual and organizational pluralism. This pluralist precedent originated in part in the fact that Islam was introduced to the region, not by world-conquering potentates, but through a network of trade and city-states that resembled, if anything, the multicentric polities of early modern Europe. This politically dispersive pattern was reinforced rather than diminished in the colonial era. The Dutch policy of a strict separation of Islam and state pushed Muslim institutions away from state and into society, where they helped to create a remarkable Islamic tradition of grass-roots association and civic independence. In this century, movements of Islamic reform have complicated but not done away with this intellectual and organizational pluralism. New social organizations and “Islamic intellectuals” have only added to the pluralist stew.

Despite these precedents for pluralism and association, however, some (happily, a minority here in Indonesia) in the Muslim community remain ambivalent about civil democratic ideals. They insist that their religion enjoins them to look away from their immediate historical experience and back to an imagined golden age, when religion and state were one. They thereby deny the truths of their own practical history, and miss a rich opportunity to scale up its organizations and meanings. The future of Indonesian Islam will be determined in large part by this struggle between two visions of Islamic politics.

In his discussion of the Islamist Welfare Party in contemporary Turkey, Resat Kasaba provides a related illustration of the fragile politics of the amplification process. Turkish Islam, too, has a proud tradition of associational independence with many characteristics we could regard as “civic.” As in our earlier European example, however, the Turkish case shows that by itself a tradition of independent association can guarantee little more more than a segmentary civility. Kasaba shows us why this is the case for Turkish Islam. Many of the religious organizations for which Turkey is well known had an internal organization that was restrictive and authoritarian. Some tended to isolate their membership from the rest of society. Many restricted individual autonomy, and almost all assigned women an inferior social status. In short, Turkey’s religious orders were conduits for social participation, but obstacles to a more broadly integrative cohesion. Yet here, as in so much of the Muslim world, some religious leaders are experimenting with new ideas and organizations. Many appeal to national pride and encourage local Muslims to distinguish more rigorously between Islam and mere custom. Leaders like Fethullah Gulen insist on a national vision of Islam which, rather than trying to impose a monolithic model on society, seeks to encourage a creative and civil cohabitation.

The example reminds us that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the social processes that give rise to civil ideals. For “undeveloped” civic potentials to be developed, well-placed intellectuals must look into the associational experience of their community’s history and abstract from it principles of freedom, participation, and tolerance generalizable to the public sphere. Equally important, these ideas must then be given institutional force in political programs and, eventually, the laws of the state, so as to create a political system that works with rather than against civic values.

The circumstances that lead non-Western peoples to long for political dignity in this way may well include the influence of Western precedents. But it is important to recognize that—as with the earlier ideals of nationalism and citizenship—the discourse of civil rights and participation has acquired a dynamic which is not merely “Western.” In China, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Ukraine, we see people sifting through local cultural soils to discover seeds from which alternative ideals of the public and political might grow. Often there may be a creative improvization in this revisitation of tradition. Indeed, at times, as among Weller’s Taiwanese, the reelaboration may seem so distinct from the original that one might be tempted to speak of an “invention of tradition.” But whereas for some scholars the latter phrase has become synonymous with a kind of cultural fraud, there is nothing fraudulent or even unusual about such cultural improvization. Contrary to Weberian stereotypes, it is in the very nature of all tradition that it is regularly reexamined, recast, and, indeed, “rationalized.”

It was through just such a dialogue of the local and (relatively) global that concepts like civil society, participatory democracy, and human rights spread in the early 1990s from Eastern Europe to Latin America, China, Korea, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Needless to say these concepts were not used in a manner consistent with the bookish genealogies preferred by Western academics. They served more often as a kind of aspirational shorthand to promote ideas of equity, participation, and public fairness. However, despite variation in context and application, there were family resemblances across these varied usages. Awkward phrasings abounded, because the global is transformed as it is localized. Nonetheless, the early 1990s provided a third lesson on democratic civility: that, pace Occidentalist naysayers, not everything is lost in cultural translation, because the desire for a civil politics is widespread, indeed.

Ambiguous Ideals: Radical Citizenship vs. Civil Privacy

It was in the United States and Western Europe, however, that ideas of democracy and civility underwent their most unusual elaboration in the aftermath of the Cold War. In what ranks as one of the most important developments in Western political discourse since the Second World War, people rallied to the slogan of civil society from both the political Left and Right. Of course here, as in other parts of the world, proponents of the idea often understood the phrase in different ways. Indicating once again that a significant refiguration of political thought was occurring, however, the differences in emphasis did not easily map out along the conventional divides of Left and Right. In numerous instances left-liberals and conservatives gave common voice to calls for local participation, republican virtues, and civility.

To illustrate the complexity of this refiguration, it is helpful to look at some of the earliest enthusiasts of civil democratic ideas on the post-Marxist Left. Some in this camp were attracted to the ideas of civil society and democracy by what they regarded as an analogy between Eastern Europeans’ struggles against statist tyranny and their own efforts to promote women’s rights, sexual freedom, racial equality, and environmental protections. However, for most on the democratic Left, the situation in Eastern Europe was not so much a source of inspiration, as a wake-up call for deeper and more critical reflection on Marxism.49 Most Western democratic socialists had, of course, long since convinced themselves that the “real-and-existing” socialism of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union should be distinguished from other socialist possibilities. Inasmuch as capitalism also varies in its ethico-political effects according to the environment in which it is “embedded”-a point convincingly illustrated in Gordon Redding’s essay on China—this qualification seemed reasonable.50

However, as communist regimes in Eastern Europe teetered toward collapse, and as the full extent of their deformation of democratic ideals became apparent to even the most stalwart apologists of Leninism, writers on the democratic Left began to ask more boldly whether the abuses of state-socialism were not themselves implicit in Marx’s ideas on state and civil society. These critics took issue with Marx’s obsession with seizure of state power as the key to emancipation, seeing the resulting effort to unite political, economic, and cultural power in one structure as an invitation to tyrannical abuse. They also rejected Marx’s essentialization of class as the always-dominant line of exclusion and inequality in society, emphasizing instead that religion, ethnicity, gender, and race can also serve as fault-lines for inequality. Finally, and most relevant for our present discussion, they repudiated Marx’s “hatred of civil society, presumed to be identical with capitalist domination,” insisting that civil society could be a line of defense not only for elites but for all citizens.51 Through these and other critiques, a self-consciously “post-Marxist” Left emerged. Uncomfortable with an even residual identification with Marxism, some among these critics dropped the post-Marxist label in favor of a phrase they felt conveyed the positive content of their principles: radical democracy.

The phrase “radical democracy” does indeed express the ambitions and ambiguities of this stream in the contemporary revival of civil democratic theory. Rejecting Marx’s critique of civil society, radical democrats insist that the Western Left must develop a new position on liberal democracy. In a preface to an important collection of writings, for example, the French political philosopher Chantal Mouffe takes many of her colleagues on the Left to task for denouncing liberal ideals and for romanticizing revolution. “If the Left is to leam from the tragic experiences of totalitarianism it has to adopt a different attitude toward liberal democracy, and recognize its strengths as well as reveal its shortcomings…. [T]he objective of the Left should be the extension and deepening of the democratic revolution initiated two hundred years ago.”52

As illustrated by this quotation’s reference to Enlightenment-era revolutions, Mouffe and her colleagues distance themselves from the antinormative postures fashionable among some postmodernist writers.53 Some among the latter, she observes, see the heterogeneity of culture as so exhaustive as to render judgments as to the merits of one set of political values over another impossible. The ethical grounds for criticizing even as odious a figure as Adolf Hitler thus become unclear: “Such an extreme form of pluralism, according to which all interests, all opinions, all differences are seen as legitimate, could never provide the framework for a political regime. For the recognition of plurality not to lead to a complete indifferentiation and indifference, criteria must exist to decide between what is admissible and what is not.”54 In another widely cited essay, Erik Olin Wright has made a related point, arguing that the “postmodernist rejection of ‘grand narratives’” and “emancipatory values” encourages a cynical corrosion of democratic and egalitarian ideals.55

One need only add that the general insight here is relevant for a broader range of democratic thinkers than radical democrats alone. At the heart of all civil democratic visions lies the idea that, even as we legitimate pluralism, in practice not everything can be relativized. Though, as John Hall and Adam Seligman both imply in their essays, democratic civility enjoins a mild relativism on some values, it retains an unambiguous commitment to others, including the values of freedom, equality, and tolerance-in-difference. The nonrelativist commitment worries some anthropologists and non-Western intellectuals, who are rightly concerned that democracy and civil society may be premised on a narrowly individualistic ethical base.56 However, as the case studies in this volume illustrate, it would be a serious mistake to take liberal philosophy as the best guide to the values of civil-democratic practice. Even in the the United States over the past century, civil democrats have struck different balances between individual and group rights, and among the triplicate values of equality, freedom, and tolerance. Just how much this variation “relativizes” democratic values is a problem to which I return below.

The difficulties involved in achieving a practical as opposed to philosophical balance among civil democracy’s values is aptly illustrated by radical democracy itself. What makes the radical democrats’ position “radical” is that they seek to extend the liberty and equality associated with citizenship beyond their usual range of application in liberal democracies. Freedom and equality are to be promoted in a full range of social spheres, not just in the formal domain of, say, electoral politics. In keeping with this activist understanding of citizenship, radical democracy places great emphasis on the creative role of “new social movements” in democratic life. These include the women’s movement, gay and lesbian rights, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and movements for other groupings regarded as heretofore excluded from mainstream politics and society. Though it is sometimes argued that radical democrats invoke new social movements as functional equivalents of Marxism’s proletariat, there is an important difference. For radical democrats, the demands of these movements represent not irrecuperable contradictions in the political system, but shortcomings that may be reformable through a deepening of the democratic commitment to equality and justice. Rejecting Rousseauian utopianism, radical democrats work within the political system to open it to more inclusive participation.

Conservative- and left-liberals often react to radical democratic projects with unease, fearing that the highlighting of group identities through which radical democrats promote greater inclusion may, despite itself, be corrosive of the values of individual dignity and group equality. This unease illustrates a larger tension, one endemic to all versions of civil democracy. The principles of liberty, equality, and tolerance in plurality are highly general, to say the least. As first principles, they come with no instructions as to how they might be balanced in the endless assortment of policies and programs a citizenry must devise. This would not be a problem, of course, if the principles always worked in synergistic harmony, the promotion of one necessarily enhancing the others. However, the past century of debate over liberal democracy shows clearly that these first principles come with no such compatibility guarantee. Principles of private property may promote a broad dispersion of individual liberties under some circumstances, but be corrosive of freedom and equality under others. Affirmative actions to promote the collective well-being of one disenfranchised group may run up against principled objections that individual opportunity must take priority over concerns for collective equality.57 Similarly, demands for gender and sexual equality may excite opposition among minorities who insist that efforts to promote sexual rights within their temples and mosques violate the minority subculture’s rights to equal protection and self-determination.

These are not just minor blemishes in the radical version of liberal democracy, but tensions endemic to the the democratic tradition as a whole. In radicalizing democracy, radical democrats only make this general tension more apparent. Not surprisingly perhaps, radical democrats are not always quick to point out this tension in their program. Indeed, when citing pluralism as a primary value, seeking its extension to “the widest possible set of social relations,”58 some radical democrats seem unaware of just how quickly the radicalization of pluralism can relativize other civic values, such as liberty and equality. Not all people protected by pluralism clauses will agree that liberty and equality should also be maximized. Similarly, radicalization of popular political participation is itself no guarantee that the resulting political order will be civil or free, as the treatment of minorities in modern democracies has repeatedly illustrated. Freedom, equality, and plurality come with no guarantee of triplicate compatibility.

Problems of this sort have been at the heart of debates over affirmative action for scheduled castes in India, over the rights of Muslims to educate their children apart from mainstream in Britain and France, and over abortion and sexual freedom in the United States. In the face of this unnerving complexity, one might be tempted to limit one’s defense of pluralism to aggrieved minorities regarded as “good” plural-ists-which is usually to say the kind that agree with one’s own politics. Thus, in supporting equality and inclusiveness, radical democrats readily cite new social movements committed to the defense of gays, women, and progressively inclined ethnic minorities. Typically absent from the list are Christian evangelicals, orthodox Jews, and conservative Muslims. Yet representatives of these last groups could make a credible argument that they too have been unfairly marginalized from the political mainstream.

In short, the fact that civil democracy does not inalterably specify the relative balance among its principles is a source of chronic tension in civil democracies. But it is this very quality that underscores the importance of our fourth lesson on democratic civility. For it is precisely at this point, at what seems to be the most vexing of impasses in democratic practice, that a commitment to democratic civility becomes most important. Civil theory may not offer a final definition of the good, or a definitive resolution of the proper balance among its first principles. Yet it is this inability to absolutize that makes all the more imperative the establishment of a sphere of uncoerced association, speech, and exchange in which different ideas of the good can be debated and tried. As Michael Walzer has put it, civil society can serve as this “setting of settings” in which people are free to experiment, associate, and debate.59 From there, the results of such experiments may be communicated to other citizens, and, in at least some cases, to the policies of the state.

However, not all the fruits of civic participation can or should be conveyed upward to the institutions of the state. Just as there is a fragile mutuality of state and civil society, there must also be a buffer. However nostalgic some might feel for the imagined conviviality of the Greek polis or early America, the first fact of modern life is its vast scale and dizzying plurality. On this, our modern social differentiation, there is no going back. This is not to deny that there may be wisdom in restoring a different balance between domestic privacy and citizen participation, as radical democrats, communitarians, and not a few republican conservatives have argued. But efforts to effect a new balance cannot abolish the space between government and civic association, for it is on just this space that the dynamism of modern society, and our practical freedom, depend.

If the vigor of the Greek polis must elude our politics, it need not be lost in our civic life. Churches, women’s groups, political clubs, environmental organizations, sports leagues, union halls, and ordinary friendships may afford us just such intimacy and empowerment. As modern citizens, Michael Walzer reminds us, our emotional life is mostly “lived in private-which is not to say in solitude, but in groups considerably smaller than the community of all citizens.” 60 A similar argument was made more than twenty years ago in an essay that confounded the nostrums of Left and Right. Peter L. Berger and Richard Neuhaus argued that modern government and business are destined to remain impersonal and vast, but the associational networks of civil society afford opportunities for meaningful self-expression, and “people-sized institutions.”61

None of this provides a definitive resolution of civil-democracy’s axiological conundrum. But it is that impossibility that gives special urgency to our twin freedoms of public debate and civil privacy. The enduring tension between these two freedoms is inevitable in our world, and is another reason some among us feel democratic civility must be defended.

Democracy’s Embedding: Civic Thick or Procedural Thin?

That civil democracy requires culture and organization to be realized in actual life is a premise that strikes most sociologists and anthropologists as so patently obvious as to be trivial. For scholars in these disciplines, it is a commonplace of analysis that all societies require some minimal consensus to smooth social interaction. In recent years anthropologists, sociologists, and other researchers have recognized that culture is far more unbounded, heterogenous, and uncentered than once thought, and subject to force and contestation. While these insights have complicated our understanding of culture, they have done little to diminish the analytic confidence that, like fish in water, every politics, including civil democracy, requires a culture.

Though sociologists and anthropologists share this conviction, the fact remains that characterizing the culture and organization conducive to civic democracy has proved difficult. In part this reflects the fact that, given the division of academic labor, the recent revival of interest in civil society and democracy began in the field of political philosophy. There is nothing wrong with this, but, as noted above, it has meant that much writing on civil democracy has been less concerned with sociological realism than it has debating the relative grounds for one imagined liberalism as opposed to another.

Recently, however, some political theorists have taken their colleagues to task for this putatively irrealist bias. One sustained example of just such a critique is the debate between so-called communitarians and liberals. (The contrast is somewhat misnamed because, in the larger scheme of things, most communitarians are philsophical liberals, though of a republican or “civic-virtue” sort).62 Communitarians’ arguments are varied, but in general they agree in faulting mainstream liberals for identifying the grounds for civil politics in such culturally anorexic terms as to imperil democracy’s health. Thus communitarians claim that liberal theory’ s emphasis on individual rights, to the exclusion of social “goods,” leads liberals to tolerate developments in our laws, marketplace, and morals which over the long run corrode the virtues on which a decent and participatory government depend. Though this critique is by no means peculiar to them,63 communitarians oppose what they see as this trend toward ethical laissez faire. For them, the idea of civil society is a clarion call for heightened citizen education and participation. At a more theoretical level, communitarianism also takes issue with the idea that all variants of civil democracy are equally individualistic, suggesting instead that extreme variants of philosophical individualism misrepresent the variety of normative traditions informing the practice of Western democracy.64

One of the earliest and best-known examples of this critique was Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue. In this book, MacIntyre attacks mainstream liberalism for having forgotten the wisdom of the ancients, namely that good politics and a good life depend on people’s socialization into a “tradition of the virtues.” An effectively republican tradition, MacIntyre explains, must be embodied in stories, rituals, religions, and practices into which individuals are drafted (so to speak), and through which they learn the habits of civic virtue. Indeed, MacIntyre adds, a good life and good politics are operable only inasmuch as such a deep and enduring ethical consensus is fostered. The fact that, with their individualist biases, mainstream liberals today slight such ethical tuition, MacIntyre warns, dooms us to a coming age of “barbarism and darkness.”65

Like many professional philosophers, MacIntyre bases the bulk of his argument, not on a detailed excursion into the words and actions of everyday life, but on readings of contemporary political philosophy. This makes him vulnerable to the charge that he has confused liberal political theory, which does tend to be individualistic, with liberal political practice, which need not always be. In a subtly argued critique, Bernard Yack has taken issue with MacIntyre on just this point. Had MacIntyre taken time to look at real-and-existing liberal societies, Yack asserts, he would have realized that they are replete with stories, traditions, and mythologies through which liberal ideas become embodied in a community’s social imagination. In effect, Yack claims, MacIntyre has unwittingly replicated his discipline’s bias, taking liberal theorists too much at their word:

[I]f man is, as MacIntyre insists, ‘in his actions and practice as well as his fiction, a story-telling being,’ then we should expect men and women to turn theories, even liberal theories which insist on impersonal and antitraditional criteria, into the basis for new stories. This is precisely what has happend. The French turned liberty from tradition into a female figure, symbolic of the Republic’s virtues and energy. American colonists turned Lockean liberal principles into didactic stories with which to educate their children…. According to MacIntyre’s own conception of human behavior, we must assume that it is only to the extent that liberal theories have generated stories that they have shaped our character and practices. The Enlightenment attack on tradition could never have succeeded without itself “becoming tradition.”66

Whatever MacIntyre’s intent, it is hard to deny the logic of Yack’s critique. MacIntyre and some other communitarians read too quickly from liberal philosophy to liberal practice, assuming a continuity that need not exist. However, having said this, it is clear that Yack’s argument does not deflect those critiques that assert that recent trends in Western societies are undermining the values and associations on which a civil democracy depends. MacIntyre may have stretched himself thin in generalizing from liberal philosophy to practice. Having uncovered this logical shortcoming, however, Yack cannot turn around and conclude that democracy is necessarily in good health. This latter claim is an empirical issue, not merely logical, and its justification demands a good deal more than anecdotal evidence on the encultured nature of liberal values.

Indeed, this is precisely the point at which another scholar identified (too simplistically) with the communitarian viewpoint has entered the fray. In his Democracy and Discontent, Michael Sandel returns to the argument of his earlier writings, to the effect that today’s liberal theory (unlike its incarnation in the time of, say, Thomas Jefferson) is premised on the idea of the “unencumbered self.” Sandel’s characterization of liberal actors as “unencumbered” is based on the MacIntyre-like assertion that liberal theory assumes that individuals formulate their interests and values in isolation, and, as a result, concludes that we need not concern ourselves with creating social environments that foster democratic virtues. Such a view is not only sociologically implausible, Sandel argues, but, inasmuch as it becomes the basis for legal-political policy, dangerous. Among other things, it leads to a formalistic emphasis on right procedure rather than the fostering of the good, leaving the public sphere prey to less high-minded actors in the media and marketplace. Sandel characterizes the resulting ethically empty politics as a “procedural republic.”67

Having revisited this earlier analytic claim, Sandel’s new book takes us through an intriguing array of examples from contemporary America’s courts, marketplace, and political life to show that, time and time again, policies have been formulated on the basis of an ethically “thin” proceduralism corrosive of civil decencies. Critics might counter that no more than a proceduralist emphasis is possible in a society as pluralistic as today’s America. Whether this is convincing or not, the argument that communitarian arguments conflate liberal philosophy with practice cannot be applied to Sandel’s weighty analysis. Yack’s elegant defense aside, the jury remains out on whether liberal practices in places like America do, indeed, live up to civil-democratic ideals.

Arguments of this sort often strike philosophical teetotalers in sociology and anthropology as of little relevance to their concerns. However, from a sociological and cross-cultural perspective, the debate offers insights that get right to the heart of just why philosophical genealogies of democratic ideas are not versatile enough to allow us to assess democracy’s cross-cultural possibilities. The lesson is that, having inspired researchers to go out and examine the actual practice of Western politics, the liberal-communitarian debate has inadvertantly produced a small mountain of evidence showing that people in Western democracies engage politics on the basis of values, motives, and attachments more varied than the elegant models of liberal philosophy. Thus though Yack is right to say that the French popularized liberal ideals by turning Liberty into a handsome female form, what his account leaves out is the fact that, once socially embedded in this way, democratic institutions come to depend upon associations and values more varied than those of philosophical individualism alone. This complicates rather seriously our question of just how much cultural and associalional variation is compatible with a civil-democracy.

This general concern runs through all the essays in this volume, but is especially central to four. In her chapter on the family and civil society, Brigette Berger argues that that there has been a macro-institutional bias to liberal and democratic theory, focusing on markets and public politics to the neglect of the intimate sociabilities of the family. Berger argues that the family has always been involved in the nurturing of sensibilities on which our ideals of individual dignity and civic responsibility depend. The family, she writes, is the “launching pad into the public world”; as a result, the destabilization of its structures has serious implications for society as a whole. Berger is careful to point out that the kind of family she has in mind is not peculiarly Western. However her argument raises complex historical and cross-cultural issues, which can only be resolved if social and political theorists realize that they too have a stake in efforts to revive the much-neglected field of comparative family studies.68

The author of one of the decade’s most influential books on the idea of civil society,69 Adam Seligman turns in his chapter to this same issue of the values and organizations compatible with civility and democracy. For Seligman, the central issue in the idea of civil society is the “proper mode of normatively constituting the existence of society-whether in terms of private individuals or in the existence of a shared public sphere.” Voicing concerns similar to communitarians (though pessimistic about communitarian projects), Seligman argues that there is a tendency in contemporary Western society to blur the border between the public and private. By itself, a critic of Seligman might argue, there is nothing wrong in this; indeed, the “publicization” of the personal can serve deeply just causes. In earlier times, for example, the treatment of slaves, the physical abuse of wives, and a host of other injustices were defended on the grounds that these were purely “private” concerns. They were opened to critique only inasmuch as their private status was challenged.70

However, when Seligman speaks of the blurring of the private and the public, he has a different dynamic than this in mind. For him, one of the greatest threats to civil democracy is that the assertion of formal equality in the political sphere will undermine our ability to share a public sociability. It is as if the constant drone of individualistic equality makes us deaf to the music of the public sphere. Yet-and here Seligman seems close to MacIntyrian themes-private virtues cannot be sustained without public nurture. The scale of this ethical conundrum leaves Seligman pessimistic about the prospect of a civil societal revival. The projection of the private into the public, and the resulting devaluation of the public sphere, Seligman argues, is related to the very structures of modernity, including the pluralization of life worlds and the complexity of modern social roles. As in his earlier book, Seligman is deeply troubled by our plight, but confident only that we seem fated to growing ethical confusion.

Focusing on religion and civil ethics in America, Robert Wuthnow raises much the same concern, but comes to a more optimistic conclusion. Like Seligman, he is concerned that what he calls an exaggerated “inner pluralism” weakens our ability to make sound ethical judgments. However Wuthnow posits a different dynamic to the problem than that Seligman describes. He sees our ethical problems as originating, not in the projection of the private into public life, but in our participation in radically divergent social communities. Their pluralism is so great that at times it seems we are in danger of losing our moral balance.

Wuthnow illustrates the tensions he has in mind through a person he encountered in his ongoing research on American religion and society, a twenty-six-year-old disabilities counselor who describes herself as a “Methodost Taoist Native American Quaker Russian Orthodox Buddhist Jew.” Without knowing more about her, Wuthnow writes, we might be tempted to doubt that this woman can be trusted to comport herself in a coherent and civic manner. The counselor’s inner pluralism contrasts dramatically with the unitary moral self on which most liberal theory is premised; yet, Wuthnow argues, she embodies an only modestly exaggerated version of a cognitive pluralism widespread among us. She is also representative of more general postmodern trends in contemporary American religion that include denominational switching, institutionalized eclecticism, and syncretism. However, unlike Seligman’s prototypical egoist (who resembles, if anything, Robert Bellah’s Sheila from Habits of the Heart),71 Wuthnow’s counselor does not suffer from isolation or excessive self-preoccupation. Indeed, Wuthnow sees sunlight through the clouds, suggesting that this inner pluralism may yet nurture civic values. The key, Wuthnow insists, is not whether we settle comfortably in a homogeneous community or embrace a single grand narrative, but simply whether our social lives draw us into public engagements that encourage us to think long and hard about common problems. Though he stops short of a definitive conclusion, Wuthnow clearly implies that we are not as lacking in moral compass as many social critics imply.

The fourth of the essays on democracy’s compatibilities, the chapter by Anton Zijderveld, draws us forcefully back into comparative concerns. Zijderveld illustrates brilliantly just how remote most philosophical characterizations of liberal politics have been from real-and-existing democracies. Philosophical readers may be surprised to learn that until recently the Netherlands—an origin-point for many Western ideas on republican freedom and economic liberalism72—had a political system organized around state-supported social “pillars.” This arrangement lay at the heart of Dutch democracy, and was premised on a more “socialized” concept of personhood than acknowledged in philosphical liberalism. The pillars were vertical social structures based on the Netherlands’ four major religious groupings: Roman Catholics, Orthodox Protestants, Liberal Protestants, and secular humanists. Recently, efforts have been made (not least of all by Zijderveld himself) to get the state to recognize a fifth pillar for the Netherlands’ small Muslim community. As Zijderveld points out, the pillars are social and not ecclesiastical organizations, each of which is headed by a nonclerical administrative board. Originating in the last century’s struggles among Dutch religious communities, today the pillars administer funds provided by the state for religious education and other social services.

At its origins the pillar arrangement was socially emancipatory and democratic—at least inasmuch as it provided the Roman Catholic and Orthodox minorities with protections from the majoritarian tyranny of liberal Protestants. In actual operation, however, the structure was controlled by pillar leaders in a way that was, as Zijderveld puts it, “rather authoritarian and elitist,” even though it allowed a “remarkable social and political pacification.” Moreover, the impact of the pillars was not confined to churches and religious schooling. Zijderveld observes that “even the labor market” was informally organized around these social pillars. In short, democratic civility was facilitated by arrangements at the national level that were vertical, collectivistic, and, it seems, not all that “liberal.”

The combination of the de-churching of Dutch society, which began in the 1960s, and baby boom anti-authoritarianism has recently made the pillars less popular and brought about a “concomitant rise of a typically modern individualization.” These and other developments were related to the growth of the Dutch welfare state, about which Zijderveld has much to say. From our comparative perspective, however, what is so fascinating about the Dutch example is that civil values were fostered here in a highly contextualized manner, defined in terms of a complex and changing balance of social attachments and power.

Is there a larger lesson in this example? In one sense, the Dutch case illustrates our earlier (lesson three) observation that the practice of civil democracy is premised on a congeries of values, the precise balance of which is never indefinitely secured. The pillarized structure of Dutch sociopolity promoted certain civil values (civic peace, religious tolerance, and the formal equality of religions) by quietly looking the other way on others (political participation and equality between elites and masses). But there is a larger and more original lesson in this example. To borrow terms from Adam Seligman’s discussion, we can say that the civic ideals of equality, freedom, and tolerance are of a highly generalized and abstract nature. Despite their abstract nature, however, the realization of these ideals for ordinary citizens is neither formal nor abstract, but grounded on local values and relationships. Indeed, civic ideals are nowhere realized through their magic wand absolutization to all social spheres. If the latter were possible, civil democracies would show none of the variation that they do in their relative balance of freedoms, responsibilities, and group versus individual rights. The unimaginable might become possible: Americans and British would agree on gun-control policies. As the Netherlands example illustrates so well, however, democratic societies differ greatly in the balances they strike and the values they embed. The precise balance depends not on an invariant set of political principles, but on compromises negotiated by representative elites during critical moments of institution-building. Here is an insight that should reassure cross-cultural researchers worried that civil democracy is compatible with only one set of social values, those of a hyperindividualistic liberalism.

Hence we arrive at a fifth and final lesson: that democratic civility depends upon cultural and institutional embedding, the precise structure of which varies from society to society. This variation is inevitable because democratization is not merely a matter of philosophical principles, but of negotiating and structuring worlds. Philosophical absolutists might see this as a fatal flaw in real-and-existing democracy, wondering how civil democracy can flourish if freedom, equality, and tolerance are not maximized in all societies and all social spheres at all times. Inasmuch as situational compromises may allow the denial of civil rights to some people, this can be a serious problem. The failure of America’s founders to resolve the question of slavery during the Constitutional Convention was one such weighty event, and, as Chirot points out, this small inconsistency in practice allowed for a radical deformation of rights for America’s not-quite-citizens, its African-Americans.

Granted, we might say, real-and-existing democracies are never as simple as philosophers’ models. But clearly this cannot mean that every ideology and social organization is equally compatible with democratic civility. What range of social “embeddings” and ethical “encumberments” is compatible with civil democracy? The reigning wisdom in policy circles on this matter seems fairly clear: laterally organized civic associations are more conducive to democratic values than are vertically organized networks. In a pioneering study of civic traditions in modern Italy, Robert D. Putnam emphasizes that civic organizations helped democracy grow in the north of the country by fostering norms of reciprocity, improving information flow, reducing opportunism, and, in general, heightening people’s trust in each other and political institutions. For Putnam, then, “networks of civic engagement” are a “social capital” vital to the effective functioning of civil democracy and markets. By contrast, Putnam observes, vertical networks of patron-clientage may be capable of providing goods and services, but they do so in a way that discourages trust between superiors and inferiors (“the subordinate husbands information as a hedge against exploitation”) while encouraging destabilizing rivalries among patronage cliques.

These are important insights, and resonate strongly with the Tocquevillian tradition in democratic studies. However, at the risk of impiety in the face of an original study, the evidence of the studies in this book suggests a more complex conclusion than Putnam’s. First, and most basic, not all laterally organized organization are necessarily democracy enhancing. Quite simply, there are civil and uncivil “civil” associations. Organizations like the Klu Klux Klan and extremist militias in the United States may well have the characteristics of rank-and-file participation associated with civil organizations, but still be intolerant and dangerous.

What these uncivic associations illustrate is that our models have too simplistically assumed that the decisive determinant of an organization’s ethico-political influence is its internal structure—horizontal or vertical, participatory or elitist. Thus, we hear “the more horizontally structured an organization, the more it should foster institutional success in the broader community,” conversly, “Membership rates in hierarchically ordered organizations…should be negatively associated with good government.”73 Horizontal groupings are democracy-good, it seems, vertical ones democracy-bad. However, as the Oklahoma bombers (who, reports say, did not “bowl alone”), extremist cults, and other horizontalist nasties remind us, lateralism does not guarantee civility. Associational culture and leadership matter once more.

If horizonalism is not all good, verticalism is not all bad. As in the Netherlands, some vertical structures may not only coexist with civic organizations, but, by preserving the peace or building bridges over troubled waters, actually help to strengthen civility and democracy. The key to determining just when and where verticalism is good is the values and procedures through which it operates, especially those that regulate interaction between lower- and higher-level actors. Putnam and others quite rightly remind us that patron-clientage is corrosive of civility and trust. But not all vertical structures are of a clientalist sort. Some can strengthen democracy if they operate in transparent and pro-cedurally responsive fashions. This is to say that it is the culture and context of verticality that is decisive, not its mere form.

The same is true in a different way for horizontal organizations. Some small-scale organizations, even “horizontal” ones, seem to be ideal mediums for the virus of intolerance. The influence of horizontal associations may be more democratic, however, where their organization is premised on open and rights-regarding principles. Where associations overlap in complex or countervailing manners—so that the members sitting side by side on one occasion find themselves looking at each other from across an organizational divide on another—the moderating influence of membership may be all the greater. The logic of such a situation is simple: When your colleagues in one enterprise are your rivals in another, you have a strong incentive not to demonize members of the second association, because such acts will have an unpleasant effect on your relationship. Inasmuch as civic associations have countervailing memberships and democratic principles and procedures, they may contribute significantly to a culture of democratic civility. As Jose Casanova shows in his chapter, it is just such a cross-cutting weave of social memberships that is defusing ethnic tensions in the contemporary Ukraine.

Zijderveld and Chirot’s studies also illustrate a related point: that an exclusive focus on local-level associations overlooks the crucial influence of higher-level structures and leadership on democratic processes. Chirot’s essay stresses the importance of the international environment in which civil and political struggles unfold, noting (with Hall) that the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe was more critically influenced by elite struggles in Moscow than it was local civil society. Political elites exercise a decisive influence on civil society, but their role is especially critical during times of regime transition, when the terms are being set for future political games.74

There is a final paragraph to this fifth lesson on democratic civility. It is that the realization of civil-democratic values is, by its very nature, ever unfinished. This is so not merely because the ideals of civil democracy are unevenly applied and at times in tension. That is part of it. But the indeterminacy also reflects the fact that societies change, so that the balance of forces that underlay one civil compromise (such as the pillar system in the Netherlands) shifts and people perceive old arrangements in a new and unfavorable light. Thus, the pillar system is no longer popular among Dutch youth because it is seen as authoritarian rather than protective of their religious rights (in which they have lost interest). Or, similarly, Western gender prototypes once seen as immutable have been found wanting by some in light of contemporary egalitarian ideals.75 The controversies that result from such critical re-examination can tear a society apart. However, with the right dose of democratic civility, the instability can also be a source of strength, demonstrating civil democracy’s ability to accommodate new interests, new personnel, and new ideas of the good.

Conclusion: From Civil Society to Democratic Civility

For those who had placed their hopes in civil society as the key to democracy and civility, the recognition that it cannot quite guarantee either may sound like a counsel of despair. Faced with authoritarian regimes or the loss of democracy’s vitality, well-meaning people in many parts of the world pinned their hopes for decent politics on this appealing little idea. Civil society seemed to offer a kinder and gentler road to democratic renewal. The road passed through friendships, women’s groups, houses of worship, press freedoms, business associations, and legal aid rather than violent and uncertain struggles for state power. If this is no longer enough, what is to be done?

A less pessimistic perspective on this point would return to our earlier observation that democratic civilities depend in the long run upon a virtuous circle of culture and organization. This is a familiar point in the literature on democracy and civil society, one aptly summarized, for example, in Robert Putnam’s assertion that in assessing democracy’s supports there can be no priority of “structure” over “culture.” We err even in framing the question in such a bipolar way, Putnam quite rightly observes, because civic “attitudes and practices constitute a mutually reinforcing equilibrium.”76

This is an important point, but the five lessons provided by the studies in this book reveal its underlying complexity. Seeking to improve on philosphers’ singular emphasis of ethical individualism, recent sociological writing has asserted that it is not ethical individualism per se, but horizontal structures of participation and exchange that best guarantee civility with democracy. This associationist explanation improves on the philosophical account by reminding us that democratic culture depends not only on abstract ideas but on values sustained in a certain way of life. Another benefit of the sociological view is that it acknowledges a more complex balance of civic and individual goods than emphasized in the often Hobbesian world of philosophical liberalism.

Nonetheless, on the evidence of the studies in this book, this associationalist model still risks a simplifying flight of sociological imagination. Civil association is necessary but never sufficient to guarantee a civil-democratic politics. Equally important is that this self-organization be part of a broader pattern of political pluricentrism, in which no single social class or organization asserts monopoly control over the social, political, and moral resources of society. Only in such pluricentric polities, our second lesson on democratic civility showed, is the state likely to display that delicate balance of strength and self-limitation that allows it to work with rather than against civil participation. Finally—and perhaps most overlooked in contemporary accounts of civil democracy—for this balance of state and society to endure, its norms must be elevated into a constitutional charter that enshrines equality, participation, and tolerance as principles of law, in a manner that protects them from political vicissitudes and socializes them among the public at large. Without this larger “mutually reinforcing equilibrium,” civil association may do no more than create a segmentary civility, in which only a few are granted the dignity of a free public life.

Though some have argued that such a constellation of culture and institutions can only be achieved in the West, the third lesson from this book suggested that the contrast between the West and the rest is too monolithic. Though, historically. Westerners were among the first to enunciate modern variants of civil-democratic ideals, from the outset the principles were understood in varied ways. The West looks less monolithic—and less uniformly individualistic—from the diverse perspectives of the Netherlands’ pillars, nineteenth and twentieth century movements for voting rights, American struggles over race, or, most unhappily, the modern destruction of European Jewry. Conversely, in non-Western settings, civil democratic ideals have appeal not because Taiwanese and Muslim democrats want to imitate the West, but because the ideals are versatile enough to respond to local needs.

In its most general form, that to which democratic civility responds is the simple desire for participation and self-determination. This desire is neither unique to our age nor universal. However, social change has become so pervasive in our era that people in many places have been drawn to variants of civil ideals to provide an ethical compass amidst the ongoing flux. No single “determinant in the last instance” can explain the breadth of this diffusion. On the contrary, all evidence suggests the appeal of dignity and participation arises through varied circumstances and combinations: as settled villages give way to mobile urbanizations; as kinship collectivities become optative ties of family; as mothers become “working” mothers; as economies of command become competitive; as public voices become multiple. Plural in its organizations and meanings, there is no single modernity; nor is there but one form of civility-in-democracy. However, the restructuration of life worlds characteristic of our era is so massive and aspirations for dignity and participation so widespread that, more than any time in human history, large numbers of people find themselves drawn to these ideals we call civil democratic. In actual usage, of course, the precise social referent of such ideals varies. So too does the balance societies strike between public and private goods, and individual and collective rights. But this only shows that it is contextual and hybridizing processes, not imitation or untrammeled diffusion from afar, that is the real key to our much misrecognized notion of democracy’s “globalization.”

It is for reasons of this sort, after all, that American-style denominationalism is taking hold in, of all places, the Ukraine (chapter 8), whereas it did not take hold anywhere in Western Europe. It is not that, by some bizarre genealogy, the Ukraine has an ancient affinity with the culture of the United States that France and England do not. It does not. What is pushing the Ukraine toward a pattern of religiosity like that of the U.S. is the fact that the balance of religious groupings “on the ground” has created an impasse and opportunity. No single religious body can impose its will on the whole. The structure of this impasse, Casanova tells us, bears a striking resemblance to circumstances obtaining in the U.S. at the time of the nation’s founding. And the compromise toward which Ukrainians seem to be stumbling does as well. The convergence here is product neither of ancient association nor American hegemony, but of a creative resolution of historically convergent problems.

Indeed, our last two lessons on democratic civility suggest that a not dissimilar process of adjustment and localization has always taken place in Western societies themselves. The principles of civility and democracy are highly generalized, and their synchronization in political practice never finished. As affirmative action debates in the United States show, much of democracy’s creative dynamic centers on just this tension, as to which balance of freedom, equality, and tolerance in difference is most fitting for the age. The outcome of such debates is determined not by the eternal flame of unchanging ideas, but by recontextualized understandings of general truths, and an ever-changing balance of societal forces committed to their meanings.

Rather than a counsel of despair, the complexity of the influences sustaining democratic civility should encourage a realistic if guarded optimism. For those thirsting for democratic decencies, the real message of despair is that democracy’s fate was sealed hundreds of years ago, as some recent studies of civic traditions have argued. Fortunately, the evidence of the studies in this book suggests a less paleopolitical conclusion. It is not the ancient beat of associational drums that determines democracy’s rhythms, nor some inimitable archaeology of philosophical ideas, but a thoroughly contemporary circle of organizations and values. In practical terms, this means that democracy and civility can be advanced through strategic interventions at any number of points in the democratic circle—by building civil associations, supporting countervailing institutions, diffusing wealth and decentralizing economic initiative, strengthening the judiciary, defending a free press, and, always, fostering political leadership committed to these very goals. Even in the smoothest-running systems, democracy is not all or nothing, but eclectically incremental.

The situationalist argument I am making here should not be misunderstood. Cultural and organizational precedents matter, and matter deeply. Enormous efforts may be made to insure that new ideas conform to civilizational precedents, especially where, as with Islam and other world religions, the precedent is identified as divine. While acknowledging this truth, however, we must politely disagree with those who portray politics as so thoroughly dependent on ancient huddles and instincts as to deny the reality of many modern peoples aspirations. In our global ecumene, all societies face problems of civility in plurality; and all have at least some citizens who believe that ideals of equality, participation, and tolerance may aid their resolution. Where societies stumble, the evidence suggests it is not because of primordial urges, but present-day imbalances in democracy’s circle.

The evidence of these studies leads me to a final, normative observation, one with which I am not sure all my fellow contributors would agree. It is that we supporters of civil and democratic principles must show greater confidence in their practical relevance. That confidence has nothing to do with the alleged occidental origins of democratic ideals, a mythic charter that, I have suggested, only clouds the issue by telling non-Westerners that their own experience is not what is most deeply relevant to democracy’s possibility. Rather than selective genealogies, our democratic confidence should be based on the conviction that, in the end, the appeal of freedom, equality, and tolerance-in-plurality is not narrowly circumscribed, as argued by prophets of the new civilizational relativism. The ideals respond to circumstances and desires widespread in our world.

This is not to say that the outcomes of today’s struggles are guaranteed. Ours will remain an age of democratic trial, and, for better or for worse, the verdict of history will vary. But of this we should feel certain: that aspirations for dignity and civility are not civilizationally circumscribed, but will remain a powerful force in world culture and politics for years to come.


1. Francis Fukyuama, “The End of History?” In The National Interest (Summer 1989), p. 4. See also his more nuanced. The End of History and the Last Man (New York: The Free Press. 1992).

2. Samuel P. Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs 72:3 (1993): 22-49. Huntington has expanded and refined this argument in a recent book. However his pessimism as to the likelihood of Western conflict with certain societies (especially Islamic) has, if anything, deepened. See The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schustcr, 1996), especially pp. 209-65.

3. The quotation is from Elshtain’s remarkable Democracy on Trial (New York: Basic Books, 1995), p. 5.

4. On the cultural challenge of Muslims in France, see Jocelyne Cesari, Eire musulman en France: Associations, militants et mosquees (Paris: Kurthala & Ireman, 1994), and Bruno Etienne, ed., L’lslam en France (Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1990); for contrasting evaluations of British attitudes towards Muslims (and vice versa), see, Talal Asad, “Multiculturalism and British Identity in the Wake of the Rushdie Affair,” in Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins, 1993), pp. 239-68; and Pnina Werbner, “Allegories of Sacred Imperfection: Magic, Hermeneutics, and Passion in The Satanic Verses,” in Current Anthropology. vol. 37, special issue supplement (Feb. 1996), pp. 55-86.

5. See James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic Books, 1991).

6. Students of social theory will rightly observe that concern for the conditions of democracy’s possibility is a renewed interest, not one created from scratch, since many of these same issues underlay modernization theory in the 1960s. However there is an important difference in the way this interest was developed in the two periods. Though the best modernization theorists were aware of the world’s cultural diversity, they had a greater confidence in the generalizability of Western developmental models, and a simpler understanding of just what those models involved. Social and political theory in the 1970s was marked by, as Anthony Giddens has put it, the loss of this orthodox consensus and a momentary diminution in comparative inquiry. When the issue of democracy across cultures reemerged in the late 1980s, it benefited from debates that had complicated our understanding of the state, nationalism, and the concept of culture.

7. Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in modern Italy (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press 1993).

8. The latter question is at the heart of Robert D. Putnam’s provocative little article, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital.” In Journal of Democracy 6:1 (January 1995): 65-78.

9. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, two volumes, translated by George Lawrence and edited by J.P. Mayer (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1969), p. 192.

10. An intelligent example of this genre is Mary Ann Glendhon and David Blankenhom, eds.. Seedbeds of Virtue: Sources of Competence, Character, and Citizenship in American Society (Lanham, Md.: Institute for American Values, Madison Books. 1995).

11. See for example, David G. Green, Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare without Politics (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, Choice in Welfare Series No. 17, 1993) and Gregg Vanourek, Scott W. Hamilton, and Chester E. Finn, Jr., Is There Life After Big Government? The Potential of Civil Society (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hudson Institute, 1996).

12. See Paul Barry Clarke, Deep Citizenship (London: Pluto Press, 1996), and Ernesto Lacalu and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985).

13. John A. Hall, “In Search of Civil Society.” In Hall, ed. Civil Society: Theory. History, and Comparison (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), p. 2.

14. For a critique of this narrow usage and an illustration of what it obscures in a non-Western setting, see Jenny B. White, “Civic Culture and Islam in Urban Turkey,” in Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, eds.. Civil Society: Challenging Western Models (London: Routledge, 1996). pp. 143-54.

15. John Keane, “Introduction.” In Keane, ed. Civil Society and the Slate: New European Perspectives (London: Verso, 1988), p. 28.

16. Three of the more notable are Chris Hann and Elizabeth Dunn, eds., Civil Society: Challenging Western Models (London: Routledge, in Conjunction with the European Association of Social Anthropologists, 1996); John W. Harbeson, Donald Rothchild, and Naomi Chazan, Civil Society and the State in Africa (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1994); and Augustus Richard Norton, ed., Civil Society in the Middle East. two volumes, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995, 1996). With its unusually rich combination of history, ethnography, and philosophy, the last work remains the single best sourcebook on the problem of civil society in a non-Western context.

17. For reasons that will become apparent later in this introduction, I prefer to use the term “civil democracy” rather than “liberal democracy” when referring to the political institutions through which the modern ideals of equality, dignity, and tolerance are realized. My intent in doing so is to underscore that civil values are compatible with a wider range of real-and-existing social orders than implied in, most notably, certain philosophical discussions of Western liberalism. Some of the latter imply that democracy is only viable in cultures that affirm strong variants of ethical individualism. Yet in practice, the range of ethical traditions within which real-and-existing democracies have co-evolved even in the West—and, increasingly, the non-Western world—is more varied than such accounts imply, as is the relative balance of group and individual rights.

18. Michael Walzer, “Pluralism: A Political Perspective,” in Walzer, What It Means to be an American: Essays on the American Experience (New York: Marsilio, 1996 (1980]). pp. 53-77. The philosopher Will Kymlicka takes a slightly different perspective on the pluralism problem in Western liberalism. He argues that liberalism’s neglect of cultural diversity has been especially characteristic of postwar writing, observing that some nineteenth- and early twentieth-century liberal theorists did discuss the problem of ethnic minorities and multinational states. See Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), p. 49. Kymlicka may be right about professional philosophers, but the central strain in Western policy circles has clearly been closer to that described by Walzer.

19. The effort to go beyond Durkheim’s legacy and acknowledge the unboundedness and internal complexity of even “traditional” societies has been a central theme in recent anthropological writing. See, for example, the essays in Adam Kuper, ed.. Conceptualising Society (London: Routledgc, 1992); and in Richard Fardon, ed. Counterworks: Managing the Diversity of Knowledge (London and New York: Routledge, 1995). For outstanding demonstrations of the unbounded and pluralist nature of “tribal” Africa, see Igor Kopytoff, “The Internal African Frontier. The Making of African Political Culture,” in Kopytoff, ed. The African Frontier: The Reproduction of Traditional African Societies (Bloomington:

Indiana University Press, 1987), pp. 3-84; and Terence Ranger, “The Local and the Global in Southern African Religious History,” in Robert W. Hefner, ed., Conversion to Christianity: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives on a Great Transformation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 65-98.

20. The issue of the world religions’ role in integrating multiethnic empires is discussed in S.N. Eisenstadt’s “Introduction: The Axial Age Breakthroughs—Their Characteristics and Origins,” in Eisenstadt, The Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), pp. 1-25, and in my “World Building and the Rationality of Conversion,” in Hefner, ed. Conversion to Christianity, pp. 3-44.

21. Readers will note a significant tension between my account of Muslim pluralism here and in chapter 12 and that of John Hall in this volume.

22. As a field of inquiry, the comparative study of pluralist civility is still in its infancy. As the field takes shape, however, it is clear that the discussion of European civility will have to acknowledge the awesome achievement of Norbert Elias’s, The Civilizing Process: The History of Manners and State Formation and Civilization, translated by Edmund Jephcott (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). For a discussion of civility in China, see Robert Weller’s essay in this volume.

23. In making such a generalization, it is important not to fall back into nineteenth century dichotomy of “traditional” vs. “modern” society, with the assumption that premodern societies were essentially the same. While some premodcrn societies do invoke principles of hierarchy like those Louis Dumont has described in classical India, others show a nuanced pattern, blending hierarchical with egalitarian themes. Charles Lindholm has recently examined one such complex blend, that of the premodern Muslim Middle East. He shows that there a strong ethic of male equality coexisted with relationships of authority and subordination. See Lindholm, The Islamic Middle East: An Historical Anthropology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). For a textual analysis of related problems, see Louise Marlow, Hierarchy and Egalitarianism in Islamic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

24. F.G. Bailey, The Civility of Indifference: On Domesticating Ethnicity (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996).

25. This is not to say that this was the only or dominant form of political civility in Enlightenment Europe. As my argument will make clearer later, modern Europe contained (and still contains) rival ideological traditions, among them hierarchical corporatism and romantic nationalism (the two of which sometimes worked in unison). In determining which of these rival ideologies was to be amplified and which suppressed, structural developments in European economy and society would play as critical a role as the popular force of cultural ideas. See Chirot in this volume for a related argument

26. Some of the most insightful literature on the exclusions operative in European civil society has originated in response to Jurgen Habermas’s rather idealized characterizations of the eighteenth century “public sphere.” Of special note are Nancy Eraser’s, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy”; Mary P. Ryan, “Gender and Public Access: Women’s Politics in Nineteenth-Century America”; and Geoff Eley, “Nations, Publics, and Political Cultures: Placing Habermas in the Nineteenth Century”; in Craig Calhoun, ed.. Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), pp. 109-42, 259-88, and 289-339 respectively. The work to which they direct their critique is Jurgen Habermas’s much read, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, translated by Thomas Burger (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989).

27. See Dale F. Eickelman, “The Political Economy of Meaning,” in American Ethnologist 6 (1979):386-93.

28. Especially relevant to Hall’s approach are Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals (New York: Penguin Books. 1994), and “Flux and reflux in the faith of men,” in Muslim Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 1-85. For Max Weber, see The City (New York: The Free Press, 1958).

29. John A. Hall, Liberties and Powers: The Causes and Consequences of the Rise of the West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

30. Cf. Daniel Chirot, Social Change in the Modern Era (San Diego, Cal.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), esp. pp. 11-56; and E.L. Jones, The European Miracle: Environments, Economies, and Geopolitics in the History of Europe and Asia, second edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

31. For insights into why this might have been so, see David K. Jordan and Daniel L. Overmyer, The Flying Phoenix: Aspects of Chinese Sectarianism in Taiwan (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1986), and David K. Jordan, “The Glyphomancy Factor: Observations on Chinese Conversion,” in Hefner, ed., Conversion to Christianity, pp. 285-303.

32. The post-Marxist literature on new social movements and civil society emerged earlier, in the early 1980s, anticipating the general revival of interest in civil society which was to occur a few years later. See, for example, Claus Offe, “The New Social Movements: Challenging the Boundaries of Institutional Politics,” Social Research 52: 4 (1985): 817-68; and Alberto Melucci, “Social Movements and the Democratization of Everyday Life,” in Keane, ed., Civil Society and the State, pp. 245-60.

33. See for example, Michael Buchowski, “The Shifting Meanings of Civil and Civic Society in Poland,” and Steven Samson, “The Social Life of Projects: Importing Civil Society to Albania,” in Hann and Dunn, Civil Society, pp. 79-98 and 121-42.

34. John Keane, “Introduction,” in Keane, ed. Civil Society and the State, p. 2.

35. One of the finest critiques of Marx’s ideas on civil society remains Jean L. Cohen’s Class and Civil Society: The Limits of Marxian Critical Theory (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982); for a more sympathetic assessment of Marx’s views, see Keith Tester, Civil Society (London: Routledge, 1992).

36. Charles Taylor, “Invoking Civil Society,” in Taylor, Philosophical Arguments (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995). p. 204. Cf. Ernest Gellner, Conditions of Liberty: Civil Society and Its Rivals (New York: Penguin Press, 1994).

37. A theme explored in Gyorgy Konrad’s, Antipolitics (London: Quartet, 1984).

38. Katherine Verdery’s discussion of Romania is paradigmatic in this regard of much of multiethnic Eastern Europe. By promoting a chauvinistic patriotism, Romania’s conservative nationalists forced supporters of civil society onto the defensive, obliging them to adopt nationalist slogans and, in so doing, undermining their appeals for multiethnic civility (particularly as regards Rumania’s Hungarian minority). See What Was Socialism, and What Comes Next? (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1996) pp. 115-29. The Romanian case makes an interesting contrast with the Ukraine, as discussed by José Casanova in this book.

39. This point is also illustrated in Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Wor, p. 176. See also Chris Hann, “Introduction: Political Society and Civil Anthropology,” in Chris Hann and Elizabeth, eds. Civil Society, p. 7.

40. See Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, vol. I, A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), especially pp. 518-541; Anthony Giddens, The Nation-State and Violence, volume 2 of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 35-60; and John A. Hall, “Introduction,” in States in History (London: BIackwell, 1986), pp 1-21. For a Southeast Asian illustration of the uneven power of premoderm states, see Anthony Reid’s masterful, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, 1450-1680, volume 2, Expansion and Crisis (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press. 1993).

41. On the fracturing of the opposition and the decline of the civil society ideal in postcommunist Poland, see W. Wesolowski, “The Nature of Social Ties and the Future of Postcommunist Society: Poland after Solidarity,” in John A. Hall, Civil Society: Theory, History, Comparison (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), pp. 110-35, and, for Hungary, Andrew Arato and Jean L. Cohen, “Civil Society and the Public Sphere,” paper presented at the Institute for Advanced Study, Boston University, October 28, 1995.

42. The scale of this conflict gave rise in some circles to the simplistic view that the violence was merely an explosion of long suppressed “primordial” tensions. For a better account, see John R. Bowen, “The Myth of Global Ethnic Conflict,” in Journal of Democracy 7:4 (October 1996):3-14.

43. For an excellent discussion of the contemporary globalization of a related political concept, see Richard A. Wilson’s Human Rights, Culture and Context (London: Pluto Press, 1997).

44. My discussion of cultural “amplification” and “dampening” has parallels to two otherwise unrelated bodies of research: the model of cognition and culture elaborated in the cross-cultural psychiatry of Arthur Kleinman, as in his, Rethinking Psychiatry: From Cultural Category to Personal Experience (New York: The Free Press, 1988), and Peter Evans’ discussion of the “scaling up” of social capital in his, “Government Action, Social Capital and Development: Reviewing the Evidence on Synergy,” in World Development 24:6 (1996): 1119-32.

45. For illustrations of the interactionist understanding of culture and practice underlying this model see Anthony Giddens, The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984); Maurice Bloch, “From Cognition to Ideology,” in Bloch, Ritual, History and Power: Selected Papers in Anthropology (London: The Athlone Press, LSE Monographs on Social Anthropology No. 58, 1989), pp. 106-36; and Arthur Kleinman, Rethinking Psychiatry, pp. 18-76.

46. A point touched on from a different perspective by Fredrik Barth in his, “Toward Greater Naturalism in Conceptualizing Societies,” in Kuper, Conceptualizing Society, pp. 17-33.

47. This phrase is from Ulf Hannerz’s delightful, Transnational Connections: Culture, Peoples, Places (London and New York: Routledge, 1996).

48. For an affirmation of the possibility of such democratic convergence in the Muslim Middle East, see Dale F. Eickelman and James Piscatori, Muslim Politics (Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1996), and Augustus Richard Norton’s introduction to Civil Society in the Middle East, vol. I.

49. Probably the most important among the early works on radical democracy was Emesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (London: Verso, 1985).

50. On the way in which capitalist politics and ethics vary according to their social “embedding,” see Gordon Redding in this volume, as well as Redding and S.R. Clegg, eds. Capitalism in Contrasting Cultures (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1990); and Robert Hefner, “Introduction,” in Market Cultures: Society and Morality in the New Asian Capitalisms (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, in press).

51. The quotation here is from Jean L. Cohen’s, Class and Civil Society, p. 29. As this work’s publication date indicates, to say that the effluorescence of the post-Marxist left was facilitated by the crisis in Eastern Europe is not to imply that the intellectual foundation was not laid earlier. The democratic left’s rejection of Marx’s analysis of civil society began earlier, during the 1970s in the pages of such journals as Telos and Dissent, and of course in the writing of the leading European pioneer of post-Marxist democracy, Jurgen Habermas.

52. Chantal Mouffe, “Democratic Politics Today.” In Mouffe, ed., Dimensions of Radical Democracy: Pluralism, Citizenship, Community (London: Verso, 1992), p. 1.

53. But the postmodern label can be misleading. Self-proclaimed postmodernists tend to agree with Francois Lyotard’s assertion that ours is an era marked by the loss of “grand narratives” and metaphysical absolutes. However, while some interpret this as a denial of any possibility of judging one ethicopolitical option superior to another, others, such as the influential American philosopher Richard Rorty, see this situation as a confirmation of the pragmatic utility of nonmetaphysical understandings of the ideals of tolerance, pluralism, and freedom. See for example, Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth, Philosophical Papers, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), especially pp. 175-22. For a sympathetic but intelligently critical review from a more universalist perspective, see Norman Geras, Solidarity in the Conversation of Humankind: The Ungroundable Liberalism of Richard Rorty (London: Verso. 1995).

54. Mouffe, “Democratic Politics Today,” p. 13; emphasis in the original.

55. Erik Olin Wright, “Preface: The Real Utopias Project,” in Erik Olin Wright, ed., Associations and Democracy: The Real Utopias Project, vol., I (London: Verso, 1995). p. xi.

56. See for example Richard A. Wilson’s Human Rights, Culture and Context for a critical but balanced anthropological reflection on this issue.

57. The fact that there has been intense debate in places like the United Slates over issues of individual opportunity and group justice (as in the controversy surrounding affirmative action) should serve as a reminder that, contrary to some philosophical portrayals, real-and-existing democracies acknowledge collective as well as individual goods. It is nonetheless true that the modern language of individual rights, with its image of the “autonomous agentic individual,” has made discursive legitimation of such concerns more difficult in courtrooms and other public fora. For a discussion of how such an individualized model of personhood poses problems of integration in the contemporary West, see Adam Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society (New York: The Free Press, 1992).

58. Mouffe, “Democratic Politics,” p. 14.

59. Michael Walzer, “The Civil Society Argument.” In Chantal Mouffe, ed.. Dimensions of Radical Democracy, pp. 98.

60. Walzer, “The Civil Society Argument,” p. 99.

61. Peter L. Bcrger and Richard John Neuhaus, To Empower People: From State to Civil Society (Washington, D.C.: AEI Press, 1996), p. 164.

62. On this point, for example, see Charles Taylor, “Cross Purposes: The Liberal-Communitarian Debate,” in Nancy L. Rosenblum, ed., Liberalism and the Moral Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. 1989), pp. 159-82.

63. Among others, for example, Francis Fukuyama has recently made an extended critique of neoclassical variants of liberalism, arguing that they promote an atomistic individualism that undermines the morality on which liberal democracy and market economies depend. See his, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: The Free Press, 1995).

64. This distinction is sometimes overlooked in otherwise sound sociological and anthropological discussions of democracy and human rights. A proper anthropology of civil democracy would begin by invoking the first principle of practice theory, namely that the canonical truths used to legitimate practice are not necessarily the best indicators of the norms guiding social practice itself.

65. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, second edition (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), especially pp. 255-63.

66. Bernard Yack, “Liberalism and Its Communitarian Critics: Does Liberal Practice ‘Live Down’ to Liberal Theory?” In Charles H. Reynolds and Ralph V. Norman, eds., Community in America: The Challenge of Habits of the Heart (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), pp. 151-52.

67. Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), and “The Procedural Republic and the Unencumbered Self,” Political Theory 12 (1984): 81-96.

68. This is the point of departure for much recent comparative research on gender, kinship, and modern politics. Among many fine anthropological studies, see the essays in Sylvia Junko Yanagisako and Jane Fishburne Collier, eds., Gender and Kinship: Essays Toward a Unified Analysis (Stanford, Cal: Stanford University Press, 1987); from the perspective of political theory and history, sec Nancy Fraser’s “Rethinking the Public Sphere,” and Joan Landes, Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988).

69. Seligman, The Idea of Civil Society.

70. Since the last century, the contesting of the boundary between public and private has been central to arguments in favor of women’s rights. More recently, it has also figured in the debate over the relevance of religion for public ethical concerns. See Jose Casanova’s Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

71. Robert N. Bellah, Richard Madsen, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).

72. On the formative role of Dutch writers in the early modern development of European republicanism, see Martin van Gelderen, “The Machiavellian moment and the Dutch Revolt: the rise of ef neostoicism and Dutch republicanism,” in Gisela Bock, Quentin Skinner, and Maurizio Viroli, eds., Machiavelli and Republicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 205-23.

73. Putnam, Making Democracy, p. 176.

74. This theme is developed in Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe C. Schmitter’s, Transitions from Authoritarian Rule: Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

75. On the changing nature of the American family, sec Rayna Rapp, “Toward a Nuclear Freeze? The Gender Politics of Euro-American Kinship Analysis,” in Collier and Yanagisako, eds., Gender and Kinship, pp. 119-31.