Introduction – civil society in the global South

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This chapter introduces the book Civil Society in the Global South. It begins with an overview of civil society from its classical origin to more contemporary meanings. It is demonstrated that civil society as a concept is deeply rooted in European modernity and civility, which is later exported or (re)invented in non-Western country contexts, often by the Western scholars who describe civil society in the global South through their situated values. This raises questions about the relevance and congruity of civil society, as conceptualised in extant scholarship, in many countries where diversity (against perceived commonality) is a common parlance and preconditions of modernity are either in their infancy or largely absent. Drawing on the chapters included in the book this chapter reveals some overlapping themes that complement, contest and challenge some of the conventional understandings of civil society and thereby add to the existing scholarship. These are that: (1) civil society, as delineated in its classical European origins and through Western values, may not always be relevant in many countries; (2) traditional groups and associations are transforming into modern forms of civil society; (3) the scope of civil society can transcend national borders and neo-liberal interpretations; (4) groups, associations and alliances that often constitute civil society are not always ‘civil’; (5) often civil society has political motives and acts on those motives or driven by it; and (6) in many countries civil society is vulnerable to ‘state capture’ and thus often fail to function as an autonomous sphere.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivil Society in the Global South
EditorsPalash Kamruzzaman
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-1315113579
ISBN (Print)978-0367617318, 978-1138080256
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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