By Jose Harris
This ebook explores the numerous assorted strands within the language of civil society from the 16th to the 20 th centuries. via a chain of case-studies it investigates the applicability of the time period to quite a lot of historic settings. The members convey how earlier understandings of the time period have been usually very various from (even in a few respects the complete opposite of) these held this day.
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Extra info for Civil Society in British History: Ideas, Identities, Institutions
Indeed, his criticisms of earlier theorists rested not on their conception of civil society but their reliance on the ﬁction of a pre-political ‘contract’ or ‘compact’. 76 VII There was, however, an exception to this relative Victorian neglect. As indicated above, much of the earlier commentary on civil society had assumed a close conjunction between the state and organized religion. And, despite its virtual disappearance from other aspects of political thought, civil society remained an important strand in discussion of relations between church and state.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, however, the advance of democracy, mass society, and political nationalism began to awaken fears of a quite different kind—that the main threat to individual or group rights might come from democratic majorities, mass public opinion, or state bureaucracies claiming to represent the ‘general will’ (dangers seen as exempliﬁed by Bismarck’s Kulturkampf and by the attacks on voluntary and religious bodies launched by the French Third Republic). The ‘Gladstonian’ administrative reforms of the 1860s and 1870s, which transferred to parliament and secular law courts control over many social and religious matters that had previously been the concern of self-regulating private bodies, likewise appeared to some to be transforming the nature of the British state; and similar anxieties were to be stirred by certain landmark legal decisions, particularly the Taff Vale case and the Scottish church controversy, during the 1890s and 1900s.
Stein (Oxford, 1978), 129–39. 52 Lectures on Jurisprudence, 129–30; Theory of Moral Sentiments, 231. 24 Jose Harris Adam Smith’s ‘civil society’ therefore meant something not dissimilar to that of Hooker and Locke, though the element of mere ‘society’ had become more autonomous, and the role of the upright citizen more actively moralistic than in those older narratives. 53 Ferguson rejected the ‘atomistic’ model of man latent in Smith and the ‘social compact’ theorists. 54 The genesis of civil society came not from competition and fear between neighbours, but from common defence against an external enemy; it was organization for war that gave rise initially to obedience to a personal leader, and thence to the specialized structures of the legalistic modern state.
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