Will Kymlicka

Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society

Edited and introduced by Simone Chambers and Will Kymlicka, Princeton University Press, 2002, 272 pp.

...without exception the essays are eloquently written, interesting and thought-provoking... an engaging and stimulating collection...

Shaun Young, Canadian Journal of Political Science

The idea of civil society has long been central to the Western liberal-democratic tradition, where it has been seen as a crucial site for the development and pursuit of basic liberal values such as individual freedom, social pluralism, and democratic citizenship. This book considers how a host of other ethical traditions define civil society. Unlike most studies of the subject, which focus on a particular region or tradition, it considers a range of ethical traditions rarely addressed in one volume: libertarianism, critical theory, feminism, liberal egalitarianism, natural law, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Confucianism. It considers the extent to which these traditions agree or disagree on how to define civil society's limits and how to evaluate its benefits and harms. An excellent starting point for a comparative ethics of civil society, this book concludes that while the concept of civil society originated in the liberal tradition, it is quickly becoming an important focus for a truly cross-cultural dialogue. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Michael Banner, Hasan Hanafi, Loren E. Lomasky, Richard Madsen, Michael A. Mosher, Michael Pakaluk, Anne Phillips, Adam B. Seligman, Suzanne Last Stone, and Michael Walzer.

...perhaps more than ever before there is a need for dialogue between the plurality of ethical traditions, both religious and secular. This book is a fine starting point for that dialogue...

Brett Bowden, Australian Journal of Political Science

Table of Contents

  • Simone Chambers and Will Kymlicka, "Introduction"
  • Part I
    • Chapter 1: Civil Society as Idea and Ideal by Adam B. Seligman
    • Chapter 2: Equality and Civil Society by Michael Walzer
    • Chapter 3: Classical Liberalism and Civil Society by Loren E. Lomasky
  • Part II
    • Chapter 4: Does Feminism Need a Conception of Civil Society by Anne Phillips
    • Chapter 5: A Critical Theory of Civil Society by Simone Chambers
  • Part III
    • Chapter 6: Christianity and Civil Society by Michael Banner
    • Chapter 7: Natural Law and Civil Society by Michael Pakaluk
  • Part IV
    • Chapter 8: The Jewish Tradition and Civil Society by Suzanne Last Stone
    • Chapter 9: Alternative Conceptions of Civil Society: A Reflective Islamic Approach by Hanson Hanafi
    • Chapter 10: Confucian Conceptions of Civil Society by Richard Madsen
  • Part V
    • Chapter 11: Conclusion: Are Civil Societies the Transmission Belts of Ethical Tradition? by Michael A. Mosher