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A Civil Economy

Transforming the Marketplace in the Twenty-First Century

Severyn T. Bruyn

Publication Year: 2000

A civil society is one in which a democratic government and a market economy operate together. The idea of the civil economy--encompassing a democratic government and a market economy--presumes that people can solve social problems within the market itself. This book explores the relationship between the two, examining the civil underpinnings of capitalism and investigating the way a civil economy evolves in history and is developed for the future by careful planning. Severyn T. Bruyn describes how people in three sectors--government, business, and the Third Sector (nonprofits and civil groups)--can develop an accountable, self-regulating, profitable, humane, and competitive system of markets that could be described as a civil economy. He examines how government officials can organize markets to reduce government costs; how local leaders deal with global corporations that would unfairly exploit their community resources; and how employees can become coparticipants in the development of human values in markets. A Civil Economy is oriented to interdiciplinary studies of the economy, assisting scholars in diverse fields, such as business management, sociology, political science, and economics, in developing a common language to examine civic problems in the marketplace. As an undergraduate text, it evokes a mode of thought about the development of a self-accountable system of markets. Students learn to understand how the market economy becomes socially accountable and self-reliant, while remaining productive, competitive, and profitable. Sveryn T. Bruyn is Professor of Sociology, Boston College.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Evolving Values for a Capitalist World


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pp. vii-viii

In January 1995 I spoke in Mexico City before the first plenary meeting of CIVICUS, the pioneering alliance that seeks to nurture and sustain global society. It was a heady and optimistic moment for individuals in the nonprofit and nongovernmental world. Capitalism had vanquished communism, democracy had triumphed over autocracy, in essence, Tocqueville had defeated Marx. Of course, massive problems remained––poverty, disease, illiteracy, powerlessness––and we were all deeply aware of them. But most people believed that these ancient afflictions would be...

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Series Foreword

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pp. ix-x

The University of Michigan Press is pleased to offer A Civil Economy: Transforming the Market in the Twenty-First Century as the second volume in its series Evolving Values for a Capitalist World. The series, edited by Neva R. Goodwin, Co-director of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, is based on the following beliefs. Capitalism is the socioeconomic system that will prevail for the foreseeable future, not only because it appears to be an irresistible force, but also because...

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pp. xi-xvi

People are talking about the idea of civil society but do not see its relationship to the market economy. Is there such a thing—could there be such a thing—as a civil economy? The purpose of this book is to explore that relationship, to examine the civil underpinnings of capitalism. We will investigate the way a civil economy develops, embedded as it is within civil society. Over the centuries, philosophers have debated the idea of civil society. The idea was gradually deμned with...

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pp. xvii-xviii

The framework for this book has been forming in my mind for many decades. I have spent time in corporate research as well as consulting with μrms for over 30 years, but this particular book was inspired by the Boston Coalition for a Strong United Nations. This coalition is a group of over 90 nongovernmental organizations that have been holding conferences at the Kennedy Library on local-to-global issues. The idea for the book began when this coalition organized a Task Force on International Business and then a regional...

Part I. An Evolving Economy

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1. The Moral Economy

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pp. 3-34

The idea of civil society began with philosophers centuries ago, but today this classic idea is interpreted in a fresh fashion around the world. Advocates of civil society in fallen communist countries revived the idea out of the ashes of communism. They wanted to build an alternative to communism and capitalism, believing that “civil society” could signal an advanced phase of freedom, democracy, and justice. For them, a new deμnition of civil society required a different way of thinking about the economy. The economy needed to function justly and fairly apart...

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2. Systems of Accountability

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pp. 35-59

In the preface and in chapter 1, we asked how a market economy could be related to the idea of civil society and a moral order. We noted that Adam Smith conceived the market to be a self-regulating system operating for the common good, but in the succeeding generation the organization of corporations went against much of what he had imagined as a civil economy. Now in this chapter we will show that the social idea...

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3. A Community-Oriented Economy

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pp. 60-84

The loss of local self-determination in the face of the growing power of global markets is evident around the world, but civic leaders could reverse that trend. Local civic leaders and global corporate executives have an interest in creating social capital, that is, those kinds of cooperative relationships that result in efficiency and profitability. Local and global leaders both view cooperation as essential to their interests...

Part II. A Developing Economy

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4. A Theory of Civil Privatization

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pp. 87-116

Patricia Annez, chief of the Urban Development Division of the World Bank, speaks of an increase in privatization worldwide. She says that national and local governments are unable to meet both “social and infrastructure needs” on their own, hence, many are turning to the private sector to manage and/or finance their infrastructure...

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5. The Practice of Civil Privatization

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pp. 117-146

Now that we have seen the arguments for privatization and the social problems that result from conventional practice and we have developed the rudiments of a theory to solve these problems, we can look more closely at the civil alternatives. Our contention is that privatization is made legitimate and possible by financial studies...

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6. Civil Associations

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pp. 147-178

In this chapter, we argue that the internalization of social costs is an activity performed best by associations in the private sector. Public standards for fair competition, safety, health, and transparency can be established in associations where members agree on rules of the game. As this rule-making activity develops, the private economy should become a more public affair where essential norms are held in common and exchange systems are designed to be as open as possible. The economy...

Part III. A Global Economy

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7. Problems in Global Markets

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pp. 181-204

After the collapse of communism, free trade became the mantra of governments and businesses around the world. Since 1991 some 600 changes have been made in the regulatory regimes of countries worldwide to make them more open to foreign trade and investment. The global reach of business markets, however, has given rise to fears that decision-making powers are passing from governments to...

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8. Toward a Global Civil Economy

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pp. 205-230

Every nation in the world has found it necessary to regulate markets to protect consumers, workers, and the public, but there are no plans to regulate the global market. After World War II, some authors spoke of creating a democratic world federal government in order to inaugurate the rule of enforceable law. Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn’s plan, World Peace through World Law (1958), was typical of such ambitious plans. But this idea is not supported widely because...

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Appendix: Great Ideas in the Academy

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pp. 231-246

Philosophers μrst defined civil society as government, and then later Adam Smith identified it as a system of business. Now, scholars identify civil society as the Third Sector, not typified by government or business. Hence, our task has been to examine how all three sectors coexist in society. This task has brought us to view the economy from a broad perspective. This appendix is provided for those readers who want to look at this broad perspective in a way that points toward future studies on the economy. Today it is popular to think of....


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pp. 247-300


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pp. 301-308

E-ISBN-13: 9780472023714
E-ISBN-10: 0472023713
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472067060
Print-ISBN-10: 0472067060

Page Count: 328
Illustrations: 2 tables
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: Evolving Values for a Capitalist World
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 655260217
MUSE Marc Record: Download for A Civil Economy

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • International trade -- Political aspects
  • International business enterprises -- Political aspects.
  • Evolutionary economics.
  • Economics -- Moral and ethical aspects.
  • Capitalism -- Social aspects.
  • Democracy -- Economic aspects.
  • Civil society.
  • Twenty-first century.
  • You have access to this content
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  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access