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Civil Society, Philanthropy, and the Fate of the Commons

Bruce R. Sievers

Publication Year: 2010

Among the greatest challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century is that of sustaining a healthy civil society, which depends upon managing the tension between individual and collective interests. Bruce R. Sievers explores this issue by investigating ways to balance the public and private sides of modern life in a manner that allows realization of the ideal of individual freedom and, at the same time, makes possible the effective pursuit of the common good. He traces the development of civil society from the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic and the eighteenth-century Scottish Enlightenment, analyzes its legacy for modern political life, and explores how historical trends in the formation of civil society and philanthropy aid or impede our achievement of public goods in the modern era.

Published by: Tufts University Press

Series: Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Title Page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

One advantage of taking a long time to complete a book is that it allows incorporation of new research and information on events that occur along the way. That has certainly been the case with this project. It began in the form...

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pp. xiii-xvii

Beneath many of the great challenges facing humanity in the twenty-first century—threats to the environment, public health, and global security among them—lurks a single underlying dilemma: How do we solve the perplexing problem...

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1. The Concept of Civil Society

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pp. 1-11

The concept of civil society, like that of democracy, has come to have worldwide resonance. But what exactly is civil society? The idea has ancient roots. From the earliest times, human communities required cooperative behavior for survival...

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2. Institutional Structures

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pp. 12-30

The institutional structures of modern civil society evolved from a long sequence of historical developments that have their beginnings in the classical formulations of civic life in ancient Greece. The polis, the city-state, in its ideal form...

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3. Normative Traditions

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pp. 31-44

Like the institutional elements, the three normative strands that are central to the constitution of civil society emerged from a long history of moral argument and social change. They represent the value commitments that underlie...

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4. The Emergence of Civil Society in the Dutch Republic

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pp. 45-62

The streams of philosophical and social development that predated modern civil society flowed in parallel currents from the classical period into the early modern era of sixteenth-century Europe. In the seventeenth century...

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5. The Enlightenment Legacy

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pp. 63-83

The conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War in Continental Europe, the Civil War in England, and the Glorious Revolution marked points of radical historical transformation in Western culture, resulting in a new relationship between state...

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6. Civil Society in America

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pp. 84-106

The profound influence of the Enlightenment on the development of American political and social thought is well known from the works of the writers and activists who provided the impetus for the American War of Independence...

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7. Private and Public Goods in the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 107-121

The seven dimensions of civil society that had evolved through the historical developments described in the preceding chapters—institutional structures of philanthropy, the rule of law, private associations, and a system of free...

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8. Philanthropy, Civil Society, and the Commons

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pp. 122-144

Given the enormous challenges involved in reconciling the pursuit of individual interests with the protection of the commons in the twenty-first century, what resources does society have for balancing the two? Our historical review...


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pp. 145-177


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pp. 179-194


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pp. 195-205

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781584659143
E-ISBN-10: 1584659149
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584658511

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Civil society.
  • Civil society -- History.
  • Common good.
  • Social service.
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