What Civil? What Society?

June 25, 2012 - June 26, 2012
Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law, University of Aberdeen

United Kingdom

Keynote speakers:

Jeffrey Alexander
Yale University
Philip Oxhorn
McGill University
Maurizio Viroli
Princeton University

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We propose to examine the workings of the concept of ‘civil society’ not just in contemporary Europe and North America but historically and in contexts across the world as well as across academic disciplines. We will seek not to define ‘civil society’ but to identify the consequences – political, legal, social, moral, epistemological – of particular ways in which ‘civil’ and ‘society’  have been defined in different times and places. In so doing we will pose four overarching questions:

  1. What has been held (in different times and places) to make a society (or part of it) civil as opposed to uncivil (or barbarous)? What have been the consequences of such a distinction?
  2. How and to what effect has civil society been distinguished as a domain or sphere of society from domains considered non-civil (if not necessarily uncivil) such as politics, the economy, the ecclesiastical or religious, the military, family and law?
  3. What distinctions have been made between civil and civic, and to what effect?
  4. What notions of society lie behind or are associated with notions of civil society? How have notions of society shifted from the medieval and early modern periods to the 19th-century birth of social sciences to contemporary debates about whether society exists or not?
  5. Have notions of civil society (and society) been defined by law or by some other means, and what is the difference in practice? In what other ways does civil society get linked to law?

Other speakers are Raul Acosta (Applied Ethics, Deusto), Michael Brown (History, Aberdeen), Karin Friedrich (History, Aberdeen), Dmitri Goncharov (Politics, National Research University), Ajay Gudavarthy (Politics, Jawalharlal Nehru University), Trevor Stack (Hispanic Studies, Aberdeen), Andrea Teti (Politics, Aberdeen) and Ekow Yankah (Law, Cardoso).

Contact: Trevor Stack (t.stack@abdn.ac.uk)

For the programme and registration:

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June 25, 2012, 2:00pm BST

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