Civil Society and Governance in Europe
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Civil Society and Governance in Europe

From National to International Linkages

Edited by William A. Maloney and Jan W. van Deth

The contributors to this new book analyse the opportunities for civil society associations to contribute to European integration and decision-making from various perspectives. The research demonstrates that the Europeanization process – in terms of civil society actors adapting to the European political space – has an uneven development.
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Chapter 2: Bringing Society Back In: Civil Society, Social Capital and the Third Sector

Annette Zimmer and Matthias Freise


Annette Zimmer and Matthias Freise 2.1 INTRODUCTION There are many reasons why social scientists and policy experts alike are increasingly turning towards society in their search for reform concepts, new ideas and progressive initiatives. In times of globalisation and Europeanisation, traditional nation states have lost power and steering capacity. Those state-centred reform concepts of the 1970s focusing on management and social engineering are therefore outdated. However, the so-called Washington consensus emphasising exclusively the power of the market also proved to be unsuccessful. Despite political rhetoric, the heyday of neo-liberalism and what critical voices called turbo-capitalism are gone, particularly in the countries of the European Union. Against the background of high rates of unemployment, growing societal inequality and an insecure future of the welfare state caused by a combination of market and state failure, society-centred approaches have regained importance in the social sciences. At least three concepts, all predominately society-centred, have gained momentum during the last decades: the civil society, social capital and third sector approaches. None of these concepts constitutes a ‘grand theory’ but they claim to be helpful in the sense of a so-called middle-range theory, which specifically draws attention to the innovative capacity of civic engagement and societal activity. Below, we briefly describe each concept, highlighting its specific background and origin as well as its methodology and acceptance by the scientific community and the public. Against this background we will argue in favour of a closer nexus between the civil society and the third...

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