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Bond, Niall  (2011) The history of the concept of civil society. CCS Seminar : 1-19.

It is a pleasure for me to be able to speak at the Centre for Civil Society on the concept of civil society. I do so as a historian of political concepts influenced by a German historian, Reinhard Koselleck, who noticed that the meanings of fundamental concepts shift according to their usefulness for and use by various social or political forces. We can trace the renewal in interest in what has recently been called “civil society” to the nineteen-eighties, a time at which intellectuals in the industrialised world called for the mobilisation of social forces in countries in the developing world to work as a countervailing force to the State and the interests it defended. Civil society, i.e. organised society outside the government and the State, was then noted for its capacity to contest the actions and position of the State, and the potential of groups of men and women attached to issues and working from outside the structures of government to participate in policy formulation by contesting the status quo is one of the striking aspects of this institute, the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which was founded and given its name in 2001, at a time at which the most recent usage had been popular for over a decade and civil society in South Africa had taken down an oppressive regime. In the movement against apartheid, the question arose as to the place for civil society, indeed as to whether a place for civil society in a new order. The term, “civil society” seemed to designate part of our social, economic and political reality in an unambiguous fashion, and therefore to serve as a useful heuristic tool in talking about politics in a global context. Because of the role of the organisations outside the state in achieving liberation in South Africa, the term, “civil society” was used in the industrialised world of representative democracies to capture what had happened in South Africa and Eastern Europe and was happening in other places in the world.

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