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The politics of civil societyBig society and small government$
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Fred Powell

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781447307150

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447307150.001.0001

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Modernity, civil society and civic virtue

Modernity, civil society and civic virtue

(p.62) (p.63) Three Modernity, civil society and civic virtue
The politics of civil society

Fred Powell

Policy Press

This chapter seeks to chart the rise of humanism as the cradle of democratic society. The renaissance of civil society and its relations to both prevailing political ideologies and movements are discussed. It examines the interlinkages and antagonisms contained within these multiple shades of modern political expression. Common ground is found in a belief in progress and humankind transcending its faith. This makes the emergence of civil society in modernity a story of optimism and the hope of a more socially just future for an emancipated world. The chapter begins with a review of the theological basis of charity in traditionalist society and the role of the Church as the principal instrument of social provision. It argues that the collapse of religious society led to the emergence of secular civil society. In the crisis that followed the collapse of the Church’s moral authority, it is argued that civil society filled a social and moral void. New value systems grounded in democracy, socialism and secularism began to emerge. The civic republican tradition of democracy revived the notion of community. Despite Marx’s catastrophic predictions regarding the future of bourgeois society, a new energy emerged seeking social reform in the name of humanism that meant social progress rather than political rupture.

Keywords:   charity, modernity, civic virtue, social reform, voluntarism

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