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?
Keynote speakers are Jeffrey Alexander (Sociology, Yale), Philip Oxhorn (Sustainable International Development, McGill) and Maurizio Viroli (Politics, Princeton).
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).
Click on Events at www.abdn.ac.uk/cisrul for the programme and how to register.
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