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Civil Society, Democracy and Democratization

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Dorota Pietrzyk-Reeves

The book contributes to the ongoing discussion and research on civil society in the context of democracy and democratization. It provides a theoretical analysis of civil society, participation, the public sphere and democratic consolidation in light of normative democratic theory and the challenges of democratic transformation in Central and Eastern Europe. It also offers a novel approach to some of the key issues in that debate including corruption and democratic consolidation, active citizenship, civic unity and the rule of law as well as theories of democratization. Finally, it asks the question as to whether a properly functioning democracy must be complemented with civil society and the numerous roles it plays in a political community of free citizens.
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6. The Public Sphere and Democratic Participation105

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Chapter 6 The Public Sphere and Democratic Participation

In the last two chapters, we discussed new developments in normative democratic theory focusing on several related approaches which put a great deal of emphasis on citizens’ participation in the democratic process. Recent conceptualizations of the public sphere add yet another dimension to the ongoing debate on both democracy and civil society. Many contemporary theorists of civil society argue that the public sphere is a space where public opinion is formed and that provides conditions for citizens’ participation in public life. It is a realm of public life that free citizens create when they come together to deliberate on matters of general interest. It is an intermediate sphere between civil society and the state, their common space of interconnectedness and cooperation, which is similar to the eighteenth-century conceptualization that we find in Immanuel Kant’s vision of Publizität. The public sphere is ‘an institutionalized arena of discursive interaction’,1 conceptually and institutionally distinct from the state and the economy. The status the of the public sphere is subject to debate today as ‘we lack a clear, agreed social ontology which would allow us to describe it uncontroversially’,2 but its analysis is of crucial importance not only for a better understanding of the relationship between civil society and the state, but also for a better conceptualization of democratic citizenship seen as a political and legal status that guarantees individual rights towards the state and individual liberties that...

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