Civil Society in Comparative Perspective

A new book edited by Bernard Enjolras and Karl Henrik Sivesind compares different civil society regimes and discusses the democratic role of civil society in activating citizens’ participation.

Civil Society in Comparative Perspectiveis the 26th volume in theComparative Social Researchseries. The volume contains eleven chapters comparing and analysing different civil society regimes, and the prospects for civil society of enhancing democratic citizenship.

Institutions and participation
The first part of the book compares different civil society institutional frameworks and regimes. The contributions in this section discuss how institutional cross-countries comparisons may be undertaken, and the extent to which common trends or divergent tendencies characterise national civil societies.

The second part looks at how civil society may be a catalyst for citizens' participation. Democratic citizenship is often considered to require, in addition to a set of formal rights and obligations, a public sphere within which citizens actively can participate within and beyond the state.

In addition to editing the volume, Karl Henrik Sivesind and Bernard Enjolras (both at the Institute for Social Research) have contributed with one chapter each.

Crowding out non-profit actors?
In his chapter Sivesind, with co-author Per Selle, examine whether public spending crowds out non-profit welfare services in advanced industrial societies. The logic ofcrowding-outsuggests that when welfare services are primarily provided by the public sector, there is little room for private or non-profit actors.

According to the empirical analysis, the effect of public welfare spending on employment in non-profit welfare services varies among different civil society regimes. In the Nordic countries, with high religious homogeneity and large public sector expenditures, non-profit welfare services are less extensive. In liberal societies (US, UK, Spain, Australia), however, low levels of public welfare do not appear to drive increases in non-profit welfare.

Sivesind and Selle argue that religious homogeneity is an important causal factor in determining the size and scope of the non-profit welfare sector: - In a historic perspective, religious homogeneity seems to be a factor involved in what kind of compromises that have been possible to achieve between different sectors and social forces.

Civic participation in the EU
Enjolras’ chapter offers a theoretical framework for analyzing citizens’ participation in the EU. Greater civil participation is generally seen to be instrumental to reducing the EU’s potential democratic deficit, and a post-national model of citizenship may provide the basis for a common European civil society.

The theoretical discussion focuses on theopportunity structureprovided by civil society organizations (CSOs), i.e. how organizations are networked across national boundaries, levels of governance and different policy domains. This structure is seen as an important channel for citizens’ participation in the EU.

From this, Enjolras argues that the opportunity structure of organizations depends on three important features. First, an organizations’ ability to translate single advocacy issues into more general causes. Second, its relation to other relevant organizations and position within a network structure. Third, the mechanisms applied to help citizens communicate and participate in activities related to European policy-making.

The analyses in the book focus primarily on the US and Europe, but also include comparisons with civil society in South America and Africa. Contributors include Edith Archambault (University of Paris, Sorbonne), Freda Donoghue (Trinity College Dublin), and Tom Janoski (UC Berkeley).

Read more and purchase online:
Enjolras and Sivesind (Eds.): Civil Society in Comparative Perspective

Av Kristian Landsgård (
Publisert 6. jan. 2010 13:40 - Sist endret 11. des. 2017 11:16