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Le buone maniere e il bene comune

Civility and civil Society: Good Manners between Persons and Concern for the Common Good in Public Affairs

Anno XXV, n. 111, ottobre-dicembre 1990
Centro Einaudi


Abstract disponibile solo in lingua inglese

This paper analyses the problem of the relationship between liberal democracy, civil society and civility from the historical and theoretical points of view. The author starts with a constructive critique of the Hegelian notion of civil society. According to Shils, civil society and the state are overlapping. The former is vaster than the latter, comprising, though not exhausting, the market. In a certain sense, civil society and market are complementary. It is the very anonymity of the market and market relations which has allowed inter-individual obligations to multiply and extend to all members of society, transcending the primordial claims of religion, ethnic group and place of birth. Shils contrasts civil politics with the politics of interest and ideological politics, and defends this practice as the only means of settling the conflicts emerging in mass liberal-democratic society. According to Shils, the want of manners is becoming more and more a problem in contemporary Western societies. However, in a different sense (first and foremost, the relinquishment of political ideology, of which the decline of Communist ideology and the regimes inspired thereby is the most conspicuous evidence), the civility and civil consciousness which are the life-force of such societies is growing stronger and more widespread.