Civilisational genesis of the concept of civil society
The present paper sets out to discuss the conditions for building civil society beyond the circle of the Western civilisation and proposes a framework for sociological categories to examine whether such a process is possible.
Nowhere except the West has there emerged a civilisation founded on rationalisation as its underlying principle (a process conceptualised already by Weber). On the one hand, rationalisation of actions taken by individuals inevitably led to suppression of natural instincts, which certainly involved a risk of eruption of accumulated tension (as ultimately shown by the outcome of Nazi ideology). On the other, it stimulated growth of modern associations and a certain social polish, which enabled the development of a parliamentary system, initially in England, and, consequently, the emergence of civil society as such. An interesting account of the process was provided by Adam Ferguson, a witness of the times.
Shmuel Eisenstadt was another author to notice the unique nature of the West. Classified as one of the ‘axial civilisations,’ the West is exceptional: it is here that a new civilisation — the modern civilisation — was born and, as it seems, it is only here that civil society and, consequently, pluralism, is possible.
For Norbert Elias, the concept of the civilising process is a key element characteristic of the West. The author indicates that the rise of the Western civilisation came as a result of combined environmental, historical and cultural factors.
The paper considers also works by Florian Znaniecki (Ludzie teraźniejsi a cywilizacja przyszłości [The people of today and the civilization of the future]) and Feliks Koneczny.