Introductory Essay

  • H. Gordon Skilling


The striving of individuals and groups to lead an independent life within a society they regard as alien or hostile is an ancient phenomenon. One need only think of the early Christians under Roman rule; Jews in the ghetto or the shtetl of Eastern Europe; dissenting or non-conformist Protestants in 17th century England; Catholic or Buddhist monks in monasteries; Mennonites or Hutterites; communes in early 19th century America; the counter-culture of the 20th century. Sometimes these individuals and groups sought to remould the society of which they were an unwilling part; sometimes they tried to withdraw entirely from society and live their own life in communities isolated from the world around them.


Civil Society Communist Party Independent Activity Party Leader Civic Activity 
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  1. 13.
    Skilling, Samizdat and an Independent Society in Central and Eastern Europe (London, 1989).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 16.
    S. Frederick Starr, ‘Soviet Union: A Civil Society’, Foreign Policy, no. 70 (Spring 1988), p. 33.Google Scholar
  3. Vera Tolz, ‘Informal Groups in the USSR’, Washington Quarterly, 11, no. 2 (Spring 1988), pp. 137–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 24.
    Cited by James P. Scanlan, ‘Reforms and Civil Society in the USSR’, Problems of Communism, XXXVII (2) (March-April 1988), pp. 42–3.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    John Keane (ed.), Civil Society and the State: New European Perspectives (London and New York, 1988), especially Keane, ‘Despotism and Democracy; The Origins and Development of the Distinction Between Civil Society and the State, 1750–1850’.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    For a full discussion of opposition, see Tony R. Judt, ‘The Dilemmas of Dissidence; The Politics of Opposition in East-Central Europe’, Eastern European Politics and Societies, 2 (2) (Spring 1988), pp. 185–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© H. Gordon Skilling and Paul Wilson 1991

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  • H. Gordon Skilling

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