International Encyclopedia of Civil Society

2010 Edition
| Editors: Helmut K. Anheier, Stefan Toepler

Civil Society and Social Capital in the United States

  • Carl Milofsky
Reference work entry

Civil society refers to a realm of informal social networks, associations, community structures, and social movements in which processes of community and political action occur (Hunter & Milofsky, 2007; Seligman, 1992; Shils, 1991, 1997). It lies between the intimate spheres of family and other private activities, on one hand, and the formal organizations of the state, of the economy, and of large, paid-staff nonprofit organizations on the other (Billis, 1993; Lohmann, 1992; Smith, 1997a, b). It is both a location for certain kinds of social life and an attitude towards or a process for interacting – people choose to be civil. Civil society is hard to observe directly. It is based on relationships that often are transient, associations that are never formally constituted and whose activities often are ambiguously defined, and attributes of space like physical neighborhoods that promote an active local social life. Civil society is essential to social action and political participation...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Milofsky
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyBucknell UniversityLewisburgUSA