Civil society is the arena outside of the family, the state, and the market where people associate to advance common interests. It is sometimes considered to include the family and the private sphere and then referred to as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business. Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon defines civil society as 1) the aggregate of non-governmental organizations and institutions that manifest interests and will of citizens or 2) individuals and organizations in a society which are independent of the government. Sometimes the term is used in the more general sense of "the elements such as freedom of speech, an independent judiciary, etc, that make up a democratic society" (Collins English Dictionary).
The term entered public discourse in the United States in the 1990s. However its tradition is much richer and longstanding.
Volunteering is often considered a defining characteristic of the organizations that constitute civil society, which in turn are often called NGOs, or NPOs. Most authorities have in mind the realm of public participation in voluntary associations, trade unions and the like, but it is not necessary to be belong to all of these to be a part of civil society.
Famous quotes containing the words civil and/or society:
“Ive never been afraid to step out and to reach out and to move out in order to make things happen.”
—Victoria Gray, African American civil rights activist. As quoted in This Little Light of Mine, ch. 3, by Hay Mills (1993)
“My belief is that no being and no society composed of human beings ever did, or ever will, come to much unless their conduct was governed and guided by the love of some ethical ideal.”
—Thomas Henry Huxley (182595)