Dealing with civility: Citizenship, real citizens, and the science of civil society

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientific


This chapter reflects on the civility of civil society and the ignorance of normativity in civil society research. The meanings assigned to “civility” vary widely in the literature, but two dimensions might be useful for structuring the onceptual field: good manners versus substantive civility (Edward Shils) and mphasis on social relations versus emphasis on politics. The focus here is on substantive and political civility, i.e., civicness. It turns out to be of minor importance for ordinary citizens when they characterize good citizenship, and it is often something to be avoided (Nina Eliasoph) when they practice active citizenship as volunteers. Nevertheless, it should be a key focus for researchers who want to take the “civil” part of civil society more seriously. Approaches for doing so are briefly discussed: the old idea of “cleaning” the sphere of civil society and getting rid of uncivil elements, dropping the idea of a societal sphere and focusing exclusively on civility (Dieter Rucht), reconceptualizing civil society as a civil(izing) sphere (Jeffrey Alexander), or focusing more on elements that can foster civility in voluntary associations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCivil society: Concepts, challenges, contexts
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in honor of Helmut K. Anheier
EditorsMichael Hoelscher, Regina List, Alexander Ruser, Stefan Toepler
Place of PublicationCham
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-98007-5
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-98007-8
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameNonprofit and Civil Society Studies
ISSN (Print)1568-2579


  • Civicness
  • Civil society
  • Civility
  • Citizenship
  • Volunteering


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