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HIS330H5 Chapter Notes -Andrew Arato, Antonio Gramsci

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Kevin P.Coleman

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Online Response #4: Cohen and Arato
In Civil Society and Political Theory, Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato set out to
create a framework (at least) for a more complete theory on civil society that is adapted
to today. Citing the reason behind such a goal to be that the current models is not
sufficiently complex and remains clouded. Cohen and Arato set out through the preface
offering a basic guide to why the new framework for the theory is necessary.
Additionally providing the principles and the explanations that will guide the framework
for the theory.
One such explain for how they will develop their new framework (and those who
build on it) for civil society is that it will have to be separated from the economy and
state (and more. They go into more detail about the separation later as I will point out
below). If left unseperated it would not be a “critical”, but if properly separated than the
theory that they will propose will allow it to be the center of critical political and social
theory. Under more specific circumstances the theory would lose it critical potential if
after a successful transition from dictatorship to democracy the undifferentiated version
would include “society vs the state”.
They build on this by providing three guidelines. Firstly, Not is it only important to
separate civil society from economy but it is important to separate civil society from
political societies of parties and furthermore of political publics (Parliament for example).
Secondly, these previous outlines create certain restrictions like suggesting that it refers
everything not related to the state and the economy. This is true only when focusing on
“relations of conscious association, of self-organization and organized communication”
(x). A way to fix this problem (and here the second guideline) is to separate civil society
and society apart. The final guideline suggested was to ensure that it is understood
although the proposed civil society framework should be independent of the economy
and politics, it would be wrong to assume that civil society is against the economy or the
state. Although it complicates the theory (remember earlier one of the problem with
other current theories were that they were “opaque” in that not everything is clearly
understood so this hurts the theory just slightly in accomplishing its goal) they identify
that the economy, state, and civil society are all interacting and mediate each other.
The preface continues to describe what else is to come in the book. It talks
about where they draw their influences from (Hegel, Gramsci, and Parson to name a
couple). They also mention that this theory they are building has its own critiques that
accompany it.
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