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date: 15 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article studies the development of civil society, starting from the end of the Roman Republic until modern times. It identifies four traditions of writing about civil society. This article determines that civil society remains to be a curiously obtuse, malleable, and much contested idea that is difficult to define categorically, by reference to either what it is or what it is not. It also shows that due to the gradual build-up of diverse meanings over the centuries, it is impossible to treat civil society as a Weberian ‘ideal type’.

Keywords: development, civil society, traditions, writing, meanings, Weberian ideal type

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