What do we understand by civil society?

When citizens take their political concerns into their own hands outside of the government, market-economy or private sphere, this is referred to as the civil society.

The civil society is no replacement for the important institutions of a parliamentary democracy or for the balancing of the interests of market-economy groups such as employees and employers.

The civil society is rather an important enrichment for the advancement and vitality of a democracy and also of the market-economy foundations. It attentively registers the changes in society, such as increasing social inequality and addresses the state or the market-economy interest groups with the demands derived from its findings.

The civil society offers people new possibilities to get involved in concerns off the beaten tracks of political parties and interest groups.

An active civil society unites people to make the world a bit better than it was when they took it over from their parents’ generation.


Characteristics of involvement in the realm of civil society:

  • Open to everyone (i.e. no limitations on access by entry barriers, exclusion or discrimination)
  • Voluntariness (The actors of the civil society voluntarily act of their own accord and on their own responsibility to realise their project.)
  • Autonomy (i.e. independence, self-administration or freedom of choice)
  • Accepts that different opinions can stand side by side and endorses the values of variety and plurality.
  • Legality (The involvement in the realm of civil society stays within the framework of the existing legal order, but also identifies shortcomings in this area.)
  • Sets standards of value such as solidary, tolerant, non-violent (with the aim of developing a normative effect)
  • The conviction that society, that our world can be improved (a permanent calling into question of the current status)