Assessing the "Universal Aspiration" of Civil Sphere Theory

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Peter KIVISTO, Augustana College and St Petersburg State University, USA
Giuseppe SCIORTINO, University of Trento, Italy
In this paper, we will offer a critical assessment of the civil sphere theory (CST) project as it has evolved during the decade since its articulation in The Civil Sphere in 2006. That book offered a robust articulation of a new way of viewing civil society, one that included the development of the idea of binary codes structuring political discourse, the significance of public opinion, the mass media, the law and regulative institutions, the inherent tension between the civil and uncivil, the role of social movements, and the emergence of multiculturalism as a new mode of incorporation of heretofore marginalized groups. At the same time, CST is also construed as a project, not a closed theoretical system, and so it is not surprising that theoretical developments have occurred in the intervening years. CST is intended as a general, universally-applicable theory. Given that the book limited its principal empirical examples to the United States, a series of case studies have been initiated to test what Alexander has called its “universal aspiration.” We offer an analysis of the findings of the empirical projects that are currently underway—involving Latin America, East Asia, radicalization, and the Nordic social democracies—in order to assess CST’s universality.