Theoretical Foundations: Civil Society, Social Movements, and Intellectuals
The overarching concept underpinning this book is that of civil society and its agents. Rather than a static entity purely composed of organizations, civil society is better understood as a political and dynamic construct that generates and is generated by discourse among a heterogeneous group of individuals. Social movement theories help explain Iranian civil society and the reform movement at the macro level by considering social movements as components of civil society. The role of intellectual leadership, as transmitted by public intellectuals, was a key element of the theoretical and empirical development of this book. The main argument advanced is that a more inclusive and integrated approach is needed regarding civil society theory and practice. Such an approach should move away from an emphasis on institutions and acknowledge civil society’s role as a space in which a constant process of transformation is taking place, where negotiations, organization and action continually occur. In other words, rather than just a collection of intermediary organizations or associations, civil society is “… a virtual space of deliberation that contains a plurality of yet undecided possibilities” (Terrier & Wagner, 2006b, p. 232).
KeywordsSocial Capital Civil Society Social Movement Public Sphere Donor Agency
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