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Democracy and non-violent structural change : a critical inquiry into the concept of civil society and its relationships with adult learning Palacios, Carolina

Abstract

Globalization, the democratic movements in Latin America and Eastern Europe of the 1980s and 90s and the recent worldwide decline in human security have contributed to the reemergence of civil society as an important notion in relation to democracy. Using the techniques of analytic inquiry, this critical analysis of the concept of'civil society' sought to gain a richer and deeper understanding of the term and its relationship with adult learning. Recent political, social and democratic theories, in addition to theories of civil society and the public sphere were explored and key conceptual distinctions and relations were examined. Moreover, the historical roots of civil society were investigated in relation to the state-civil society relationship and differentiation of societal spheres, including the postnational context. The analysis led to a proposed expansion and modification of Habermas's system-lifeworld model and draws connections with Gramscian concepts such as hegemony, common sense and the historical bloc, as employed by these two theorists and others who have expanded on their theories and concepts. The notions of political and economic society were also integrated into the framework and the workplace and homeplace were identified as important sites because of the democratic potential of their location overlapping intimate and non-intimate spaces in the lifeworld, civil society, state and economy. The inquiry concludes adult learning, particularly in social movements, has an important role to play in energizing civil society and cultivating a vibrant public sphere by challenging hegemonic relations and contributing to collective will articulation in the on-going construction of a radical, deliberative, plural and participative democracy.

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