The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights

The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights

The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights

The Political Economy of Civil Society and Human Rights


Madison uses the concept of civil society and his distinctive version of 'communicative rationality' to provide a closely-argued and robust defence of the neo-liberal political and economic tradition. Writing with considerable elegance and humour, the author draws on the hermeneutical and neo-pragmatist traditions, and on a diverse range of evidence and discussion, mainly concerning transitional economies and societies in Eastern Europe and around the world. Providing a systematic analysis of the multi-faceted notion of civil society, this book shows in detail how the three main orders of civil society - the moral-cultural, the political, and the economic - constitute 'spheres of autonomy'. At the same time, it illustrates how these different orders are closely interrelated and interact in a synergetic manner. A unique feature of this study is the way in which the author demonstrates how the logic of the various orders of civil society is, in a way appropriate to the distinct nature of each order, a logic of communicative rationality. The work concludes by arguing that the only sure way of achieving international justice is by the construction of civil society world-wide.


[I]gnorance, forgetfulness or contempt of the rights of man are the sole causes of public misfortune and governmental depravity…. the final end of every political institution is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are those of liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

(Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, 1789)

The following reflections on civil society and human rights have been provoked by the most significant series of world events to have occurred in the living memory of those who, like the author of this book, came of age in the post-World War II period. I am referring naturally to the events leading up to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. the revolutionary events in Eastern Europe that year-and the subsequent ones that resulted in the demise of the Soviet Union itself on Christmas Day 1991, when the Red Flag was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time-signaled not only the end of a long drawn-out Cold War but the end as well of an entire era. This was the era of “actually existing Socialism, ” an era that began with the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917 which set for the remainder of the century the parameters within which humanity was destined to articulate its greatest hopes as well as its worst fears. As that astute observer of East European affairs, Timothy Garton Ash, stated at the time, 1989 “was the year communism in Eastern Europe died. 1949-1989 R.I.P.” (Ash 1990, p. 131). Václav Havel, who passed from being a political prisoner under the communists to being the president of a newly liberated Czechoslovakia, has not hesitated to assert that “[t]he fall of the Communist empire is an event on the same scale of historical importance as the fall of the Roman empire” (Havel 1993, p. 10). Yet another social observer, the leading French sociologist Alain Touraine, has referred to “the memorable events of 1989” as “the most exhilarating to have occurred since mid-1789” (Touraine 1995, p. 348).

Touraine is referring of course to the French Revolution two hundred years earlier, and his remark points to one of the most significant features of the revolutions of 1989: like the American Revolution and the French

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