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The Civil Society as Fight Field, as Managerial Resource and as Ethic Space

Marco Aurélio Nogueira

Taking Gramsci's concept of civil society as parameter, this article intends to establish a critical dialogue with the other ideas of civil society that today search a place in the political and cultural scenario. The main argument of this article is that in the last decades there has been a transition from an idea of civil society as a predominantly political-state field, where democratic fights and new hegemonies took place, to an image that converts the civil society into either a managerial resource -a societal arrangement designed to make specific types of public policies feasible-, or into a factor of ethical and dialogic reconstruction of social life. On one side, the incorporation of the idea of participation into the planning language made the concept of civil society moved from its main field (the one responsible for the organization of new hegemonies) and made it became a place of cooperation and crisis management. On the other side, the expansion of social activism, into a scenario of crisis of politics, State and representative democracy, stimulated a search for a new "place", from where it would be possible to establish and disseminate new ethical postulations and new collective procedures. From a phase in which Marxism preponderated in the discussions, we enter a new phase in which the liberal perspective, established in either an orthodox or subtle manner, operates as the main reference.

As a consequence of this movement, the social sciences have been working with three main concepts of civil society that are structured upon distinct action programs and different theoretical influences. There is mobility among these concepts, both in the theoretical plan and in the more immediately political one. They have a reciprocal fluent conversation, but they have impacts and political effects completely distinct.

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