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Civil Society Futures

  31st October 2017
This our response to the “public call for contributions” on Civil Society Futures.
Find out more about the Inquiry:
 Our response on Civil Society Futures
Question 1. What purpose does civil society fulfil now? What purpose will civil society need to fulfil in the future? What do you think they should/should not be doing? *
Civil society comprises the groups and processes by which we (as “citizens”) try to make sense of our life in a nation-state. Not the institutions of state but the self-organisation through which we express ourselves and our interests. In effect they are how we represent ourselves in society and can be the corner-stone of a real and participatory democracy. In future civil society should be based on each person acting on their own own recognisance as opposed to being subjects of the Crown (or the state).
Question 2. What is driving or inhibiting change in civil society? How will different forms of civil society respond to social, political, economic, environmental and technological change over the future? *
A range of drivers; globalisation (remote corporates not concerned with the local economy but with aggregate profits)
In the UK we need a constitution instead of pretending that our “unwritten constitution” serves the interests of anyone in civil society. Even charities began as the hobbies of the nobility. We need to move past the socio-political structures in the UK that are still rooted in 1689 and have barely responded to the changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution, let alone the digital one. Britain is permanently involved in “recreating hierarchy” and as a techno-phobic nation is scared of engaging with new technologies. As the institutions of the Welfare State have become privatised social action is increasingly linked to the profits of the corporates with contracts to deliver those services. We need to be capable of recognising and supporting new processes of collaborative actions and re-instute the belief in “public service” that informed the Welfare State in its early days. Civil Society cannot flourish in a nation culture of managerialism.
Question 3. What new forms of civil society do you see emerging now and why? Given the right circumstances, what might their impact be in the future? *
This is about the future of self-organised communities vs the capture of the public sphere by management consultant corporates… I’ve been involved in setting up a Transition Town (Stoke Newington) and I am also working on “Intangible Culture” projects in Lewisham. Until people are valued as the prime resource in civil society, instead of property (and profits) we will not produce an effective civil society. Transition towns organise around projects and LETS initiatives but only a few, like Incredible Edible, move beyond being pet projects to become socially transformative. Whilst the economy is driven by property development we will remain incapable of recognising the value of people, who are the essence of civil society.
Question 4. How and in what ways can civil society enable human flourishing now and in the future? In what ways is civil society important for a healthy democracy? *
Civil Society is democracy. Both public institutions and academia work against an effective civil society in our low-level representative democracy. Since the effective dismantling of trade unions in the UK (in the 1980s) we have moved to a combination of managerialism in the public sector and thin research by inexperienced but “educated’ people commenting on, but not part of, civil society. These lacks the “craft professionalism” of experienced community-based work. New ways of recognising self-organised groups within the public sphere, through social “Architectures of Participation” need to be identified so that a dialogical (conversation-based) civil society can emerge that has real political clout.
On whose behalf are you sharing this information? *

Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group

Find out more about the call for contributions:

For any queries, please contact Khadra –

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