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Invitation to an International Conference


In Search of Culturally Based Civil Society



The Russian People's Friendship University

CUA Center for the Study of Culture and Values

Washington, DC

February 23-24, 2012






This conference is intended as a constructive exchange of views on trends in the concept of civil society. It is to unite a wide range of philosophical and political science traditions and schools in an atmosphere of free exchange of ideas. The conference will consider the theory of civil society and its use as a research methodology for the study of acute and specific problems of modern society.


The concept of civil society was widely used in academia, journalism and political discussion in the late 1980s and the first half of 1990s. It then faded into the background and was reduced to a narrow formula, indicating a certain number of supposedly popular non-governmental organizations. It thereby loses its theoretical significance and potential importance for understanding contemporary society. In the current global economic crisis, problems of civil society are in need fundamental rethinking.


Three traditions of its interpretation have arisen in modern times. In the first, civil society is understood literally as a "community of citizens", ultimately generating the state. In the second, somewhat more recent tradition, the concept has exactly the opposite meaning. It is the private sphere, the burgher self-organizing community, elements of which are able to regulate their activities and solve many problems by civil initiatives on their own, without government intervention. A third interpretation is linked with processes of democratization of authoritarian regimes. None of the above interpretations correspond adequately to modern realities and the challenges of globalization. It is necessary to restore the theoretical concept of civil society in order to discover and explore its heuristic potential for understanding the most important and controversial socio-political and ideological processes unfolding on the global level.


The main topics of the conference:


-Philosophical foundations for civil society


-Formation of civil society in post communist and developing countries: achievements, peculiarities and contradictions


-Russian civil society and the state: dialectics of interrelation or path to dependency


-Global civil society: future reality or myth


-Civil society and political stability: the Arab spring








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