The theoretical meanings, history, and different forms of civil society during regime transformation are the central focus of this chapter. It notes a paradox: during the past several decades, the growing consensus about the theoretical and practical importance of civil society has been overshadowed by growing disagreement about the exact meaning of the term, and the proper normative relationship between state institutions and civil society. The chapter thus aims to define civil society more precisely by examining its philosophical and temporal roots. It examines how in practice civil society can be related to state institutions in different ways. It probes the reasons why a civil society has great significance for the way we think about democracy, and why, in practice, different manifestations of civil society during the different stages of regime transformation are vital preconditions for building a strong democracy backed by a robust civil society.
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